Fitness Model David Morin took his Undersun bands to Iceland for a week of exploring, training, hiking, eating, and marveling at the breathtaking landscapes. Here’s the first-person account of his adventures.
“I’d been to Iceland once before,” says Morin, “so this wasn’t a bucket list item for me. It was more about the adventure of experiencing something that would emerge if I took everything away – I stayed off the phone, stayed off the internet, stayed off YouTube, and stayed focused on the environment. It was more about the quest, to experience a newfound level of authenticity within myself.”
Morin didn’t leave fitness behind completely, though. His Undersun resistance bands, perfect for outdoor workouts, fit easily into his luggage, and he brought them in his backpack every day of the six-day trip while he and two close friends, a photographer and a videographer, navigated the gorgeous landscape of Iceland in the late summer of 2019.
“I went to Iceland to create an outdoor experience that also integrated fitness,” he says. “It was about getting out of the gym, training outside, and living adventurously. I wanted to grab and go, but not just as a hiker. As someone who also wants to maintain and build some muscle. That’s why I brought the bands. I didn’t want to stay at some resort with a fancy gym. I wanted to get out there in the world.”
Below, Morin gives a firsthand account of his trip to majestic Iceland, complete with photographs and video taken on location by his mates.
“Unlike Any Place on Earth”
After landing at Keflavík Airport, about 20 minutes outside Reykjavík, Morin and his travel companions knew right away that they were in for a treat. It’s no wonder Iceland, a Nordic island country the size of Kentucky with a population of only 364,000 (around 10% of the U.S. population), is a destination of tranquility for travelers worldwide.
You quickly realize the very bizarre landscape. It’s unlike any place on Earth. There are thermal vents everywhere, a lot of dramatic cliffs, it’s very sparcely populated, it’s a very volcanic, lunar-looking environment. We rented a Sprinter conversion RV that was comfortable for three people. We flew in from Spain, grabbed the rental, and we just hit the road, man.
We did the whole circle. There’s a road that basically circumnavigates the entire island. Reykjavík is in Southwest quadrant of the island, so we just hopped in the rental van and started heading north. We went around the whole island clockwise. You can get around the entire island of Iceland in five days if you’re aggressive. Imagine half the population and six times the spread of Hawaii, and that will let you realize the order of magnitude of how much wider, more desolate, and lonely Iceland.
It’s a magical place – every twist, every turn, every mountain you climb, every valley you go down into. It’s volcanic, it Jurassic, it’s expansive, it’s cold and foggy, it’s rainbows and then it’s northern lights and icebergs. It’s waterfalls. You get tired of waterfalls, there’s so many of them.”
Training in Paradise
For much of the past two decades, David Morin was literally placed inside a box. Since his first photo shoot in 2005, the 46-year-old model, coach, and entrepreneur has landed over 40 magazine covers, includingMuscle & Fitness,Ironman, andFitness RX. He also appeared in the 2015 documentaryThe Perfect Physique, which chronicled the often rigid, gym-obsessed lifestyles of the world’s most successful male fitness models.
All of this earned him notoriety, fame, and even a few bucks. But it also left him wanting to escape the “box” – the one represented by the four sides of a magazine cover, as well as the four walls of a gym. Morin decided to escape the glitz and glamour of the fitness industry and the artificiality of staged cover shoots, if only for a week, so he grabbed his backpack and headed off for Iceland.
Morin’s training regimen during the six-day trip was simple yet effective – a steady dose of running, high-intensity cardio, and Undersun resistance band work. That in addition to countless miles walking the Iceland terrain.
I brought the Undersun bands, and I also did a lot of sprints and plyometrics. We did a lot of hiking, particularly when going to some of the bigger attractions like the Dettifoss waterfall, the really gnarly fall that was in the Prometheus movie. The water’s not white at all – it’s like clay. Gigantic boulders. It’s about a three-mile hike to get out there, after an hour drive off the main rode. But the energy of that place is invigorating.
With the bands, I did a lot of outdoor circuit workouts and a lot of compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and shoulder presses, plus core work.
I would do one set of every exercise, going to absolute failure, and then move onto the next exercise. Just hitting complete exhaustion of an isolated muscle with the bands, then moving onto a different muscle group. I would cycle that through 2-3 times a day.
For example, I’d do a drop set of different variations of biceps curls. I would do as many reps as I could of each variation for as long as I could do it, and then drop the resistance of the band by bringing my feet in closer or moving my handstoward back on the back.
I’d do a set until I couldn’t do anymore – like, maybe 50, 60, 70 reps on standard curls. And then I’d do reverse curls, and then hammer curls, in the same manner. Just one all-out set to failure on each, using different wrist orientations to hit different angles. I’d give myself 10 minutes on a muscle group to thoroughly exhaust it, and then I’d move to another muscle. Just 10 minutes to kill it. Makes for a great outdoor upper body workout.
One day we went to the black volcanic slats and to the glacier. We brought the bands and did hiking, sprints, and trail running. We’d hit a trail run, then do a set with the bands, then do another run, do lunges, do deadlifts, then another trail run.
The resistance training with the bands was great because you’re walking and doing light to moderate cardio all day, so you want that shock of resistance training with the higher intensity – the blunt force trauma to one muscle group. I did band work every day. I even used the bands for stretching and therapeutic work.
Eating Like Icelandic Kings
Morin and his buddies ate well in Iceland. Of course, it helped that they had a full equipped RV that included a bed for each of them and a functional kitchen space. They were “glamping” in paradise.
Food was pretty easy because we had a camper. At the beginning of the trip, we stopped by a grocery and got everything we needed. We had a gas stove, pots, pans, a coffee maker, and a refrigerator.
We had bags of fish, eggs, seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries. You’re supposed to eat local; it’s part of the acclimation of absorbing where you’re at. When you’re in Iceland, you should be eating cherries and apples and blueberries and fish and nuts and beets and potatoes. We stopped at a few restaurants, too, and had some great fish and chips and elk burgers. Iceland provides 70% of the world’s cod fish. Most of the cod we get in the United States is from Iceland.
We also had local ice cream. Iceland is known for its ice cream. All the dairy products there are amazing. The cows aren’t infested with drugs and antibiotics.
Finding Perspective and Purpose on the Island
Iceland is a place you go to explore, to discover, to find things. Maybe even find yourself. For David Morin, Iceland offers a place to unplug, an opportunity to get off the beaten path. It’s roughly a half-day flight from his home in Florida to Keflavík Airport, but it feels like a million miles away.
You follow this pre-existing career path that says you need to check all these boxes, and that’s true for any career path, whether it’s entrepreneurship or scholarly. You need to read this self-help book and go to this seminar, or go to a certain college, or become part of a particular society or political group. But f--- all that.
Really, it’s just about you pioneering your own path based on what you’ve determined is best for you. The authentic experience is something that’s in such short supply and high demand. It’s all about being able to experience different cultures and step foot on foreign land, to experience the gift that this Earth is, and to take in the raw beauty of it all with minimal resort interaction, mass margarita machine consumption, and all-you-can-eat buffets.
Put all that stuff aside. It comes down to a quest. You’ve got to go out and experience things. Sure, you can find it through meditation in your apartment or house, but every once in a while you’ve got to walk down a path that others rarely do. I had to go down that path. I jumped in a glacier lake, for Chrissake!
For me, I got some covers and realized, dude, I’m just a cookie-cutter fitness guy on a magazine who’s in good shape. Where’s the story? Where’s the substance? That’s so many people in life. They have a good shell, a good coating, a good superficial layer. But the structure, the character, what’s inside, the stories they tell, the experiences they’ve had – that should be what a life’s about, right?