Spring is officially here! While the snow in our neck of the woods may still take about a month to melt off, the days of tank tops and shorts aren’t far away and camping is just around the corner! Whether you’ve got some extra winter pounds to lose or just want to stay in shape, don’t let camping vacations throw a wrench in your workout plans. Keep reading to see how easy it can be to ensure you get in your workouts even when you’re on the go camping this season.

Families camp in all different ways. Some families plan camping trips in hopes of getting outside and going on adventures that keep them moving. Others want to go somewhere peaceful where they can relax and sit outside with a good book or simply in peace, enjoying being “away from it all”. Whether your family fits into one of these categories or falls somewhere in between, you can squeeze in some dedicated time to exercise on your next camping trip with any of the following ideas.

1. Hiking
For some hiking may be a no brainer when it comes to camping, while for others it may be less than desirable. If you enjoy hiking in any degree this can be a great way to get in a workout with the whole family. Look up the local attractions ahead of time and plan accordingly. You can cover a lot of ground in simply 15-30 minutes. This can be going up a steep incline or taking a glorified nature walk- whatever gets your heart rate up.


2. Biking
Growing up in a family of 6 that only knew “tent camping”, bringing bikes was not really considered. The space and hassle of hauling around 6 bikes, which blocked the backdoor of the van, holding all our other gear, was less than ideal. That’s once again another awesome perk to RV camping. Bikes can be propped up in the back of a truck or strapped on your RV without inhibiting access to your belongings. Take advantage of this convenience by bringing your bike your next trip. Rack up the miles here and there riding around or to and from your campsite, or plan a longer bike ride and get your workout in all at one time. Attach a bike trailer and bring the whole family along. The extra weight of a bike trailer will of course intensify your workout and help you burn more calories in less time. Meanwhile the added company will help pass the time if you’re getting tired, and make some memories for all participating.

3. Swimming
From childhood I remember being so hungry every time after I’d gone swimming. It’s such a great total body workout it’s no wonder we’re ready to fuel up with some food quickly after a swim. The next time you have swimming access at your campground don’t let the kids have all the fun. Join in at the lake or the pool and get your workout in while staying young at heart. For any reading this who are comfortable swimming “laps” in a lake- my props to you! When I’m in a lake I prefer to keep my head above the water. Treading water is a great workout and with your head above the water at all times, you can still supervise your older children at the same time if needed.

While I’ve yet to stay at a KOA campground, I hear their pools are a great attraction. If you’re a swimmer, bust out those goggles and go swim some laps. The benefit of a great workout far outweighs having “racoon eyes” for a few minutes afterwards.

4. Running/Walking
Whether you grab a buddy or go solo, campgrounds can be a perfect place for a run. The “trail” is right out your door. It can be a peaceful setting, or perfect for people watching for those who appreciate some distractions as you clock the extra minutes or miles. Plan ahead when you pack and don’t forget some proper running gear. No need to come back with aches and pains due to improper footwear. Get those running shoes off the shelf and in your RV before you hit the road.

5. Toning Exercises
I feel like a total mom saying this, but these days most of my workouts come from exercise DVDs. What do you expect? My only consistent “me time” is while my son is napping, so I’m glued to the house. That being said, I have found some very effective workout programs that I totally love and see great results from. The cardio portions can be easily met off the screen by any of the suggestions listed above. Toning is where we can sometimes get stuck. Without the prompting of an instructor or all the gear that goes with it, we can be at a loss until we come up with our own routine. If you’ve already got some favorite toning exercises, pick 4 or 5 and go through them all for 2 or 3 sets, or whatever pushes you without going too far. Try to pick moves that use a variety of muscle groups (ex: arms, abs, legs) so that your whole body gets worked.

Remember to consider the following as you select your toning routine:

1. You’re outdoors- Standing exercises preferred! Who wants to do pushups and crunches in the mud- come on, it’s the Pacific Northwest. There’s always a chance of rain.

2. You may have an audience- Unless you’re camping in a remote location, you’ll likely have neighbors. So pick some moves you’re comfortable doing in public or take a walk to find a more private setting.

3. Keep the gear to a minimum- It may not be safe or convenient to pack a lot of extra exercise equipment, so choose toning exercises that require little to no equipment, or use what you have on hand. Resistance loop bands are a compact and easy to pack option for extra resistance in almost any toning exercise. Want to lift some “weights” grab a couple soup cans from your RV pantry or that giant Maglite you bring each trip that doubles as a flashlight and a weapon and get your reps in that way. Want to do some stairs? Use your RV steps, a stump, log or parking curb and feel the burn as you rack up the reps.

Standing Toning Exercises (Some of my favorites):


• Free weights- Use your make shift weights (cans, flashlight, etc.) to do 15 reps of each or any of the following: bicep curl, preacher curl, row, triceps kickbacks, etc.

• Arm circles- Do 15 reps of each or any of the following: Forward motion small, medium, then large circles. Backward motion small, medium, then large circles. Then repeat the same routine with your palms up.


• Stairs -Use steps to do repetitions up and down

With one foot on a step and the other on the ground do 15 reps of a reverse lunge, lifting your knee up to your hip. Switch to the other side and repeat.

• Wall sit- Leaning/sitting against your RV/other

• Squats


• Cross Body Toe Touch- Standing straight, lift one straight leg to hip height and with the opposite straight arm reach for your toe. Repeat with the other leg and opposite arm. Do 15 repetitions.

• Crossover Toe Touches – Stand with arm straight out and your legs wide apart. Reach down to one toe with the opposite arm and switch. Do 15 repetitions.

• Knee to Elbow – Stand with legs hip width apart and your hands behind your head. Lift your knee to hip height and reach your elbow to your knee. Do 15 repetitions. Switch sides and do another 15 repetitions.

Warm Up and Stretch: Don’t forget to start each workout with a brief warm up and finish with a proper cool down and stretching. Don’t let tight muscles put a damper on your camping enjoyment.

Motivation: For those whose family/friends don’t want to join in on your workout, give yourself some extra motivation. Help pass the time by bringing your headphones and listening to music or an audiobook as you’re able. Trouble getting started? Set a timer/stopwatch or use your phone to do so. Sometimes the first 5 minutes can be the hardest, but once you get going you may be surprised how fast the time flies and may even push it longer than your original timer. Need some accountability? Ask your family/friends to hold you accountable to “x” number of workouts while you’re on your trip. Or use an app like “HabitShare” to track your exercise goals yourself or with a friend. You’ll have the satisfaction of checking a box when you’ve completed a workout, with the conviction of a percentage on your rate of achieved goals that will keep you pushing for 100%.

Keep it Safe: If you’re going off on your own take proper safety precautions. Bring your phone if you’re in an area with service. If not, make sure to tell your family where you plan to go and when you plan to return. If you’re directionally challenged (like me) don’t stray too far. Keep your path fairly straight to avoid mixing up which direction to turn. Worried about strangers or wild animals- consider bringing some bear spray in case you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.

The next time you clock out for vacation time don’t clock out on your exercise routine too. You can find time in the midst of your vacation to get your workout in without bending over backwards or sacrificing much of your well-deserved relax time. Grab your hiking boots, running shoes, bike helmet, swim suit or makeshift weights and get your body moving on your next campout.

Emily Helgeson
Author: Emily HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Emily Helgeson lives with her husband and two children in Eastern Washington. They enjoy adventuring together and are learning how to use their RV to continue this lifestyle with their growing family.

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