How to Road Trip on a Budget: Part IV — Stay Fit on the Road

How to Road Trip on a Budget: Part IV — Stay Fit on the Road

I lived off of $420 a month while living for three years on the road. This covered my car insurance (~$80/month), food, gas, outdoor permits and fees, and splurges every now and again — like a ready-made hot meal.

In this series, I share how I squeezed every penny out of my dollar and ended up stepping foot in some spectacular places.

And no, you don’t have to buy a van. I did all of this from a 4-door, non-hatchback Mazda 3. But before we dig into cheap ways to stay fit on the road, make sure to check out Part III of the series: Hygiene for Road Trips

Ready to dive into Part IV? Let’s get pumping:


Stretch your legs

Road Trip Fitness - Fitness - Jump Rope

Stay alert (and stay away from cramps and clots). On long drive days, it’s important to take breaks outside of your car and move around. You don’t need much; a jump rope, jumping jacks or a few laps around a parking lot will work. To get into a routine, make it a policy to be active for 10 minutes every time you have to fill up the car. You can even do calf raises on the edge of the pump’s raised platform while you’re filling up. Get creative, but get moving.

Borrow a gym

They are few and far between, but if you’re hanging near civilization for a while because there’s great recreation to be had (e.g. North Conway, New Hampshire), you might ask locals about any apartment complexes that have open community gyms. Bonus: these might also have a proper shower and wifi!

An Apple a day  

iTunes to the rescue. On the days when playing outdoors is out of the question (or even just to supplement your adventures), grab a fitness podcast or video and play it right from your computer or iPod.  It’s like having a personal trainer but without the heavy pricetag.

My pick: “20 min. Yoga Sessions from”

There’s an app for that

Road trip fitness app

Keeping on the tech tip, try a fitness app. No extra space needed for this workout since it fits right on your phone (you’re lugging it around anyway, right?). Do a search for “fitness” on your phone to find one that makes sense for you.

For example, there’s Gympact (IOS) which keeps you accountable by having you set a goal and commit to it with a dollar amount. For every day you miss, you give a portion of your money to someone who stuck to their goal. But if you work out, you get paid. If you’re diligent, you’ll make gas money. So be diligent. 

My pick: “Daily Yoga.” At the time of my download, the free version had 11 different video sessions with great music and a 12-day yoga plan that sent me a reminder when it was time to workout. 

Get social

During my time on the road, I found out that a few Twitter friends were doing a month-long #SquatChallenge. Basically, throughout the month, we built up reps each day to hit a final goal at the end of the month. And because it was body-weight based, it was something I could participate in no matter where I was. I also loved that this particular challenge kept me accountable on a daily basis with friends.

Want to try it? Start a similar challenge with your own friends and have daily check-ins.

Get Creative

Road trip fitness - playground

Passing by a town? Look for a playground. Monkey bars (you might have to bend your knees since you’re likely not 4’5” anymore) work the upper body and hand strength, swings work the core, and use the bottom step of the slide stairs to do calf raises and elevated lunges.

Or climb up them and slide down. It’s more fun.

City bonus: lots of urban parks have trails with fitness circuits—stations with equipment and instructions—interspersed along the way. Take a trail run and stop at each station for a full body workout.

Use your weight

I asked a question on Google+ if anyone had tips about exercising while on the road. I got a great reply from my friend who linked back to 50 bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere. Can’t get more perfect than that! Check out the post for more ideas from others, too.

Did you catch Part I of the series? If not, head over to get the foundations of living on the road (on a budget).

Have more suggestions on staying fit and clean on the road? Lemme hear ‘em on Twitter via @ginabegin.

About the Author


Gina Begin

Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Over the years, she has been consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.