What is your favourite thing to do during travelling apart from visiting sites? I bet you enjoy being in a new place you’ve never been before and to observe the life of locals, as well as immerse yourself into a new culture. I guess we all love that. But what can be more enjoyable, than a long day of walking and seeing strange places or a bus/plane/car trip from one destination to another? That’s right! – a delicious dish of local food (never mind a comfy bed)!
I’ve noticed that we, people who love travelling, love eating a lot too! Whenever I come to a restaurant or a cafe I always take a photo of what I am eating/drinking. Stop, do I have a food blog?! Nah, I think travelling just can’t be separated from food, because national cuisine is a part of culture. That’s why all of us travellers became foodies!
Now the big question is how to stay in good shape with all these mouthwatering quesadillas, pizzas, pasta, Pad Thai, burgers, croissants, chocolates etc? We love sport a lot and whenever we arrive to a new place we try to find an affordable gym. Lately we got very much into Yoga. It gives us a lot of physical power and energy. But what can one do when there are no gyms in the area or the membership options aren’t ideal?
Today I’ve invited Andrew Farrugia from Mirror Friendly, an ex national sprinter from Malta who has turned natural bodybuilder. Apart from his love for fitness Andrew also has travelling at heart and for this reason I have approached him to ask for his advice in helping us find out how to keep fit while travelling and still being able to enjoy tasty local food.
As a start can you tell us a bit about yourself, your blog and what you do?
I have been a sporty person since I was a little kid. I remember not having any patience to walk and I always ran to get from one place to another in my neighbourhood. At the age of 8 I was enrolled to an athletics club after having won my race at my first ever school sports day at which point I began training on a regular basis. Growing up along the years I won many national titles and also represented my country internationally a number of times in the sprints.
Unfortunately a few years ago I had to quit my running career due to a number of recurring injuries which had slowly eaten away my joy at sprinting. However the immense love I have for sport meant that I could never stop my physical activity. This led to my decision to transfer the work ethic and discipline I had developed during the years in athletics onto the gym which by then had grown into one of my biggest passions.
Here I was allowed to further develop my character, knowledge of fitness, strength and muscle definition in a natural way but most importantly the gym played a major role in defining me as the person I am today; a man on a mission – to share and spread the word of fitness and convert more people towards living a fit and healthy lifestyle.
Luckily enough a few months ago fate decided to be generous with me as it led my path across that of a schoolmate from my younger days named Jean, who by then had become a WordPress guru. Jean was seeking a helping hand in jumping back onto the fitness wagon after having spent a number of months living as a digital nomad in Thailand. He had relaxed on his fitness regime there and indulged in the plentiful Thai food available all around, so he was ready to get back in shape. I happily accepted to help Jean and in return he mentored me into creating my own fitness blog, which is an essential tool for carrying out my mission. This blog has now taken shape and it goes by the name of Mirror Friendly.
Which place does travelling take in your life?
Travelling is my other biggest passion in life. If it wasn’t for travelling I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. Travelling opens your mind, moulds mentality, expands one’s network, builds confidence, makes you more independent. In few words, travelling enriches you into a better person. I consider travelling as a (relatively) cheap albeit excellent school of life.
Funnily enough I owe my passion for travelling to my love for sports. My first travelling experience was at the age of 14 when I was selected to compete in the Island Youth Games as part of the youth athletics Maltese national team. It did not take me too far as the Games were held in Palermo, Sicily.
While living on a tiny highly populated island which is 27 km long by 15 km wide, variety, movement and privacy are somewhat restricted. Needless to say, my first experience outside of Malta was overwhelming. Even though I have a familiar sentiment towards Italy and its people due to our close proximity, I totally embraced the vibe of adventure, freedom and anonymity during the few days I spent there.
Above all my trip was characterised by the new amazing feeling of constant discovery – a feeling which still accompanies me every time I travel. This served as one of my biggest motivations in becoming a faster, better sprinter. I knew that the faster I got, the more chance I had to travel. Luckily enough following that first trip, athletics took me to several other places.
While travelling on training camps and competitions, the time to wander around is limited to the hours of rest. For this reason, as I grew older and got my first paycheques, I saved everything to go on private trips abroad in order to be able to visit and discover more places during the same trip. In fact all my travels to date were of this type – checking new spots, towns or cities, spending a reasonable amount of time there to get a good feel of a particular place and moving on to the next location rather than spending the whole trip in the same place.
Being a full-time financial controller, my options for travelling are not so flexible and presently I plan my travels around the relatively quiet periods of the year. My wish is to be able to experience trips of a longer span in the future and by this I also mean travelling outside of Europe which so far only happened once back in 2004 when I went on a family cruise to Florida and the Caribbean.
What is your favourite place in the world and favourite dish? Why?
If I wasn’t Maltese I would definitely tell you Malta! There are so many treasures packed in such a small place. I wouldn’t dare start talking about it here as I would need a few hours to even get started.
I struggle to answer your question since every place I have been to managed to contribute something to me in its own special way – the tropical scent of the Caribbean, the Scandinavian nature, the cultural richness of Italy, the dramatic scenery of the Austrian Alps. I do however have a soft spot for the greek island of Mykonos. That place is just amazing. I was there for a week in the summer of 2011. The island is a heaven of clean, picturesque beaches. Similar to Malta in a way but much less developed and crowded with most of its few inhabitants living in the west coastal town also referred to by the name of Mykonos.
Being the summer person that I am, the few days I spent there were totally fun and relaxing. I will definitely return to the Greek islands – I have heard many good things about Santorini and it will definitely be on my next few itineraries.
As to food, being a fitness freak I am very oriented towards healthy eating. However this does not mean that my food is boring. Again it is very hard to give you a straight answer on what my favourite dish is. Those who know me well would say that pizza is my favourite food because that is what I usually pick as my cheat treat on Sunday which is my only rest day from training. In a way it is true.
However I do have another favourite dish which luckily is a much healthier alternative to pizza. This is the salmon salad I have wrote about in my recent blog post. I never get enough of it. You should definitely try it out!
Could you please give us some tips on what and how to eat during travels when there are so many temptations?
In answering this question I will distinguish between 2 types of travelling: the short-break kind of trip or the longer term trip which involves settling down in a particular location for a number of weeks or months.
When going on a short trip for a quick holiday abroad, the extent at which one remains fit and healthy depends on the priorities of the individual. I can tell you that one will fall big time for the many food and drink temptations that come along while travelling unless he or she has mentally prepared himself for this prior to departure.
As aforementioned, my travels are of this kind. Prior to going on the trip I ask myself how much indulging I can afford and how I want my tummy to look upon returning back home and based on this I will subsequently take my food decisions while on holiday. Having said so, I appreciate the fact that it takes more than just a premeditated decision to beat temptations.
Here are a few tips which will minimise the pull that the many temptations will have on you:
- Stick your meals to 3 portions per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner with 2 very light snacks in between the 3.
- Aim at keeping these 3 meals high in protein (e.g. meat, fish, veg) and low in carbs (e.g. bread, pasta, sugar)
- For snacks in between the 3 main meals, prepare some nuts or fruit to take later during the day prior to leaving your lodging. Avoid snacking at restaurants or bars as what usually happens here is that once you awake your taste buds upon trying new food you will tend to lose your guard and get carried away. This is particularly risky when you have been walking around for a few hours and decide to sit at a bar for a little break. In this typical situation I suggest you sit somewhere away from the smell of food and snack on the nuts or fruit.
- Always carry a bottle of water with you. Avoid drinking concentrated juices and soda. Drink as much water as you can to reduce your appetite.
- Try to decide at which restaurant or place you will eat beforehand to be able to have more control over what time and what kind of food you will eat.
When travelling is of the longer kind, the key to staying healthy is to allow for an element of routine in your days. Most of the above tips similarly apply here except that possibly on longer trips there is a greater probability that you can cook your own food meaning that you will not need to pre-determine the places where to eat and make it easier to go for healthier options.
Staying healthy during travelling very much depends on one’s self-discipline and lifestyle. It is fine to try out a few local cheats while travelling as this may further add to the quality of the experience from your trip however I suggest that this is done within one of the main 3 meals.
The right diet is very important, but it’s not the only thing necessary to keep fit. How can we exercise if there is no access to the gym or any kind of equipment?
Rightly said. Exercise is just as important as nutrition in keeping a healthy, fit body.
Here are a few tips in exercising when the gym equipment is not an option:
- Go out jogging – this can be done in any location irrespective of where you are. I personally love doing this as it gives me a feeling of being home away from home. If your jog is going to be long, carry a bottle of water with you.
- Perform body weight training – there are a number of awesome body weight training sessions on YouTube (e.g. Insanity, Zuzka Light, Fitness Blender workouts to name a few) which will allow you to stay fit while abroad.
- Invest in a TRX or any similar suspension training portable equipment: this is a training system using a portable set of ropes to allow the user to work against their own body weight. These cost in the region of $48 to $200 and can be attached to any door for brilliant workouts. There are many TRX sessions on YouTube which you could use as a guide.
Long flights, long trips by bus, hours/climate changes, sleepless nights…What could you suggest to do to recharge yourself and get back the fresh look?
The first thing to do as soon as you find time for it is to take a long recharging comfortable sleep. I always find a good sleep useful to recover, reset my body and start afresh. The next thing I suggest doing is to go out on an easy longish jog followed by some good stretching or Yoga. It is very important that after travelling you do not suddenly throw yourself back at your usual training intensity. Allow your body to gradually reach your normal level of intensity over a couple of sessions.
Do you have any secret remedy for those who want to look slimmer and feel fitter quickly?
The key to looking good and feeling fit is what i refer to as the 3 pillars of fitness:
- Healthy nutrition
- Sufficient sleep
Therefore any program which is aimed at slimming down and feeling fitter must include these 3 elements.
For a quick fix I suggest the following:
- performing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts or jogging in addition to your normal exercise routine. This kind of training will elevate your heart rate to a faster beat and increase your metabolic rate.
- reduce your carbohydrate intake to a minimum (limit this to right after your training session) and instead take more protein and fats.
This way you will be increasing the gap between the calorie expenditure and the calorie intake per day resulting in fat loss.
Thank you Andrew for sharing your experience and for the great tips!