I got back from my holiday in New Zealand on Sunday, it’d be fair to say I had an absolutely brilliant time. Amongst the many highlights were skydiving from 16,500 ft, trekking for 3 days through Abel Tasman and watching Bruce Springsteen live in Auckland. I travelled with Jack who is a friend from uni and a weightlifting enthusiast. Jack is going off to South America this week for 4 months and will have very limited access to a gym, so he asked me to teach him a few things whilst we were travelling together.

Jack and I in Picton

Our first training came on a walk in Picton, where we challenged ourselves to do a handful of pullups every time we passed a suitable tree. We then happened to chance upon this tree, which was just perfect for doing a Support Press Flag, I managed to hold this one for a few seconds.

Press Support Flag

We walked for another couple of hours before having a break at a beach, here we proceeded to do a bit of training. I chose the route of doing a few calisthenics, the best of which you can see in the videos below, whilst Jack bicep curled a branch that happened to be on the beach.

On the way back we found a playground, which thankfully wasn’t being used so it made a good opportunity to climb, pullup and have a bit of fun with some calisthenics. I got the opportunity to show Jack inverted rows for when you can’t find a high enough bar and straight dips which are a great exercise for your chest.

Our next opportunity came in Nelson, where we found a football (soccer) pitch with suitable nets for pullups and a human flag.

Whilst here I showed Jack a few variations of the pushup to work his strength a bit more. The archer pushup gave him slight shoulder pain but the close hand pushups proved popular.

After coming back the next day I decided it would be a good time to introduce him to the century test. I refereed his first attempt and it was a solid run, only failing on the pullups where he managed 7.

The Abel Tasman trek was our next workout, 3 days of solid walking whilst carrying our backpacks, I managed to sneak in a nice rope climb as well during the route.

Don’t be worried by those who think you’re a little odd!

Finally in Franz Josef there was another playground, this had some awkward pullup rings and a firemans pole that were both utilised in our training. Furthermore, we were travelling with a Slovenian girl by the name of Zarja at this point, so she joined us and I gave her a one on one training session. She is travelling for a year so really liked the idea that she could do some strength training without having access to a gym.

Jack has since decided that the century test is going to be his staple whilst travelling; during our final training session we both did 3 century tests in a row. This, I can guarantee you is a lot harder than it sounds. The reason I didn’t attempt a fourth in the end was because I felt pretty sick! Jack still has a little to go to complete the century test but as long as he keeps finding places to do some improvised pullups I’m confident he’ll pass it fairly soon. He has promised to send me a video upon completion.

Finally my top tips for training on holiday:

  • Always be on the lookout for anywhere you can do a pullup and be ready to do it straight away, good places don’t come often.
  • Work on the human flag, there’s poles everywhere!
  • Playgrounds usually have very good places for climbing, pullups etc. Better to train in the evening though when there’s no kids.
  • Keep it fun, no one wants to do a strict training plan whilst on holiday.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a session or eat like crap, this is your holiday afterall.
  • For those of you who live by protein shake, tins of tuna and milk make a good alternative.
  • Go on holiday with someone who likes to train, it really helps with motivation.
  • If you really can’t find anything horizontal to pull from as a last resort you can wrap a towel around a vertical object and do towel rows off that.
  • Don’t be ashamed to do an exercise in the middle of the city or wherever else a suitable object appears (I did a human flag in a pub and won a free pint as the barman had never seen one before).
  • Go out and walk, you’ll get to see all the great sights and the further you go the more likely you are to find suitable objects, moreover walking is a good exercise in itself.
  • And finally, do the century test, lots! It is a great quick plan for not only building and maintaining strength but also building fitness and stamina if done multiple times.
Human flag off a tree on our way to Milford Sound
Negative One Arm Pullup