How to Stay Fit While Studying Abroad

For many people, fitness is all about routine. It’s easy to blow off a trip to the gym if it’s an afterthought. But if it’s scheduled into your day, or if there’s a particular class you like, it’s much easier to find the motivation to work out. So what do you do when your routine is completely shaken up, for example, when living in another country for a few months? Staying fit is probably one of the last things on your mind if you’re preparing to study abroad. You’re thinking about all the new people you’re about to meet and the experiences you’ll look back on for years to come. But the nagging personal trainer in me would like to remind you that exercising will make you feel more energetic, help prevent you from getting sick, and help you learn more efficiently (that is, if you plan on doing any studying at all). Staying fit while studying abroad isn’t as hard as you might think. You just have to find a new routine.
1. Things might not really be that different. If you’re studying abroad at a major college or university, the school will probably have a gym. You may have to pay a fee to gain access, but it’s likely part of your tuition. Most schools abroad will also have intramural sports and athletic clubs. Signing up for these is a double bonus: not only will you get some exercise, you’ll also meet new people.
2. Check out the fitness fads. If you’re studying abroad in a big city, you’re likely to find classes very similar to the ones you like here at home. Some of them might even involve a new twist. You’ll find yoga classes in most cities, particularly in Europe and Asia. Aqua spinning (yes, that is a spin class where the bikes are submerged in water) is a huge European trend that has begun making its way to the U.S. Just be prepared for the fact that the class probably won’t be taught in English (unless you’re in a primarily English-speaking country). If you’re not great with the local language, be prepared to do a lot of following along.
3. Try the local sports and activities. In the Alps? This is the perfect time to learn how to ski or take up hiking, depending on the season. Visiting Argentina? Learn the tango. Do a little research and figure out what people in your host country do for fun and exercise. This is the perfect opportunity to maximize your study abroad experience.
4. Know that you can do a lot with a little space. If your study abroad program involves lots of traveling, or you’re staying somewhere without access to a gym, you’ll need to make workouts for yourself. That’s not as intimidating as it sounds, and it will be easier if you do some research before you leave on your trip. If time is an issue, read up on high intensity interval training and how to get a great workout in a short period of time. Consider investing in a resistance band – they’re cheap and versatile. And look to YouTube for some inspiration on small space workouts. Just remember to be safe and don’t get too crazy.

5. Eat the damn food. Yes, being healthy is important and what you eat is a big part of that. And no, I’m not encouraging you to eat anything you don’t want to. But studying abroad is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If there is a local delicacy you want to try, do not forgo it just because you’re worried about your waistline. Eat the damn food.

[Lead image via Maridav/Shutterstock]

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