The gym is not the only place where you can build a good strong body. This is good news for nomads since gym membership rarely suit their geo-independent lifestyle.
In this article, I’ll explore what added features a fitness solution should have to be suitable for nomads. This is equally relevant to stationary people who don’t have time to go to a gym, can’t afford it or simply prefer to work out at home.
I will also discuss a specific fitness programme called P90X and share with you my personal experience of that program and my results.
Requirements of a nomadic fitness solution
Minimalistic nomads (like me) who carry all their belongings with them when they move need a fitness solution that fits their luggage. There is another, less obvious, concern however. Minimalists usually stay in temporary homes like hostels, short-term rentals or the homes of friends. This means that the fitness gear shouldn’t require a lot of space when used.
The fitness regime should be effective at bringing you to your fitness goal. If your goal is to maintain a healthy weight then you don’t need this article. Eating healthy and an active lifestyle that involves a lot of walking is enough. But if you want to build muscle and get a ‘beach body’, then you need some kind of resistance training.
P90X is a popular 90-days training programme released in 2004. It combines strength-training, cardio, yoga, plyometrics (jump training) and stretching. The kit consists of
- twelve DVDs in which the always chirpy Tony Horton & friends guides you through the different exercise days.
- a training calendar that tells you which exercise day (DVD) to do each day.
- a fitness guide containing useful tips and lots of photos of impressive bodies.
- a nutrition guide telling you to buy lots of expensive P90X supplements. (The DVDs and the fitness guide do to that too. I’m surprised the calendar doesn’t include ‘buy P90X supplements’ as a weekly task.)
P90X and Portability
P90X is well suited for nomads, even the space-limited minimalist. P90X was designed to be completed at home, and it does not require any specific wall fixtures or a lot of space. You can choose to do the programme using free weights or elastic exercise bands. (Each exercise is demonstrated using both.) If you are a minimalistic nomad, then the dumbbells are out of the question. The exercise bands, however, can easily be packed into a backpack.
P90X and Effectiveness
P90X, like all other commercial exercise products, claim AMAZING RESULTS that you, as one of my many intelligent and handsome readers, will treat with a healthy dose of scepticism. I gave P90X a shot not because I believed the hype but because friends recommended it to me, and I liked their results. In the next section, you can get an idea of P90X’s effectiveness from my own results after having completed the 90-day programme.
My personal P90X experience and the video diary
Getting a fit body was one of my goals for this year. When I began P90X, I was of average shape after a five-year break from the gym. I used work-induced lack of time as an excuse not to work out, but I was quietly wishing for that fit and sexy body.
When I left my job, I didn’t just lose my paycheck but also the excuse of not having time to get fit. It was time to decide. I was either going to get fit now or forget about it. I chose the former and dedicated ninety days to P90X.
Where I deviated from the P90X programme
I didn’t stray too far from the training schedule, but I did make a few detours.
There is an hour-long exercise, six days per week except for yoga which is 90 minutes. The seventh day is either rest or an optional hour-long stretch exercise, which I never did. Three days a week there is a second 15-minute long stomach exercise, which I also skipped. I just couldn’t bring myself to do a second exercise on those days.
I abandoned the P90X nutrition guide completely. It sent me into despair when I first tried to implement it, and I almost gave up P90X entirely! The nutrition guide comes with loads of healthy recipes and a schedule detailing what to cook each day, but I couldn’t work out what half the ingredients were and the whole thing is clearly meant for a US grocery store. Try finding low-fat Greek yoghurt in Argentina! Alternatively, you can follow the guide by weighing all your ingredients in your normal cooking, but the idea of measuring and fiddling with my food to that level was too disheartening to contemplate for long.
So I simplified. I picked two recipes with ingredients that I could get in bulk from my local farmers market and I ate the same thing for 90 days: scrambled eggs (turkey, nuts, tomatoes, cheese, basil) and chicken stir-fry (with broccoli, carrots and pumpkin.) In short, I replaced carbs for protein and ate a lot of vegetables. What this approach lacks in variety it makes up for in simplicity, and it is guaranteed healthy.
P90X wastes no opportunity to encourage you to buy their nutrition supplements, even mid-workout. I ignored this and got my nutrients through the good old-fashioned way: food.
Finally, I kept drinking alcohol during these 90 days and occasionally had ice cream and desserts. In short, I ate healthily at home and allowed myself to have fun when I went out. In my mind, if an exercise programme is only effective if you cut out all the pleasures in life, then it is not worth following.
P90X sells their own brand of exercise bands, but after reading a few reviews, I bought another set from Bodylastics. In my weekly P90X video diary, I reviewed those bands so I won’t do it again here. In summary, I am very pleased with their design, function and quality, and I have no problem recommending them. I used the five-band set, but there is also a six-band set available. (If you want to buy them, please use the links above as they give me a small referral commission.)
Many of the exercises involve lying on the floor, so you’ll want some kind of yoga mat. This isn’t very portable, however, so I improvised with a folded up blanket, which worked just fine.
You also need something to play the P90X DVDs on. I began playing them through my laptop, but later switched to a tablet as I could move it around the room more easily to be within sight as I changed position during the exercises.
Finally, the P90X guide strongly suggests that you get a heart-rate monitor. I bought one but stopped using it after a while.
I had two goals when I began P90X.
Firstly, I wanted to complete the three months, just to prove to myself that I had the discipline to finish it. No doubt, I achieved this goal.
Secondly, I wanted to get sufficient results to prove that a nomadic fitness regime can be effective. My results are far from the transformative before/after images featured on the P90X website, but I never believed in them anyway. Comparing my results to the P90X marketing photos would be silly. What matters to me is that I am now doubtlessly in the best shape of my life! I look at my results and I feel good, proud and happy, and that is result enough for me.
I’ve tried to achieve this kind of fitness before, many times, and I have always failed. I really do attribute this success to P90X. The programme gave me the structure, information and motivation to reach my goal for the first time in my life.
Did I prove that you can get fit as a travelling nomad? It’s subjective, but I think I did.
The video guide
Before I committed to P90X, I watched a few video diaries from people who had already completed the programme. Seeing these normal people talk about their experience made the whole project seem more manageable and achievable, and it really helped me to get started.
Since these video diaries helped and inspired me, I decided to make my own. Each week I published a new episode and added them to a YouTube playlist: The Modern Nomad’s Weekly P90X Video Diary.
The full playlist is an hour long. I mostly prattle on about my daily aches and pains, but there are a few special features of more broad interest interspersed among the chatter. You can skip to these features using the following links.
- Week 1: Introduction to P90X and the video diary.
- Week 3: Walkthrough of the spreadsheet I used to keep track of my progress.
- Week 5: Elbow series demonstration.
- Week 6: Tips on using the elastic exercise bands.
- Week 9: My take on food and nutrition and a recipe demonstration of scrambled eggs.
- Week 10: Demotivation strikes.
- Week 11: Review of the equipment I used.
- Week 12: Demo of one move per day during this last strength-building week.
- Week 13: Final week! Review of P90X, before/after photos and a few final words.
Now it is your turn
If you harbour a desire to build a better body, then I hope this article and the video diary will inspire you to get started! You just need to make the commitment, show up and work hard, and P90X will make sure your work is rewarded. But that first initial commitment is the hardest step on the journey. Why don’t you take the next five minutes and silently ask yourself if you really want to improve your body, and if the answer is yes, make that commitment today.