Keep Fit While Travelling With These Workouts From Adventurer Ed Stafford

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One way to stay fit is to spend 860 days walking the 4,345-mile (6993km) length of the Amazon river, as adventurer Ed Stafford did between 2006 and 2008, becoming the first person to do so. Whipping himself into shape was probably not Stafford’s motivation for such an expedition, but it was still effective. But it’s fair to say it won’t be especially useful for most people, though.

Fortunately, Stafford himself uses methods other than walking absurd distances through terrifying jungle to stay fit, methods that anyone can use, almost anywhere. As a man who is constantly on the move and often without access to gyms, Stafford has devised a couple of simple workouts he can do when away from home. One is a press-up challenge that takes just a few minutes a day and can be done anywhere (including deserted islands), while the other is a five-exercise full-body routine that uses the furniture you can expect to find in hotel rooms the world over.

EMOM Press-Up Challenge

“The absolute minimum I do is press-ups,” says Stafford. “The way the press-ups are spaced in this challenge is designed to maximise volume and still reach failure on the final set. All in just over four minutes.

“You do a set of press-ups on the minute, every minute, for five sets. Set your phone to beep on the minute. The first four sets should have the same number of reps, but the final set is to failure. As soon as you can master five sets of that number of reps then increase the number in each rep. So if you can do five sets of ten, then move up to sets of 11.

"I was on the uninhabited island of Olorua in the Eastern Division of Fiji for a 60-day survival isolation challenge. I started on 14 press-ups every minute for four minutes, ending on eight for the final set. Come the end of the challenge, on the 60th day, I was able to do 21 for the first four sets and finish on seven for the last. And that was done having to find all my own food.

“It’s so easy to remember your current number that you don’t need to write it down. Which was handy on the island as I had no pen nor paper. That was all the exercise I did. I did it every weekday, taking weekends off. I noticed a big difference in my upper body strength at the end of the challenge.”

Full-Body Hotel Room Workout

Adopt the same strategy as above for your sets and reps with the below five-exercise workout. You’ll be doing five sets in total of each move – four sets with the same amount of reps in each, followed by a fifth set to failure, starting each set on the minute.

“Five sets done on the minute every minute. This saves procrastination,” says Stafford.

Some of the exercise involve hotel furniture, so be careful not to break anything. We’ll send any bills for damages straight back to where they came from.


“I start with pull-ups on the back of the door, with a towel on top to save your fingers!”

Keeping your core engaged and your shoulders back, lift your body until your chin is slightly above the top of the door, then slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are extended.

Tricep dip

“Then I move onto dips on the back of hotel chairs,” says Stafford. “If they are slightly different heights just swap over each set.”

Stand between a couple of (sturdy) chairs with the backs of the chairs facing each other. Put your hands on top of the backs and support your weight. Lift your feet off the ground and lower your body until your elbows are bent at a 90° angle. Then push back up.

Pistol squat

“Next up is pistol squats holding small weights like water bottles out in front,” says Stafford. “This works the arms and starts to get the blood flowing to the lower body for the final part of the workout.”

Stand on one leg with your hands out in front of you holding the water bottles or whatever else is to hand. Slowly lower into a squat on one leg while holding the other leg straight out in front of you. Go as deep as possible without falling over, then push back up.

Hamstring curl

“The best way to do these in a hotel is by lying face down and tucking your feet under a sofa or a metal railing,” says Stafford. “Then curl your hammies to lift your entire body.

“At first you may need to start at the top of the move and do a ballistic press-up at the bottom to get you up again.”

Calf raise

“Lastly, calf raises,” says Stafford. “Alternate feet and wear a rucksack for weight.”

Stand on a step on one leg so that your heel dangles over the edge. Lower your heel (and yourself), then push back up. Then do the same on the other leg.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.