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Stay Healthy While RVing & Develop Healthy RVing Habits

Maybe you’re an RVer, maybe you’re thinking about RVing in the future. Or, maybe you live in a traditional “sticks and bricks” and want to pick up some healthy RVing habits! I’m here to help.

First, let me share a bit about myself. My husband, Aaron, and I have lived full-time on the road since January 2019. Our RV is a 22 ft Class B Sprinter van. It comes in around 80 square feet, meaning we definitely have experience with small spaces!

Even before moving into our RV, one of the things we did for fun and to spend time together was physical fitness. We loved to work out together, especially going on walks and exploring the neighborhood on foot. So when it came time to figure out how to make a living on the road, getting into the fitness industry was a no-brainer. This is our passion and how we genuinely enjoy spending our time! It feels great to help people put their best foot forward. However, there are definitely challenges to maintaining a healthy RVing lifestyle.

Inconsistency in RV Life

No matter what type of vehicle you are in, you are constantly uprooting yourself to go explore the next place. Whether it’s every few days, weeks, or even months, frequent relocation makes it difficult to set a schedule and stay consistent.

Relocating also affects your access to fresh food. Even though we can carry a good amount of groceries with us, RVers still have to restock sometime! Some destinations may have several large grocery stores from which to shop, while others may only have a dollar store-type place for groceries. The available grocery options vary greatly between the two, making it tough to maintain a consistent way of eating.

Travel days tend to have a routine of their own, and one that often doesn’t allow much time for fitness between packing up, driving, and setting up again when at your new location. Travel day meals can be tough, too.

Even when you’re staying in one place for a lengthier visit, the weather has a big impact on your consistency. RVers spend much of our time outdoors! Weather, bugs, terrain- all of these can vary from day to day, campsite to campsite, and impact your ability, or desire, to spend time outside.

Breaking Out of RV Vacation Mode

When you’re living in an RV, adventuring from campground to campground, or even if you’re boondocking, it’s easy to see yourself as camping or vacationing 24/7. This mentality affects a lot of your daily habits and purchases, too! A lot of my clients have shared that when they’re buying food, then end up purchasing what appears to be camping food just because that’s the mentality of having fun and traveling.

Three o’clock happy hours are a thing! So are four o’clock happy hours, and five o’clock… They happen every day for plenty of RVers. Even though potlucks are on hold for most right now, due to COVID-19, they will be back, I guarantee it. Both of these present frequent opportunities to eat and drink more than you typically might.

We also indulge more on vacation by visiting local breweries, distilleries, restaurants, etc. There are so many good places to try and enjoy! The same applies to events for RVers, like Escapees gatherings and Xscapers Convergences. People are social, and sharing food and drinks is a social thing. When we get together, we celebrate each other, sometimes multiple times a day! (See “happy hours” above.)

For most, vacation time means rest time. You’re no longer getting up on a schedule, walking to the car, then from the parking lot into work, etc. Instead, you’re sitting, relaxing, and often within reach of the refrigerator.

You can likely see why staying in vacation mode while RVing can have a negative impact on your health.

Overcoming the Obstacles of RV Life

With all of these challenges for RVers, it’s pretty easy to pick apart why you’re having a tough time obtaining your health goals and what those challenges are. That conversation can be pretty personal, so instead, we’re going to focus on inspiring motivation to overcome those challenges.

A really big step to taking that first initiative is to find your “why.” This is going to be different for different people and it is going to take a little bit of self-probing, self-questioning. When you ask yourself, “why am I embarking on this journey?”, you might come back and say something like, “Well, I really want to lose 30 pounds.” OK, well, why? “Well, you know, I really want to be there for my grandkids.” Well, why? “Well, I want to be a good example for them, and at this time I can’t even bend over and pick up a pencil.” Keep asking yourself that question, “Why?” until you get to the bottom of what’s really going to make you stick to this. Give yourself some encouragement so that you can figure out what’s going to motivate you.

From there, you have to do the hard thing. And when I say this, I mean a couple of different things.

  • First of all, you’re going to have to deal with some hard feelings. A lot of eating habits and and physical habits stem from psychological issues that you may be battling. Sometimes, these are obvious things like a recent divorce, or the death of a loved one. These can make it really, really hard for us to focus on our health. And you can lose track of yourself.
  • The second part of doing the hard thing is sacrifices. Once you’ve identified why this goal is important to you, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. There comes a point when staying the same is more painful than changing. And change is really uncomfortable for everybody. It’s a human trait, we don’t like change. You’re going to have to do some things that you don’t want to and get over it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to sugar-coat it.

This is why the biggest thing we focus on is making one small change at a time. Small changes are easier to adapt to and adopt, making them easier to stick with.

Small Steps to Achieving Your Healthy RVing Goals

Often, when people embark on a new effort to get healthy, followed soon by giving up on that effort, it’s often because they make a decision then set goals that are too hard for their current situation. This often looks like 180° goals, plans to completely change routines and habits. These changes can last a few weeks, but then they hit a wall and crash.

This is why we encourage you to make small changes, one at a time, and stay consistent as you figure out what healthy RVing looks like for you. You’ll find you’re more successful when you take this approach.

These small changes center around five pillars of success. In no particular order, they are

  • Water intake
  • Sleep
  • Stress management
  • Exercise and daily movement
  • Nutrition and eating behaviors

Water Intake

Water intake is one of the first goals that my clients and I work with. Water is a natural detox. It really supports your liver, kidneys, and bowel function, helps you focus, and boosts your mood. It powers athletic performance and clears out lactic acid so your muscles can do more.

And what most people are interested in is that it definitely supports weight loss. It is scientifically evident that water helps you lose weight. Often, when people think they’re hungry, they’re really just thirsty.

If you do anything starting today, I encourage you to just drink a little bit more water.

Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep is another thing that people know about, but really don’t focus on it. Over time, lack of sleep, which is anything less than six hours on average, can change how your body processes blood sugar and how your body regulates hormones that control hunger and appetite. The sweet spot that you want to shoot for on average is seven to nine hours per night.

To help you with this, create a sleep routine.

  • Use your RV’s blackout curtains to create a dark environment. Sleep masks can help with this, too, if you don’t have blackout curtains.
  • Lowering the temperature to 67* can also make it more comfortable to sleep.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting or snug clothing when you sleep.
  • Limit your alcohol and caffeine before bed.
  • Taper your water consumption beginning in the afternoon so you’re less likely to get up multiple times throughout the night.
  • Try to avoid electronics that emit blue light, like your cell phone or laptop, for 1-2 hours before bed. Instead, try meditation or reading.

The bottom line is sleeping well can help your body regulate metabolism, regulate food cravings, and it will help you make better decisions about what and when to eat.

Stress Management

In life, there is good stress and there is bad stress. You need a little bit of stress in your life so that you are stimulated, not lethargic or bored. On the flip side, too much stress can cause you to be anxious, obsessive, depressed, panicked, stuck. I think we’ve all experienced a little bit of both sides at some point in our life.

The goal is to find the sweet spot in the middle where you have just enough going on to keep you engaged and stimulated, but not so much that you’re overwhelmed.

When you’re setting goals, it’s really important to have goals in your life at all times. The key to goal setting is you don’t just pick one big outcome and then just hope to land on it, because chances are you won’t. What you need to do is break that big goal up into monthly goals and then into weekly goals and then finally into daily goals.

When you focus on your daily activities and you continue to hit your daily activities consistently, that’s when you’re really going to blow yourself away because you’re going to start to make progress. And if you focus on those behaviors rather than the outcome, you’re going to just feel so much more inspired and motivated to keep going.

Now, if you do find yourself on the other end of the spectrum where you’re just feeling bad stress, too much stress, overwhelmed, then you need to focus on some rest and recovery items. Practicing parasympathetic activities (your parasympathetic system is your nervous system that’s responsible for resting and digesting) like walking outside, getting some sunshine, enjoying nature, getting a massage, having sex, laughing, snuggling, and meditation can help you feel more relaxed.

Self-compassion is a huge thing that I really love encouraging in clients. It’s so easy to pick on yourself and to pick out your flaws, identifying all the things that you’re doing wrong or where you’re falling short. And, you know, that really doesn’t do anything for you.

I highly encourage you to flip that mindset around and start picking out the things that you’re doing good. If you can say one thing that you’re doing now that you weren’t doing last week, that’s a huge pat on your back.

man jumping rope outside in park

Exercise and Daily Movement

With fitness, I encourage you to make incremental changes. What should your fitness program look like with incremental changes?

This might be a big, big question for you. And my answer is, it depends.

It depends on your goals, it depends on your current condition, it depends on your history, depends on a lot. Generally speaking, your main goals should be get your heart rate up, build muscle, increase your calorie burn.

And in order to focus on these goals, you’ll want to have a mix of cardio, strength training, and balance and flexibility. I know that’s super vague, but, if you focus on those things, you will have a well-rounded fitness program.

Daily movement is a huge part of that. As I sit here at Bryce Canyon, arguably one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, daily movement sounds easy. This is an expectation as we get into RVing of, “Oh, I’m going to be hiking and I’m going to be doing all these beautiful places.” Well. In reality, you’re going to be stuck in the rain a lot of the time at a park somewhere that’s not beautiful, somewhere that’s not super motivating to go explore. And this is when things get real.

When you’re sitting in your RV and it’s raining or hot or miserable and you’re just not wanting to go outside, you really have to look inside of yourself to find the motivation. Grab your umbrella, or whatever gear you need to get outside, and do the best you can with what you have. If you’re looking for ideas on RV-friendly fitness gear, take a look at this article I wrote for Escapees in 2020.

(I also shared more information on fitness goals and eating behaviors in a webinar I recorded with Escapees in January 2021. You’ll find it in the webinar archive.)

example of healthy rving meal with ground beef and colorful vegetables for making tacos
An example of one of Christine's recipes for a protein and vegetable meal. Photo courtesy of Christine Willers

Nutrition and Eating Behaviors

Nutrition is the most talked about and the most confusing aspect of health. With so many fad diets and quick fixes out there, it’s overwhelming to figure out what will work for you.

You have to get used to the idea that you’re not in this for a quick fix. This is the rest of your life. You want to feel good and you want it to be something that you enjoy doing.

I’m not saying don’t experiment. Also, I’m not saying don’t try out different approaches. You might find something that really works for you. But generally speaking, if you’re on something that’s super restrictive and really, really tough to manage, you’re going to fall off that wagon. Even if you are successful and you lose weight, the pounds will come back when you go off that restrictive plan and you’re going to be in worse shape than when you started.

What I do encourage, especially as you’re just getting started, is spend some time practicing how you’re eating before you change what you’re eating. Pay attention to eating slowly, eating mindfully. Are you eating because you’re hungry or are you eating because you’re bored? You’ve got to have that talk with yourself and really figure out what is going on in that head of yours when you reach for food.

An important first step is understanding your fullness and hunger cues. Learning what these feel like will help you make positive changes without even changing what you eat!

For those that really just want some sort of guideline, I give this as a generic recommendation: Focus on adding more plants to your plate. I can’t stress enough how much plants are important. I’m talking about your fibrous vegetables, your fruits and other starchy vegetables, too. You really want this to be the majority of what you’re eating.

And lean protein. Lean protein is so important. I stress protein all the time. I do have a blog with recipes where I focus primarily on protein sources because that’s where people get bored and they struggle. Pair it up with your favorite veggies, your favorite starches and your fats and really just focus on building the perfect plate like this. Understandably, this is tough to do, especially if you’re just starting out from a really processed diet. This is where those incremental steps make tough goals feel much more attainable. Focus on eating the right amounts of minimally processed foods and avoid overcomplicating things with a label, a diet, or a fad.Also, 

It’s all about progress, not perfection. And strive for balance. Work towards a balance between your good and bad stressors. Find a balance in downtime and active time that works for you and your goals. When you find yourself out of balance, or struggling to keep moving forward, focus on those small, incremental goals. Each goal achieved is progress you should celebrate! Again, it’s about progress, not perfection.

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Author

Christine Willers | SKP# 150528

Christine and Aaron live full-time in their Class B, Airstream Interstate Sprinter Van.  They will be celebrating two full years on the road this January, 2021.  Originally from Minneapolis, MN, they sold their home in 2014 which ultimately led to further downsizing and the desire for a different way of living.  They really just wanted to spend time together and travel while they are in their physical prime and able to do so.  So, after working 15 & 18 years (respectively) in Corporate careers, they quit their jobs and started their own online business, Irene Iron Fitness.  Irene Iron Fitness provides online fitness programs and nutrition coaching to clients across the country.

One Response to “Stay Healthy While RVing & Develop Healthy RVing Habits

  • Al Atlansky
    6 months ago

    Fabulous information for all of us! Informed, smart information to get healthy on the road or stick/brick home. Because I have been focused on health for over thirty-years I know! At age 79 and physically well due to exercise & proper sleep. Organic and healthy foods. Meditation and socialization. Really understanding your current health. Determined to get healthier. Insisting on longevity. Needing to model for our grand children. All covered by Christine in an honest fashion. Looking at their bods, they live their words. The one thing I would add to Christine’s wonderful advice is your mentality. If you work your body at least three days a week including cardio will improve mood. You will go from negativity to positivity. Waking up in the morning ready to enjoy this day. Celebrating life itself!

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