KEEPING FIT WHILST TRAVELING; professional tips from personal trainer Laura Court

Laura is a professional photographer and qualified personal trainer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Her love of travel has lead her to live overseas several times, most recently in London where she was working as a photographer for Net-a-Porter followed by a stint working on the super-yachts.  She has recently turned her life long passion for health and fitness into a career by launching her own personal training business. I got in touch with Laura to pick her brains on the best ways to maintain healthy habits, even whilst living out of a suitcase. Here's what she had to say... 

You were living as an expat in London when you decided on a career change to Personal Training, what inspired you to make the leap?

I have always been interested in health and fitness, being active has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has been in the back of my mind for a while now that I wanted to study again although it wasn’t until I moved back to New Zealand after several years in London that I finally put my thoughts into action and enrolled to study.  I still love photography, so rather than a complete career change, I like to look at it as a progression into doing and hopefully combining the two things I love.  Well, that plus travel so the three things I love.

You’ve always been an athletic and fit person but have you ever found yourself falling off the wagon or lacking motivation? How do you motivate yourself? 

I stay motivated by mixing my workouts up each week - weights, spin, swimming, yoga, running and walking.  If I don’t feel like doing a specific workout on that day then I change it by doing something different, as long as I’m moving I’m happy. While I do spend the majority of my training time in the weights room, yes leg day is my favourite day, I change up my workouts by changing the sets, reps and the order of exercises, this keeps my body guessing.  Lastly, it’s important to set yourself goals whether they are long term or short term as it helps to have something to work towards.  Once you have achieved that goal, set another.

You’re mad keen about fitness but you’re almost as keen on traveling. Where have you been and what were your most memorable trips?  Do you have a favourite country/city? What do you love about it? 

I started traveling straight out of high school and have relocated several times now, living in Canada, America, London, and the South of France for a short period of time before working on a super yacht.  There have been many holidays in-between these periods too so it’s hard to pick a favourite as each trip is different and memorable in it’s own way.  I am quite adventurous, so any travel involving diving or snowboarding is top on my list – living in Canada was perfect for this as I was in BC and the ski fields there are amazing.  A recent trip to Bali was amazing for diving.  On my last dive I was lucky enough to see eight manta rays which was incredible.  Being a photographer I love to travel and photograph anywhere that is completely different from New Zealand, Asia is amazing for this, in particular Cambodia’s Angkor Wat which is one of my favourite destinations. 

They say losing weight is only 20% exercise but 80% diet, do you agree?  What is your diet like and what would you typically eat in a day? 

Yes I agree, you can exercise all you like but if you’re not eating the right foods it makes it very hard to reach your goals.  You may achieve them in the end but it will take you a lot longer.  For me, a typical day usually consists of muesli for breakfast which I make myself.  A combination of toasted oats, chia seeds, dried fruit and chopped nuts.  I have this with some yogurt and a banana, then a hard-boiled egg on the side for my protein.  I usually have carrot sticks and/or a piece of fruit mid morning for a snack.  Lunch is a salad of some description depending what I have in the fridge at the time.  Salmon, chicken, tuna or beef, depending on what I have cooked the previous evening with a mix of spinach, tomato’s, peppers, grated zucchini, corn, roasted kumara ( sweet potato for those outside of NZ), quinoa and dressed with balsamic vinegar.  In the afternoon I will have another snack, a piece of fruit, some nuts or a homemade slice.  Dinner is generally the same as lunch, in winter I often substitute the salad for a stir-fry or homemade soup.  It’s a bit of a joke I have with my flatmates actually, “salad for dinner again tonight” but I love it and it’s super easy to prepare so it works for me.  I have a bit of a sweet tooth too so I like to have healthy sweet treats around, usually some dark chocolate or my oat slice which I make.  This is all on a good day, to me life is to be enjoyed so moderation is key – I won’t say no to going out for dinner or a drink with friends, I’ll just make sure the rest of the day or week is as healthy as possible.

It’s one thing eating a balanced diet when at home and in a routine but it can be a lot harder when travelling. What tips can you give for eating clean whilst traveling overseas?  

It all depends on where I’m going and what I’m going to be doing.  If I can I will always head to a supermarket and stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables and a selection of nuts.  At least that covers my breakfast and snacks for the day then I will generally try and choose the healthiest option on the menu if I eat out. 

It’s also very easy to let exercise fall to the way-side when travelling; can you suggest some good ways to add a bit of fitness to your day when travelling? 

It’s definitely harder when you are away from home and your routine.  When packing my bag for any trip away the very first thing that goes into my bag is my workout gear so I can go for a run, there is nothing better than going for a morning run in an amazing new city.  If I’m going to be in a country where I am unsure on whether it is safe to run or it’s not possible then I will always have my skipping rope tucked away in my suitcase or pack as an alternative.  Another option is a circuit-based session or tabata, short bursts of high intensity intervals that can be done in limited space and at any time.  Stay tuned for my upcoming travel workouts.

What are your top exercises that can be done anywhere, no equipment required? 

Running is on the top of my list as it’s the perfect way to explore your new surroundings.  I often try out new gyms when I’m traveling if I’m going to be somewhere long enough, it’s a great way to see what is popular in a different country and to try out some new classes.  I’m a strong believer that resistance training mixed with cardio as the perfect way to shape and transform your body to create a well-balanced physique.  When I don’t have access to a gym I do body weighted exercise instead, I’m a huge fan on squats and lunges so they are always in my sessions.  There is nothing like some jumping squats or lunges to get the heart rate up and burn calories.

Any last words of wisdom for fellow travel lovers who like to keep looking and feeling their best even when on the road? 

Walk whenever you can, explore each new city by foot rather than jumping on a bus or in a taxi - this way you really get a feel for what a city is like rather than observing it from the outside.  Also, moderation is key, enjoy your travel but remember you don’t need to have a drink at every bar or have gelato on every street corner to enjoy yourself.  Lastly, exercise is a time when you get to focus on yourself, everyone is different and it’s about finding what works for you in the time you have available.

For more fitness inspiration you can follow Laura on Facebook and on Instagram at @lauralcourt