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Woman uses elastic bands to workout by RV van

Staying Strong on the Road (with minimal gear)

Maintaining our strength and fitness routine was at the top of our priorities list as we prepared for this new way of living as full-time RVers.

Woman uses elastic bands to workout by RV van

My husband, Aaron, and I spent a good 18-months preparing for this transition in lifestyle.  With countless hours of online research and hundreds of inspiring YouTube videos, we thought we were prepared for a healthy lifestyle living on the road.  Looking back, I would say we even became a little too ambitious with all of our pre-trip purchases.

One main part of this journey was starting our own business, Irene Iron Fitness, where we provide personal training and nutrition coaching 100% online. Coming from years of being spoiled in large climate-controlled gyms with endless options of equipment, we wanted to mimic that with having as much fitness gear as we could possibly store in our RV. We even tried entertaining the idea of an inflatable kayak and a full-sized foldable weight training bench. But, as soon as the products arrived and we realized we didn’t even have space inside of our 700-square foot apartment for them, we had to laugh at ourselves. Who were we trying to kid? We sighed, returned the equipment, and continued to brainstorm realizing this might be more difficult than we originally thought.

The space constraints became even more real when we finally bought our Class B RV, a 22’9” Airstream Interstate Sprinter Van. After filling our new home with the bare minimums of clothes, food, pots & pans, bedding, and other household essentials, we ended up leaving Minneapolis with only one set of adjustable dumbbells and one yoga mat. This felt very bare-bones to us and left us a bit unsatisfied.

RVers Must Plan for Weather

Our first destination along our grand voyage route was Texas. We left Minnesota in the heart of winter and went straight south, expecting glorious heat and unlimited sunshine. Rookie mistake #1! Texas had high temps in the 50’s and was mostly cloudy the month we were there. We were used to waking up and strolling into our apartment gym at 6 am without thinking about the weather. We quickly discovered that we weren’t being limited because we didn’t have that fancy bench or that adventurous kayak, but rather because we couldn’t seize the day with our early morning outdoor workouts while with frigid temps outside. As we were in our RV-planning stages, weather patterns never even crossed our mind when we thought about fitness.

Now we know that weather not only dictates our regional routes as a full-timer but also our daily schedules. Weather is one of RVers top obstacles in terms of fitness and staying on track, but the obstacles don’t stop there.

More Challenges RVers Face

Travel style varies from person to person in the RV world. Whether you move daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly, you face the same scenario of starting up all over again. Every time you relocate, your routine gets shaken up. The rug gets pulled from you and you have to re-settle. You lose time on your travel days. You make stops and sightsee along the way, losing more time. But this is the point, right? Take in all of those views! Embrace the pace!

When you finally do land at your new camp you play catch up for a few days to find your routine again. What happens to your fitness routine during all of those travel and exploration days? Do you stay on track?

Unpleasant weather and rattled routines due to constant travel are the two pain points that our clients struggle with most. Other common barriers include limited equipment, low motivation, not being able to cook in an RV kitchen, limited access to quality produce, poor RV kitchen appliance performance, little knowledge on program design, limitations caused by excess body weight, and age factors such as decreased mobility.

With all of these obstacles in the way, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where do you start? How do you stick with it? One of the most deflating feelings is starting a new routine for what feels like the thousandth time! So here is my best advice for starting again, and sticking to it.

Man hikes by lake in the rain with an umbrella overhead

Vision, Deadlines, and Action!

That’s right, we are talking about goal setting. Goal setting is so important for many aspects of life, and especially, diet and exercise. What is it exactly that you want to achieve? How do you get there?

Some common mistakes with goal setting are making goals too big/unrealistic, not specific enough, or without a timeline. A goal without a deadline is nothing more than a wish list! I recommend starting out with a long-term goal, such as “lose 30 pounds in the next 12-months”. Or, “be able to walk five miles straight in the next 12-months”. At first glance, these can be really large goals on their own. If you stop planning here you will likely fall off track, or never even start.

Break your large goal into small, monthly goals. Break your monthly goals into weekly goals, and your weekly goals into daily goals. This way, when you start out, your goals are realistic and achievable. Using the walking goal as an example, your beginning daily goal may look something like, “walk for 5 minutes 5 days a week”. This you can do! When you are able to successfully check off your daily goals, you feel pride in your accomplishments and are excited to continue.

Stick to Your Routine...

Once you’ve mapped out your daily goals, stick to them.  Show up every single day.  In reality, motivation comes and goes.  You need to solidify your routine so that it becomes disciplined.  Once you have established discipline (this will take a few weeks of consistent practice) it will be a lot easier to maintain your regime.  On those days that you really don’t want to show up, show up for 10 minutes, and make it happen.  Prioritize your goals.  Envision what you want to become and fight for it!

... But Stay Flexible

In this lifestyle, you roll with the punches. Plans change along with itineraries and schedules. Don’t let this deter your progress.

Schedule in travel days and fun days and work hard on the days that aren’t. Adjust your daily schedule to account for weather changes. Wake up early in hot climates to walk when it’s cool outside and beat the heat. Grab an umbrella and walk in the rain. Don’t let those pesky bugs keep you inside of your rig all day! Poor produce selection? Do the best you can with what you have!

Stay consistent and positive and things will become a lot easier. Remember your goals and treat them with urgency, while adjusting them as needed.

Fitness equipment arranged next to RV van

Find What You Really Need

In terms of equipment and kitchen tools, you really don’t need much to embark on and stay fit on your health journey.  A well-rounded fitness routine will consist of stretching, balance and core exercises, resistance training, and cardio.  For diet, focus on small improvements and better choices rather than a complete overhaul.

For starters, a good pair of walking shoes and a yoga mat will get you moving and stretching.  Bodyweight movements will keep you progressing for quite some time.  Take advantage of the equipment you already have on hand for assisting with balance such as chairs, countertops, and picnic tables.

As you advance from bodyweight you will want to venture into additional equipment that you can use for resistance training.  We have spent nearly two years rotating and experimenting with our personal equipment in our van.  We now have settled on one set of adjustable dumbbells, a pair of parallel bars, and a set of high-quality resistance bands (loop style).  We find these three pieces of equipment to be most versatile, effective, and RV-friendly.

Each individual will have different goals, preexisting body conditions/injuries, storage capacity, preferences, and other variables that affect what equipment you need. Identify your goals, set some urgency, and prioritize.  You can carry the fanciest and largest equipment out there, but if you don’t have persistence and determination it will just sit and get dusty.  Cheers to a healthy 2021 ahead!

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Staying Strong on the Road (with minimal gear) 1
Staying Strong on the Road (with minimal gear) 2


Christine Willers | SKP# 150528

Christine and Aaron live full-time in their Class B, Airstream Interstate Sprinter Van.  They will be celebrating two full years on the road this January, 2021.  Originally from Minneapolis, MN, they sold their home in 2014 which ultimately led to further downsizing and the desire for a different way of living.  They really just wanted to spend time together and travel while they are in their physical prime and able to do so.  So, after working 15 & 18 years (respectively) in Corporate careers, they quit their jobs and started their own online business, Irene Iron Fitness.  Irene Iron Fitness provides online fitness programs and nutrition coaching to clients across the country.

5 Responses

  1. These are amazing tips to staying fit on the road. I RV full time and hike to stay fit. When the hiking is good, meaning I can find trails and the weather cooperates, I stay fit since it’s something I enjoy. But if the hiking is bad I tend to get a little lazy. I was thinking of taking up yoga inside the RV (which is a challenge) on bad weather days. I carry light free weights but forget I have them, lol.

    It’s nice to see even the fitness gurus (you guys) have the same challenges in working out and staying fit as the rest of us.

    Thank you for the tips.

  2. Hello. We are starting full time for the second time. We spent 20 on the road and have been off 4 years. Just had to get back out there. We are both 83 years old. That in itself isa challenge. We are in 30 to this time where before we were in class A or 5thwheel. Any suggestion for people our age. Walking has always been our main stay to be fit.

  3. Wow, 20 years on the road and now back for round two…that’s incredible! Keep it up with the walking, walking is amazing. I encourage adding in some resistance training. Perhaps get a light set of adjustable dumbbells or a high-quality set of resistance bands. I would go for the resistance bands, myself. Good luck out there – Chris (Irene Iron Fitness)

  4. I love using stretchy bands for my muscle preservation exercises. I use the 4KOR set which come with a strap that I put around the truck door. With the strap at about shoulder height, I find I can do most chest, back and arm exercises. I bend at the waist to do shoulders and pull-downs. They are light and fit in a small bag.
    In addition I road and mountain bike, lake kayak with an inflatable and disc golf (which isn’t high energy exercise, but lots of fun). We are on our 5th year of full time in a 120 sq foot Escape 21 trailer.

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