Keeping up your big queer fitness regime abroad

An expert explains how to pack a decent workout into even the busiest itinerary

This article was originally published by Xtra’s sister publication Pink Ticket Travel.

Travelling is an opportunity to forego routine to pursue adventure. Meal planning, pre-dawn workouts and housework are replaced by massive spaghetti dinners and hangovers. But does this mean workouts get pushed aside for drag queen–guided boat tours and Sunday morning mimosas?

While bicep curls do not a happy gay make, some of us can’t imagine taking a break from our workout. If a gay goes to Barcelona and never does a squat, was he ever really gay?

Fret not, fitness buffs. Even if you’re staying in (gasp) a hotel or rental with no gym, there are ways to maintain your fitness regime. You just have to be creative.

“Even if you can’t get a designated workout in, make sure that you move in some way every day,” says Sam Leicht, a fitness influencer and health coach who founded the fitness app Pridefit for LGBTQ2S+ people to keep healthy. “It doesn’t need to be a perfect workout by any means, but make sure to move your body.” That could mean seeing the sights on foot, carrying your own luggage and trying out activities that will work your muscles. 

Some travellers have exercise baked right into their itineraries—visitors to places like Norway or New Zealand, for example, may have hiking in mind even before they get on the plane. You can find hiking groups on Couchsurfing, Airbnb Experiences or Facebook groups for expats living in the place you’re visiting. Hiking, of course, isn’t the only option. Airbnb Experiences and Tours By Locals offer themed bike tours where you can get an endorphin boost while seeing the sights. For those who crave aquatic adventures, Swimmer’s Guide maintains a list of pools around the world. Local LGBTQ2S+ swim clubs, like the U.K.’s Out to Swim, might be able to point you to queer-friendly pools.

If you want to get your heart rate up, jogging can also be a fun way to explore a new area. “When I was on tour, I would make a point to run through every city to get more of an authentic feel,” says Leicht.

On the other hand, not everyone has time to squeeze in a jog before a full day of sampling macaroons and climbing over ancient ruins. That’s where the 10-minute hotel room workout comes in.

Charlie King, an openly gay U.K.-based personal trainer and former star of the reality show The Only Way is Essex, says travellers only need one light, cheap piece of equipment to do a decent workout.

“My resistance bands are a must-have in the suitcase. They don’t take up space or weight,” he says. “A quick bodyweight and resistance band workout can work the full body, keep the mobility going and help you work up a little sweat.” You can even use them during the more boring portions of a bus tour. “If you need to stretch after being seated all day, a resistance band opens the body up and makes you feel so much better.”

In fact, because you probably can’t afford to pay the overweight luggage charges to bring a dumbbell set along with you, bodyweight workouts, which require little or no equipment, are an ideal solution. Many workout apps provide guided sessions that employ squats, pushups, mountain climbers and situps—they can give you a full workout before your travelling companion has time to say “brunch.” Some of these apps, like FitOn, for example, have a non-binary option when setting up a profile.

(A side note: While a jump rope is an easy piece of equipment to take along with you, and they are not prohibited on American, Canadian, U.K. and European Union flights, it’s worth noting that some airport security checkpoints around the world have been known to confiscate them.)

There’s research that suggests that High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT) is an effective way to get fit on a tight schedule. Leicht recommends one form of HITT, Tabata, which is a workout format that demands 20 seconds of strenuous exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 20 minutes. “It seems easy on paper, but by the final round, your muscles will be burning whether you’re doing legs, arms or abs,” he says.

Because you’re not necessarily using equipment, you have the freedom to go out and find a fun place to do your workout. If you’re able to find a spot in a local park or on a beach, you can also get your Vitamin D fix—and maybe show off your excellent form to some locals.

Travellers with the time, motivation and budget might want to seek out LGBTQ2S+-friendly gyms in their destination city. (Read our story on the world’s gayest gyms.) The OUT Foundation’s Inclusive Fitness Finder can point you toward gyms that meet the foundation’s criteria for an LGBTQ2S+-inclusive facility. (Most of their affiliates are in North America and the United Kingdom.)

While not every city has the gay gym culture of Barcelona or Provincetown, Leicht and King suggest that taking a quick look around a potential fitness centre can help ease worries. “It’s quite easy to get the vibe of a place through the staff, location and other people using the gym,” says King. Several mainstream chains, like Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, GoodLife and SmartFit, not to mention YMCAs around the world, have inclusive policies, though there can always be surprises in how these are implemented and enforced.

“The best thing you can do is walk in with confidence and remember that you deserve to be there just as much as everyone else,” says Leicht.

Remember that the quality of your vacation shouldn’t be dependent on sticking to a workout routine that’s going to get you an eight-pack. Embracing spontaneity is healthy too.

“We exercise so that we can live life to its fullest, not the other way around,” says Leicht. “My biggest goal is to stick to the routine when I’m at home and not worry too much about exercise when I’m on vacation.”

Amen to that. Now where’s the nearest gym?

Evan Lambert is a queer entertainment journalist, travel writer and short fiction writer who has bylines at Mic, People, Out, GayCities, BuzzFeed, The Discoverer, Thought Catalog and many more. If you liked today’s piece, then follow his South American travels on Instagram at @icantevannnn or check out his other work at

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Health, Travel, Advice, Health, Travel

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