Staying fit has been a part of my life since I first laced up a pair of rental ice skates in Costa Mesa, California. Through 12 years of figure skating I earned an education in competition, stamina, acceptance, and most importantly the joy of healthy living. I’ve had gym memberships, joined soccer leagues, I tried jazz, tap, and ballet, I was once a pilates fanatic and later an even greater fan of bikram yoga, and more recently I hiked a 13,000 foot volcano with my husband.
When the time came to determine the importance of my yoga mat and free weights in comparison to my wardrobe for our year long journey down the PanAm, I had no doubts. I tossed my favorite jeans and excessive scarf collection in storage to make sure there was space enough in the camper for my health. What follows is the inspiration, the motivation, and the sometimes unconventional methods behind my fit life on the road.
During my first workout in Baja Mexico I accumulated an audience of seven people. I was completely thrown off by the unexpected turn out. Sure, I’ve privately raced the gym rat next to me on the treadmill like so many others, but this was totally different. I had gawkers. I found myself adjusting posture, tightening my abdominals, and pushing beyond the usual limits.
Fitness can sometimes be as foreign to the locals as their customs are to you. In this way, pumping up your heart rate in the outdoors is an excellent way to start a dialogue. Additionally, an audience encourages the subconscious performer in all of us. Is that Nicaraguan surfer looking at me? I guess an extra fifty crunches won’t kill me.
As we make our way down the PanAm, the scenery flitting past our windows often feels like a movie reel, an exotic film featuring lands lost in time. The constantly changing terrain brings out our natural desire to connect with the land and is an excellent reminder that working out doesn’t necessarily mean work.
This aspect of travel often makes fitness more accessible than it was back home. Biking the lengthy white beach in Uvita Costa Rica, riding my first legitimate wave in Santa Catalina Panama, and hiking the snow-capped peaks of Peru are moments I won’t soon forget. When hostels rent out equipment like mountain bikes, surfboards, and kayaks we jump at the chance to explore the area from a different vantage.
Take every opportunity to get in touch with this Earth, we have only a very short time to do so.
Hiking at 12,000′ will take your breath away, sometimes literally. And by the time you’ve collected your photos and made your descent, you’ve done more work than any gym routine could ever hope to garner. In a pinch, I rely on my favorite iphone applications to stay on top of my game: Nike Training Club and All-In Yoga. But the best part of our PanAm life is stretching our limits, expanding our list of can’s, decreasing the can not’s, and living better.
I feel no shame admitting I indulged in every single guacamole opportunity that presented itself to me during our time in Mexico. These sometimes daily ventures in aguacate heaven were often rounded out with a couple of beers and a sunset viewing on the beach. Food is a major part of the travel experience for me. I want to taste the differences in each country, compare the ingredients, ask for recipes, and try everything on the menu.
Perhaps a better heading for this point would have been motivation. Maintaining a healthy diet while hopping from one country to the next is one of the most difficult aspects of staying fit. Don’t be fooled folks, limitation is not my mantra here, indulge, bask in the glory of foreign cuisine! I don’t believe I would have had the same experience on this trip if I were counting calories and turning down empanadas. I enjoy foreign food and remember my workout is that much more important. As the English playwright and novelist, W. Somerset Maugham, once stated:
Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.