Fitness as a Volunteer in The Gambia

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Physical fitness is a passion of mine. Throughout the years I’ve been involved with many different physical activities. And I’ve learned how to maintain my health and fitness through diet and exercise. However, when I moved to The Gambia to do my Peace Corps service, I had to be a bit innovative. As living there held circumstances that both helped and hindered my fitness journey.

One thing that I liked about living there was that I had a lot of time on my hands. And I would work out just to prevent boredom. It was also really hot there, which some may dislike, but I liked that it made warming up easier and added some intensity to my workout. These were beneficial circumstances, but there were other circumstances that we not quite as helpful.

Anyone who is into physical fitness knows how important a proper diet is. While living in my village in The Gambia all of my basic needs were meant. But the Gambian diet often didn’t provide all the macro-nutrients I wanted. Rice was the most common food item. So I was able to get plenty of carbohydrates. But what I had a more difficult time getting was protein. Very seldom did I have meat or other protein sources. My parents did send me protein powder every now and then, so that was helpful. I would also buy peanut butter whenever I would visit a larger city. But for the most part, protein was hard to come by.

Another factor that made fitness a bit of a challenge was that I didn’t have any equipment. There were small gyms in The Gambia, but only in the capital city area. Therefore, I relied predominately on bodyweight exercises to stay fit. I would also run, shadow box, and do HIIT workouts for my cardio. Yoga was also something that I tried to incorporate, as I learned some basic poses from a few other volunteers. Also when I was preparing for my trek in Morocco, I would load up my rucksack and do ruck marches outside of my village. Eventually a friend of mine, another Peace Corps volunteer, built his own gym. But I’ll talk about that in a later post!

I think another key component to staying fit during my Peace Corps service was that I didn’t have my car. So I had to either walk or cycle just about everywhere I went. The nearest city to my village was called Basse, and was about 18 miles away. There was a gelli gelli (passenger van) that went from my village to Basse, but I preferred to just cycle there. Even in the cities there were taxis that I could have ridden, but I preferred to just walk instead. It was something that just became a normal part of my life.

Before moving to The Gambia, I didn’t do nearly as much walking. I think infrastructure had something to do with that to an extent. Many places in the United States were built to accommodate cars more than walkers or cyclists. So I think that not walking very much has become part of our culture to some degree. I’ve observed many people who would drive around the parking lot relentlessly in order to find a spot that’s closer to the store. Or head to the elevator or escalator rather than taking the stairs. But in The Gambia I had none of those things, so I had to rely on my body to get me places. In the end though everything worked out just fine (pun intended!).

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it insightful. Staying fit while living in a developing country or traveling the world does call for some innovation. But it’s very doable. How do you stay fit while you’re traveling? Leave a comment below and share you ideas. Also if you like this post please share it. Thank you for visiting my blog. Have  a great day!

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