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NOMAD FITNESS: A TRAVELING FAMILY STAYING ACTIVE ON THE ROAD

NATHAN THOMPSON

- 16 March

“You still liking those bands, Nate?” 

That’s a question my gym-going buddy asked not too long ago.

“Man, it’s a bit of a love-hate type of thing,” I replied. “I love them because they’re so insanely flexible that I can take them anywhere.” 

“So what do you hate?” he asked.

“Well, that’s just it. They kinda’ stole all my excuses.”

He laughed, but more importantly, I think he understood. See, my family and I don’t have a settled home. We sold that in March 2020 to travel the world. But when COVID hit, we were forced to change plans. 

So we decided to take a cross-country road trip in Canada while waiting for international borders to open (don’t worry, we followed every restriction and regulation by the book).

And when I was going to the gym, “location” would be one of my biggest excuses for missing a workout. Now that I had the bands, this particular excuse would no longer cut it.

That’s why, in today’s post, we’ll be kicking off a series on “Nomad Fitness.” More specifically, I’ll be covering what our family does, and why finding a flexible fitness solution was so important to me. 

Then, as a little bonus, I’ll answer the question I get most often about my exercise routine: “Are resistance bands actually a long-term fitness solution for travelers?” 

Let’s get started. 

Love Life Abroad: A Traveling Family 

When it comes to the world of travel and fitness, I was a late bloomer. I took my first trans-Atlantic flight when I was 23-years-old. Before that, most of the traveling I’d done was in California or, on some rare occasions, a weekend trip to Tijuana, Mexico. 

That’s where I made some of the best memories I’ll never remember. 

But that first trip to Europe ended up changing the course of my life. I met my wife, Emilie, off of a small island in southern Italy. We were both staying at the same hostel, sat across from each other at a communal dinner, and, as they say, the rest is history. 

Since then, we’ve lived in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Our first son was born in Paris, France, and our second was born in Quebec, Canada, where we settled down from 2017 – 2020.

It was in Quebec that I started really getting into fitness. I joined a gym and would work out 5-6 times per week. My goals were simple: I was tired of being the “skinny kid” and wanted to build some lean muscle. 

With a healthy mix of weight lifting and cardio, I did just that. I even completed an X-Terra Triathlon in 2019 despite having mountain biked only a handful of times before. 

As fitness became a larger part of my life, one thing became consistently clear: I was a happier, healthier, and better father/husband on days that I worked out.  

But after a few years of settling down in Quebec, the “travel itch” came creeping back. My wife was working full-time as a mechanical engineer while I was working as a digital marketer. Since I could do my job from anywhere, we decided to sell everything (and I mean everything) to become a full-time traveling family. 

In March 2020, we sold the house, a car, our furniture, and pretty much everything else we couldn’t fit in a few travel bags. But if you’re following along with that timeline, you know the world fell to pieces shortly thereafter when COVID hit the scene. 

Rather than getting discouraged, we decided to become a nomadic family by driving across Canada until international travel was safe again (while following all domestic travel regulations and taking major precautions). 

There was just one problem that I know you’ll understand: travel and fitness don’t typically get along well together. 

That’s when I bought and tested the Undersun Fitness resistance bands.

Nomad Fitness: The Freedom I Was Looking For 

To some, the following sentence may sound a bit intense: 

I’d been committed to a fitness routine for the last 3 years and, if I’m being honest, became addicted enough that I didn’t want to abandon it for anything.

But for many readers here, I’m willing to bet you totally get it.  

A consistent exercise routine is such a crucial component of your mental and physical health. Plus, remember, I’m not a personal trainer or professional fitness worker. 

I’m a dad, plain and simple. But as a new father, fitness was incredibly important to me for a few reasons.  

  1. Working out felt like investing in myself. The more energy I put into my fitness, the more energy I had later in the day for my kids. 
  2. I wanted to set a good example for my boys. Rather than telling them about the benefits of exercise and good nutrition, I decided to lead by example (my boys, aged 2 and 4, LOVE “working out” now, too). 
  3. Exercising gave me some much-needed “dad time” to be alone, collect my thoughts, and let some of the parenting stress melt away. 

Frankly, I wasn’t ready to give that up, yet. Not even for a world trip.  

So when I bought the Undersun Fitness bands, I came in a bit… skeptical. I’d seen resistance bands on the cover of workout DVDs from the local Wal-Mart or from Amazon advertisements. 

But I hadn’t seen anything that looked like it was a serious training system that would let me replicate movements from the gym. When I stumbled across UnderSun Fitness’s YouTube channel, I caught some videos of upper body workouts by James Grage. 

This was was definitely a shift from the standard resistance band user I’d seen in the past. And I promised myself that if I found a fitness solution that I could take on the road, I’d give it a shot. 

Having been without a settled home for nearly a year, I’m incredibly happy I did. It allowed me to learn how resistance bands can be a long-term solution for nomadic travelers.  

Let’s take a closer look at why I can say this with such confidence. 

Are Bands a Long-Term Solution for Travelers?

Again, when I was going to the gym, I won’t lie: I was skeptical of using resistance bands to train. Turns out, I’m not alone. I’ve gotten many questions about the bands, but the most common is whether or not they work long-term. 

Everyone’s fitness journey is different, and there’s not a single “right way” to get in shape (though there are plenty of wrong ways). That said, my experience has been that resistance bands are MORE than capable of maintaining and progressing with muscle growth over long periods of time.

Probably indefinitely. Here’s why:  

I stopped going to the gym in February 2020. Before that, I’d been weight training for nearly 3 years and meticulously tracked my progress. When I left the gym, here is what I was able to lift for my core workouts:

  • Bench: 300 lbs max if I had a spotter; 285 lbs is as brave as I’d be without a spotter
  • Deadlift: 375 lbs max
  • Squat: 375 lbs max

For 9-months I used resistance bands exclusively. I couldn’t track the weight I was lifting, so I had to hold myself accountable and make sure I was really pushing myself.  

I did workouts in parks, on the side of the road, hotel rooms, and even a hotel stairwell at 4:30 AM before the boys woke up. 

Then, in November of 2020, we stayed at a hotel in Revelstoke, Canada. They had a gym that was open, sanitized, and safe for one person to use at a time. I booked a slot and tried out my core workouts. 

Here’s the really cool part: I hadn’t lost any strength.  

I worked my way up the bench to 290 lbs (no spotter but still felt safe). I was able to squat 375 lbs again. And my deadlift was around 360 lbs before I began worrying about my back.

So when people ask me if resistance bands are good for a long-term fitness solution, I’m a 100% convert. Frankly, resistance bands checked all the boxes for me. They are: 

  • Versatile enough to replicate any movements I do at the gym
  • Flexible enough to take anywhere and train with my family
  • Affordable enough that they made me seriously rethink gym membership costs

And, one last time, I’m not a personal trainer or professional fitness model. I’m a full-time father who realized I’d either look for reasons to workout or look for reasons not to. 

Like we said at the start, Undersun Fitness simply took away all my excuses.

Which is why we’re kicking off this Nomad Fitness series. So stay tuned for the next post where I’ll talk about my “No Excuses Winter Workout” as our family spent a long weekend traveling through Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada.