In an age where everyone with a social media platform is offering health advice, it’s more important than ever to seek information from a trusted source. In this weekly feature, Dublin-based yoga teacher and owner of Sweaty Soul Studio Molly McKeever talks to Freya Drohan about the benefits of incorporating some form of movement while travelling.
"I am going to do my best not to sound smug or bore you to death with my, perhaps, over-enthusiastic and endless list of benefits to working out while travelling," McKeever laughed to IMAGE.ie. But, after all, she does practice what she preaches. Not only does she run multiple yoga retreats in Ireland and abroad throughout the year, but her own life is punctuated by picturesque travels, during which she always manages to squeeze in some kind of exercise.
"First, I think it's important to define what, in my eyes, I see as a workout. A vacay-workout does not have to look like 60 minutes in a dark, dungeon-like gym surrounded by squat racks and intimidating bodybuilders! For me a workout, whether I am in the comfort of my home or abroad on an adventure, is whatever my body and schedule craves," she noted.
While living in New York, McKeever got used to jogging the streets of Manhattan to cope with a crazy work schedule. Running became an outlet — even in the city's infamous summer humidity.
"When the weather was divinely hot it made sense to take advantage of the opportunity to sweat on my doorstep. This is one of the many important things I took from my New York experience: I began to let go of the limitations of 'having' to get to a class or to the gym, and it redefined what working out was in my life."
Nowadays, as she juggles running her successful city centre studio, teaching classes, fitting in her own workouts, personal travel (and documenting it all on her blog/social channels) she still adheres by the same exercise ethos. Essentially, that working out while in a new, exciting city gives you another avenue to enhance your travel experience.
"When I returned to Dublin, it meant working out was part of my life in a way I never knew possible. My workouts ended up being a great way to explore my mood. Weekends in Paris transformed from lazy lie-ons to a run along the Seine, finding new views and cute cafés. Sub-zero days in our stunning Scandi apartment in Copenhagen looked like a heat-filled resistance band HIIT workout (before skipping out to our mouth-watering dinner reservation at Mirabelle.) Not only does it make my holiday experience a true reflection of what I love doing, but it heightens the experience with boosted energy, a larger appetite — and sometimes even a way to explore an unfamiliar place (on foot)."
Inspired to pack your runners ahead of your next trip? Below are McKeever's tried-and-tested tips on how to schedule in a little movement without taking up your precious tourist time.
1. Hike or run/power walk
Look online to find the closest hike or best running route, and dedicate a day to it. Not only does this provide a chance to see a different side to the place, but by being in nature you are already blowing away any cobwebs you may have from long flights or jet lag. Most cities provide great walking and sometimes running tours of the city (you'll find them on Trip Advisor). In my opinion, it's a way better memory than sitting a bus for two hours.
2. Bring some workout equipment
For me, whether it’s for a sleepover at a friend’s house or two weeks in Vietnam, I bring my flexi resistance bands from McSport Ireland. These weigh nothing (they can even fit in your pocket!) and can be more effective than weights when it comes to breaking a sweat. Over on my Instagram page, I share weekly workouts you can save and use as a go-to when you're away next time. Most of these are 20-30 minute workouts. This means that before you know it, you have squeezed in an unbelievable workout before the breakfast buffet has even opened.
3. Invest in a travel yoga mat
I use the B Yoga travel mat which is super light and folds perfectly so that you can neatly pack it without having to compromise any of your cute vacation outfits. Find a yoga class that you enjoy on YouTube and download it so that, incase of useless WiFi, you have it all set and ready to flow. I have a YouTube channel where I post weekly classes for free and whether you are a regular practitioner or a complete beginner, there is a class level and duration that will give you exactly what your body is craving. Come flow with me and continue all the posi, strengthening and self-care vibes even when you're jet setting.
Especially when travelling to big cities, I adore checking out the most popular classes. Often in bigger, more established cities, there is a selection that can be so fun to try. Again, it’s a great way to heighten your experience by stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something different. Be sure to do a little research online before you go and book the class ahead of time so you don't have to waste precious time trying to organise. (I always do a back-up check on Instagram just to make sure I like the look of it!)
5. Have fun
My last point isn't really a tip, but more of a reminder. YOU’RE ON HOLIDAY SO HAVE FUN! Perhaps you have sacrificed lots of nights out, or shopping sprees etc. to save for this holiday, so you want to get the most out of it. This should take precedence above all else. Working out while away on vacation is so possible... it shouldn't be from a place of guilt, but pure enjoyment. I am a firm believer in movement/exercise as a source of happiness and a path toward your truest, joy-filled self. But, if you're too busy experiencing memories in ways that have nothing to do with breaking a sweat than that is perfect too.