Home Life on the Road

Nomadic Fitness Solution – Running!

Staying fit can be a challenge for us nomadic types, faced with small living spaces, a lack of equipment, and an ever-changing environment. It is hard to have any sort of fitness routine when there is essentially nothing routine about your day-to-day life.

Bikes just weren’t worth it

For our first couple years on the road, Cherie and I carried our bikes with us, with the intention of exploring by bike wherever we went. We both enjoyed biking, and figured that they would provide a great way to get some exercise on the road.

But we hardly ever used them.

It was such a hassle to take the bikes off the racks, especially knowing that they’d need to be hoisted back up again so soon. And inevitably whenever we did think to ride, the tires would be low, or the chains rusty, or the gears out of alignment. Bikes are just not meant to live full-time exposed to the elements on the back of a vehicle.

Or exposed to thieves. Our first set of bikes got stollen when some miscreants cut the security chain one night and made off with them right off the back of our Jeep. Our second set of (cheaper) bikes were protected with a heftier lock, until that lock rusted shut from constant exposure to the elements. We eventually abandoned our bikes at a friend’s place, awaiting a blowtorch to someday free them.

Bikes just weren’t working out for us.

Instead we did a lot of walking, some informal yoga and we occasionally contemplated how we might be able to incorporate a Wii Fit into our tiny home.

Rediscovering Running

Then, with Cherie loving her Vibram FiveFingers Shoes – she got inspired in March to get back into running with the  Couch-to-5k interval training program she had been hearing about, but doing it barefoot style.  She even found a great iPhone app that would make it easy to time the run/walk intervals without thinking about it.

Cherie used to love running when she was younger, but had given it up years ago due to an ankle injury. I on the other hand have always hated running – it just never seemed to work for me. Too boring, and too sweaty.

Cherie was inspired to get back into it, so I wished her well and watched as she rocked through the first week of the training program.

But, I was really craving some exercise. And I started to realize how nice it was that running didn’t require any special gear or fuss. So, I decided to give it a try.

I figured I would do the first week or two of the program, and then I would get bored, or my legs would hurt too much, or my feet would get sore. But to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it!

We’ve both kept up with the running in the months since, and have discovered that running is a great stress relief in addition to seeing our health improve overall.  I’ve also been amazed to see just how much my endurance has increased.

Recently I’ve “graduated” from the Couch-to-5k program, and I’ve moved on from running intervals to jogging a full 5k non-stop every couple of days. Now I am working on increasing my speed, and maybe building up to even longer distances.

Cherie has been rocking the running too, though our natural paces are so different that this hasn’t been something we’ve been able to do entirely together. Still – it is great to pass each other on the trails, and I’ve made a point of always picking her wildflowers to bring back from my runs.

Both of us are feeling vastly more fit than we have in years.

Nomadic Fitness Solutions

We’ve especially grown to appreciate just how nomad friendly running is. You don’t need any gear, and you can do it just about anywhere. Heading out for a run has given us an incentive to explore the parks and campgrounds we have been staying in, surprisingly more so than having bikes along ever did. As a result, we’re seeking out and appreciating paying to stay at public campgrounds more so than before, just so that we have amazing trails to explore while running.

For us, running has proven to be a great fit for our nomadic lifestyle. But we are curious – what do other nomads do to stay fit? We’d love to hear what works for all of you.


Some apps we recommend for running with an iPhone: (iTunes Affiliate Links)

RunKeeper – $9.99
RunkKeeper works great as an odometer, and is how we measure the distance and time of our runs. It also calculates your pace, and shows you where you’ve been on a map. The UI is quick and simple. There is also a free cut-down version.
Couch to 5k – $2.99
This is the beautifully designed app that got us started, and it has just been updated to support iOS 4 multitasking so that it can run in the background while using another foreground app. I’ve started using the intervals in Couch-to-5k to work on building up my speed, using the alerts to indicate fast/slow, instead of run/walk. A totally fabulous program!
Pandora Internet Radio – Free
I’ve always loved Pandora’s streaming music service, but until now you couldn’t listen to Pandora and do anything else at the same time on your iPhone. Now with iOS 4’s multi-tasking support, Pandora can provide a soundtrack for my run while both RunKeeper and Couch-to-5k are running. I love it!
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15 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. For us older folks, walking everyday is just as good for you as running, and it is easier on my back since my back surgery. It literally makes the pounds melt off. And changes my attitude completely. Freaky just how much it changes you inside and out. If I don’t walk, my face tends to look kinda ashen, but when I start walking full-time it starts getting color in it. And there’s just something in your eyes. What a change!

    • Walking is fantastic.. and that still remains the staple of our exercise. For me however, I do benefit in different ways from the extra cardiovascular workout that higher impact activities give me.

  2. We had the exact same situation with our bikes. Finally stopped bringing them along. And we also started a running program, although without the iphone app techno-advantage. AND, one more thing in commong, we’re very interested in VIBRAM shoes…believe in the advantages, even have tried some on. They cost about the same as good runners but how do they hold up overall compared to running shoes? Are they worn out faster, do you think? And how do you like them for running vs. just walking?

    Also, this won’t be the year, but maybe next year – we want to check out Burning Man.

    • As neither of us had done much running in recent times, really don’t have much to compare running with Vibrams to. However, I’d highly recommend checking out http://www.birthdayshoes.com – he seems to do an excellent job on keeping on top of all that sort of stuff.

      I’ve been wearing my Virbram Sprints for about 8 months now for walking, hanging out, business meetings, dancing, swimming, running, hiking, etc. – and love them! I wear them nearly every day and they have many miles on them – and are holding up great. I just recently got a pair of Bikalas, and love them even more for running and heavy rocky trails. Chris just got his first pair, Trek KSOs, and is loving them too. We just did a several mile glacier rock hike in our heavier duty Vibrams, and they were fantastic!

      Do get to Burning Man at some point.. it’s something to not be missed. I give it good odds however we’ll be taking next year off.

  3. For Hans and I the main source of exercising is trail hiking and urban walking.

    As we ramp up to fulltime RVing, we will sell our mountain bikes and buy a couple of folding bikes. We’ve tried them out at REI and they are fun and comfy and once you get used to it the folding process should be a snap. The folded bikes could fit inside a trailers basement storage (we are going with a 5th wheel) or in the backseat of your tow vehicle. There are a variety of models to choose from including some offroad styles.

    Yoga and regular stretching will be part of my exercise routine. We are also contemplating a Wii Fit as we will have a larger trailer with slides.

    • We have been looking at folding bikes as well – in particular for getting around the campground and/or nearby places without having to use our big truck to go grab a few groceries. Our dilemma is currently space – and I think we’ll need to shed some rather large items in our pick-up bed to make room. I’m interested to see if folding bikes will be good enough for me for fitness tho.. as I love a good 20-30 mile ride!

  4. Love this. I’ve come to the same conclusion on bikes – I still carry one for my son, but traveling mostly in the southwest has me frustrated with the constant goat-head repairs. I’m thinking of leaving it behind from here on out. I carry a set of weights – considering getting some inflatable weights. But I signed up for a fitness center also that has many franchises all around the areas we travel. Building projects for Burning Man (and elsewhere) seems to keep us in pretty good shape and of course, lots of walking. I’ve never liked running but every once in a while it’s nice to push my lungs to fill to capacity. Can’t wait to meet you all out on the playa. See you soon.


  5. I allocate 30 minutes a day to exercise. Typically, I rotate through…first day 30 minutes of running, the next day 30 minutes of biking (folding bike), and the following day 30 minutes of weightlifting (exercise bands and body weight exercises). Then repeat the cycle. By allocating 30 minutes every day I establish a routine that I find easier to maintain. And by mixing it up a little bit it helps let different parts of my body rest and prevents injury from overuse. Depending on availability I’ll swap out exercises on any given day (maybe there is a pool available to swim, mountain to hike, building with stairs, etc).

  6. It can be hard to keep up a fitness regime when you are travelling,because of the lack or facilities and routine. I ran regularly before we left because we were saving to travel and it was a free form of exercise. Now we have let things slip as it can be hard to find places to run when we are in cities. Lately we’ve been regularly walking up the 1070 steps to the Cerro San Bernardo in Salta so we are getting a bit better. Well done on your running!

  7. I have experienced the same thing with my bike. I have been on the road for six months now, and I think that I have used it just a handful of times. The thought of how to get rid off it is starting to germinate in my mind.

    I love running…I try to do it at least once a week. A 30-40 minute run.

    The only thing that is a hassle, is that after biking or running…I need to take a shower, and since we have been dry camping a lot, I waste water showering.

    • That is an excellent point about dry camping & showers post run. So far, we’ve been with hook-ups & campground shower houses as we’ve been in the humid and hot south. Soon we will start our own dry camping run as we head west and into drier climates with ample boondocking. We shall see how it goes :)

  8. hey Chris

    i’m really surprised to hear your experience with bikes. it seems like having bikes would be a no brainer, but your experience makes a lot of sense. especially leaving them out in the elements. i got a ski rack a few years ago, and after driving only a few hours, my skis were covered in ice and grim and the edges were all messed up. they had more damage than a early season day here in Jackson Hole (read: rocks and core shots). they’re just not meant to take a beating like that. now i just leave my seats down in the car all winter for the skis.

    as i think about going Nomad, i have added a kayak to my list. seems like it would be pretty easy to just leave it on the top of the truck all the time. you could even use it as a rocket box and store stuff in it. if you could figure out how to lock the opening that is.


    • Hi Eric —

      We’ve been craving a kayak, especially whenever we find ourselves camped near water.

      I think we will someday get an inflatable kayak that we can keep in the truck and take out when needed. A full size one on the roof will take a lot of abuse (just like bikes on a bike rack), and will also probably hurt our gas mileage. That just isn’t worth when we might go months away from water.

  9. Stretch bands are good for strength building exercise. They take no room and weigh nothing. I have two sets of them sitting in my cupboard along with instructions for exercises I used to do with them. One of these days I’ll start again. :)

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