How to get (and stay) fit on a shoestring

Fitness these days is a serious business. In the US alone the ‘fitness, mind and body’ industry is said to be churning through $500billion a year (source). From versaclimbing to infra-red HIIT, altitude fitness, trampolining, aerial yoga and wearable tech.

Cultural and social pressure is being applied, hard, to work out hotter, stronger and smarter than ever before. To practice a range of activities that give you maximum ‘burn’, maximum exposure and maximum bragging rights. Track your time and measure your progress… There’s an app for that, did you know?

If, however, you are backpacking the world, living in a van, or simply don’t have the cash to spend on a fancy gym membership, finding ways and spaces to exercise can be difficult. At MANA, we’ve encountered all kinds of social, financial, meteorological and yes, mental obstacles to working out on the road.

In Tanzania, it was culturally inappropriate to wear athletic shorts or tights in public.
In Germany, we could only afford to stay in a 16-bed dorm with no communal spaces.
In Iceland, we experienced the coldest, rainiest Summer in over 100 years. Summer was officially ‘cancelled’.

We (MANA writers Alexis and Jimmy) found that exercising on the road, and on a budget, can be time consuming, weather dependent, culturally awkward and embarrassingly public.

Casual Childs pose in the cereal and nutrition isle?

Casual Childs pose in the cereal and nutrition isle?

When you arrive in an unfamiliar place, it’s pouring rain outside, and you’ve only got 20 dollars to spend until your transfer clears, you’re going to have to make a tough decision… The barre class, or the bar. Usually you end up with a deflated sense of achievement and a strange local beer.

Regular physical movement is vital to our mental health. Exercise creates an opportunity for our bodies to release pent-up energy and let go of stale thoughts.

At MANA we are lucky to have years and years of global travel experience in our team. The perfect recipe for a realistic, practical and first-hand-experience-based opinion on this increasingly important area of wellness in the age of the digital nomad.

So, we have developed a list of ways to exercise on a shoestring and on-demand -



Two flights will do…

If you have access to a multi-story building, or if there’s a park nearby with a good flight of stairs, this is an excellent place to get in some leg work.

Walk two stairs at a time, jog up and down the stairs, front-ways, sideways, both feet together, or use the handrail to do lifts or dips.

See a few examples here -




Harder than it looks…

A skipping rope is cheap, light to carry, and will give you an excellent cardio workout.

Jump feet together, alternate foots, side-to-side, hop on one-foot, high knees…


Local Swimming Pools and Aquatic Centres

Public swimming pools are usually a cost-effective place to work out. You can swim laps, tread water or practice aqua aerobics. You could also try out hot/cold water therapy as meditation. 

Check the pool website beforehand for activity times and discounted entries.

Bodyweight Workouts

When you’re short on time and space, put on some good music and do some simple bodyweight routine exercises. Squats, lunges, hops, burpees, leg lifts, push ups, crunches… choose your favourites and create a routine.

Here is a list of 50 bodyweight exercises to get you started -

These exercises are also easy to do throughout the day, or combined with another routine activity such as cooking, cleaning or brushing your teeth

Theraband Exercises

The humble theraband is one of the lightest, simplest pieces of gear that that you can use to help you strengthen and stretch. The band helps to create resistance that you can use to squat and twist, sit-to-stand, bicep curl and more…

YouTube Yoga 

Digital fitness is a perfect option for the winter weather or rainy days. You can join a paid subscription service like Fiit or OneOEight Yoga, or if you have a wifi connection you can stream free workout videos from thousands of channels on Youtube. All you need is a yoga mat or towel on the floor and a phone or laptop.

 Our favourite YouTube Yogi’s include Fightmaster Yoga, Yoga with Tim and Boho Beautiful

Studio Trials

With the proliferation of yoga around the world, it’s not difficult to find a yoga class to join. Drop-in classes can be expensive, costing up to $25 for a one-hour class, so search for free trials or discount trial weeks. We recently enjoyed an unlimited week of yoga for just $10!

 If you’re living in a tent or van, make sure that the studio offers shower facilities. It’s a two-for-one. 


This might sound like an obvious one, but the benefits of a simple walking are highly underrated. A brisk walk is a form of aerobic exercise. It pumps oxygen, tones muscle, encourages digestion and lowers your risk of all kinds of disease. When you’re on the road, you might have to work a little harder to plan ahead and make time for a complete rigorous workout, but remember even 5-10 minutes of movement will make all the difference to your day. 

The first step to success is to commit to your workout. Set a time, find a square metre of space that you can have to yourself, and get started. Remember, MANA over MATTER. 

If people stare, forget your Ego and invite them to join in!

The second step is to Dress for your workout. This is important. The physical act of changing into flexible, comfortable exercise clothes will set you up psychologically to work out. It doesn’t matter whether you’re climbing a mountain or taking a stroll in the park… put on the right shoes, get your hair out of your eyes and the battle is halfway won.

Good luck, and report back!


Cover Image: Photo by Lukas Robertson Who you can check out on Unsplash