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RV'ing blog

On-the-road fitness

I have to admit that when we began our travels, both of us were fairly out of shape and a little overweight. After raising kids, working hectic schedules, not paying attention to our eating habits, and never exercising (at least me anyway), it was time to give ourselves some attention.

Terry was the first one to get serious. I secretly thought he was a little foolish to use various trailer parts (like the stabilizer bars) as makeshift weights. And I was happy to sit around in the trailer while he rode his bike for miles and miles in various weather conditions. But his enthusiasm became contagious, so I grudgingly tried to join in.

The first thing I tried on one New Year’s Day in 2010 was ‘running’ in the desert. After ‘running’ what was probably less than a mile and half, I could barely walk for the next two weeks. Boy, was that embarrassing. But I kept at it, using apps like Couch to 5K and then Nike running for inspiration. Frustratingly, I didn’t lose any weight, while Terry got down to the weight he was as a teenager. Not fair!

When we got a fifth wheel and Terry ran out of trailer parts to lift, we decided to join a gym. So he hit the weight pile while I slogged from one machine to the next, faithfully following the circuit that the free ‘personal trainer’ told me to use. I felt better, but noticed no difference in my weight or overall shape.

It wasn’t until we joined the fitness center in West Yellowstone that things really started to change for me. Why? Because the ‘fitness center’ was no bigger than a closet. There were very few machines, but there were benches and free weights. So out of necessity, I started using the barbells. We usually had the place to ourselves, so I did not feel uncomfortable encroaching on what is typically men’s territory. I was hooked.

What was even better: the number on the scale. In just six months I lost 25 pounds through a combination of counting calories and lifting heavy. There is something really empowering about walking past the men on the gym floor, loading up a barbell and doing squats. I’m a long way from really knowing what I’m doing, but I’m passionate about it. Now I can run five miles without really thinking about it, faster than I ever have (ever).

What does this have to with RV’ing?

Many people assume that the RV lifestyle is a recipe for gaining weight and being out of shape. Most activities are focused on eating and socializing rather than vigorous physical activity. Any fitness classes offered in the RV parks do help with flexibility (i.e., yoga) and some cardio (Zumba). But I see very little focus on overall fitness. Women who are my age and older still feel very uncomfortable walking into a gym filled with people half their age.

But just because you are older than 50 and live in an RV doesn’t mean that you have to be out of shape. You just need a plan.

We do a couple of things when we plan our itinerary. First, we choose an area that should have favorable weather when we are there to allow us to hike, bike, run, and paddle, along with good opportunities for all of that. Then we look to see if they have a fitness center that we can join on a monthly agreement. If the area does not meet those criteria, we move on down the road. Simple as that.

If you are living the RV lifestyle with another person, be each other’s fitness partner. This is the best way to get over the initial intimidation of walking into a new fitness center and not knowing the lay of the land. If you are going to strength train with free weights, especially if you are lifting heavy, you need a spotter. Your spouse, significant other or traveling partner is the best person for that, not to mention cheering you on and helping you be accountable.

Cleaning up your diet and strength training are absolutely crucial to getting into and staying in shape. We regularly go out to eat so that we can try out the local cuisine, but not more than once a week. The great thing about strength training is that it increases your overall metabolism, so you can eat a normal diet without having to starve yourself.

If we have to miss exercising due to travel plans, injuries or illness, we try not to miss strength training above all else. It is the most important ingredient to improved fitness and health, especially for older people.

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