What to know more about the RV Lifestyle? Let us introduce you to our newest RVing obsession, Aaron and Christine. The couple were previously living the classic American Dream equipped with a big house and successful corporate careers. Feeling unfulfilled in their early 30’s, they systematically planned their exit from traditional living and prepared to hit the road as van lifers. The couple became debt-free, saved up to 75% of their incomes year after year, and researched the art of vanlife, so they could launch their new business when they hit the road.
Since January 2019, the couple have lived and worked together full-time on the road, with the mission to help others live their best life. While Christine is NASM certified (Certified Personal Trainer & Senior Fitness Specialization) and a Pn1 Nutrition Coach who coaches clients nationwide, 100% online, Aaron operates the technical aspects, managing their website and all YouTube productions which focus on the RV lifestyle.
We sat down with the unbelievably inspiring duo to talk about their transition for corporate America to life on the road, how they successfully launched their own business on the road, tips on maintaining fitness while RVing as well as what to stock your road pantry with and so much more. Check out the full interview below.
RV: Tell us about yourself! What do you do for a living? How long have you been on the road?
Hello! We are Aaron and Christine Willers and we have been living on the road full-time since January 2019. When we first set out to hit the road it was for an “indefinite” amount of time, saving 3-5 years living expenses. Now, we feel like we are still just getting started and plan to continue this lifestyle for many more years! We have two businesses that weave together, Irene Iron Fitness and Irene Iron Travels.
Irene Iron Fitness is an online coaching service that provides both fitness and nutrition coaching to clients 100% online. Christine is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and also a Pn1 certified (soon to be Pn2) nutrition coach. She works directly with our clients and handles all aspects of the coaching. Aaron does a lot of the “tech” stuff like maintaining the website along with all of the video editing/production on Irene Iron Travels, which is our YouTube channel. Irene Iron Travels showcases the RV Lifestyle through weekly vlogs, educational topics, and select product reviews in efforts to help other RVers or RV-dreamers.
RV: What made you decide to live full-time on the road? What were the biggest adjustments you faced when making the leap to full-time RV living?
Both Aaron and Christine had 15+ years of working corporate experience and were very successful in their careers. Aaron had worked for 18 years in the Auto Parts industry and Christine had worked for 15 years in the Outdoor Advertising industry. With the success of climbing the corporate ladders came big stress, long work hours, and ridiculous commutes through the Twin Cities. We realized that big salaries with lots of stuff was no longer the life we sought and what became more important was our time, health, and each other. We wanted to have the freedom to live on our own terms and spend time together, adventuring, while we are in our physical prime. So, we spent years downsizing, saving money, and living below our means. We sold our 3,000 square ft. home and apartment-hopped for four years in Minneapolis while saving up to 70% of our income to prepare for our change in lifestyle.
RV: How did you get into health and wellness?
Health and wellness have always been a passion of ours. Working out, and going on walks, runs, or bike rides were our favorite way to spend time together during our free time. Christine started dabbling in weight training in 2014 but soon wanted to take her own training to the next level. Rather than paying a personal trainer, she decided to invest the money into herself and completed the certified personal training certification with NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). At the time, she had no intentions of quitting her corporate job, but when we decided to start our own business in 2019, online fitness and nutrition coaching was an obvious choice for us since we are passionate about it and we had already invested in the certifications. Not to mention the low start-up costs and easy ability to run it from anywhere with an internet connection!
RV: What are your top 5 tips for people looking to stay fit on the road?
1. Move your body every day – Get out and walk. RVing can be a very sedentary lifestyle unless you are actively getting up and moving around. Walking is a powerful form of cardio that is often underestimated. Don’t let bad weather or imperfect conditions hold you back, grab that umbrella!
2. Incorporate resistance training – Resistance training increases muscle strength, flexibility and balance, burns fat, increases metabolism, helps prevent injury, helps prevent chronic conditions, improves posture, increases bone density, and increases self-esteem. Christine loves to work with people who are new to resistance training to help them build confidence and break down intimidation.
3. Cook your own meals – Get comfortable in your kitchen, take control of what you are consuming, and use the advantage of having your kitchen with you at all times! While the restaurant and convenient foods are easy and taste delicious, they are oftentimes calorically dense and have low-quality ingredients. Build your meals around lean protein sources and vegetables, and sprinkle in healthy carbs and fats. Immersing yourself in the food cultures of areas you visit is a fun way to travel. You don’t need to eliminate, just plan ahead special days that you dine out, and cook at home the other days.
4. Establish routines with working out and meal prepping – Having a solid routine is the hardest part of living healthy on the road. Constant relocation, long travel days, inclement weather, and other uncontrollable variables make it difficult to stay consistent. Plan set times for walking and working out and set days for shopping and cooking. When travel days are on the horizon, plan around travel days and be flexible while still making your goals a priority.
5. Don’t get caught up with fad diets or quick fixes – Practice progress, not perfection, and avoid the “on or off” mentality. Make small, incremental changes so that you enjoy it and it is a sustainable lifestyle. So many people are looking for a quick fix, trying to get immediate results. This quick-fix approach is usually hard to sustain and can often backfire with more weight gain.
RV: What workout equipment do you recommend while RVing?
A good pair of sneakers for walking and/or jogging along with light equipment for resistance training. Our favorite equipment for resistance training is either a good set of adjustable dumbbells or a high-quality set of resistance bands. For dumbbells, search for a set that can go up to 50 pounds. The adjustable versions take up much less space and total weight than individual sets. If dumbbells are too intimidating or too expensive, opt for a good set of loop-style resistance bands (not the handle-style). The loop-style resistance bands are extremely versatile and RV-friendly. They are light, pack up small, and you can take them anywhere. You can even use them inside of your rig, no matter how small it is (we did in the van!) An exercise mat or good rug is also very helpful for stretching, bodyweight routines, or doing core work.
RV Lifestyle: Meet the Chef.
RV: You offer online fitness and nutrition coaching – what made you decide to offer these awesome services?
Fitness and nutrition is our passion, and we are on a mission to help others no matter what gender, age, fitness level, or lifestyle! As nomads, it is very challenging to form healthy habits and most people really struggle their first year on the road. We want to help others in our community to keep us all living this awesome lifestyle as long as possible. While our services are for any living condition (traditional home or nomadic), we really do understand the challenges and nuances that come along with the mobile life and are excited to offer services that enhance RV living.
RV: From your experience, what is the hardest part about working out on the road? The easiest?
The hardest parts of working out on the road are constant relocation, lack of climate control, and unideal terrain. Weather is a huge obstacle that we never even had on our radar prior to hitting the road. It is often freezing outside, blazing hot outside, windy, raining, biting bugs swarming around you, you name it (sounds fun, doesn’t it?!) You need to plan in workouts to be as comfortable as possible based on your current location. Nationwide gym chains are a nice option to get into a climate-controlled environment, but they are often not located where you may be camping, and it is inconvenient to get there if you don’t have a tow vehicle. You really need to just suck it up and don’t let weather and travel be an excuse, just make it happen! We find walking or running in the early morning while it’s cool, and then resistance training right after to be the best way to get it in before your day gets away from you. The easiest part is the allure of being in beautiful areas. Take advantage of new areas and explore on foot to get your steps in. And, if the weather is terrible, pack up and relocate!
RV: How do you stay motivated to eat well while traveling?
The most motivating part of healthy eating is how it makes us feel. We feel better mentally and physically when we are eating right. Don’t get us wrong, we love going out for a good burger and beer, but keep the special “experience meals” limited, and you will enjoy them a whole lot more! As an RVer, you have the advantage of having your kitchen with you at all times and then you are in control of what you eat! We have many great memories of enjoying our own home-cooked meals while still visiting beautiful places and enjoying the travel.
RV: What is your favorite healthy RV dish to cook?
Stir Fry’s, all day long! They are simple, easy, versatile, and healthy. They follow our rule of building the perfect meal based on lean proteins and plenty of veggies, with mindful amounts of healthy carbs and fats sprinkled in. You can change up the protein source, the veggies, the flavors, and the amount of carbs and fats that you want, and keep a good variety in your menus. Serve as just meat and vegetables or add in some rice or quinoa for an extra carb boost. The best part is you can cook stir fry’s up using a single skillet, or a Blackstone griddle.
RV: What advice do you have for those looking to RV full-time?
Get out there and do it! (But do make a plan and stick to it.) It may take a few years of planning to get your finances and lifestyle set up, but the planning stage is an exciting part of the journey! Be patient and flexible, as life on the road has a lot more stress than what you envision as a “pre-RVer”.
RV Lifestyle: Keeping Fit.
Tell us about your YouTube channel! What made you decide to start it?
We watched A LOT of YouTube during our planning stage. Not only to learn and envision how the lifestyle would be, but we found many channels that you just became hooked on for entertainment. It’s like a weekly reality TV show! It took us about 6 months after hitting the road to actually start recording and we never really planned a YouTube channel as part of our new business strategy. We started out with a tiny kitchen and healthy cooking show and slowly transitioned into an RV lifestyle vlog.
While the 40 plus episodes of healthy RV recipes never really took off, the rest of the videos really did well with RV tours, small living tips/products, and travel vlogs. It took about six months to monetize with our first 1,000 subscribers. Today, it has continued to grow to 23,000+ and almost 3 million views in two years. I think people watch our channel, the same as we watched others while planning/researching, for info on how to live this lifestyle as well as some entertainment along the way. Our style is pretty laid back and positive and we just share our experiences as we go through them, hopefully inspiring others to try this great lifestyle out.
RV: What are the top items every RVer should keep in their pantry to eat clean while on the road?
*Spices and non-perishable condiments – I often call proteins and veggies a boring, blank canvas. You need to flavor it up! Find the spices and herbs that you like and play around with them. There are some great low-calorie non-perishable items such as soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, etc. that can enhance your dishes as well.
*Back up items in case you can’t get to a grocery store – canned tuna, canned legumes, protein powder, and canned vegetables are good items to keep on hand in case of an emergency…
*Shelf-stable vegetables – there are numerous plants that can stay in your pantry and don’t require refrigeration. Potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, apples, and citrus fruits are just a few examples that come to mind first. Keep these on board to maximize how long your grocery hauls can last you, while working with a small refrigerator.
*Shelf-stable grocery items – Carb sources such as oatmeal, rice, quinoa, corn tortillas, and rice cakes are easy to store and are always good staples to add to your meals.
*Basic kitchen equipment – a nonstick skillet, spatula, cutting board, and a sharp chef knife are key.
RV: Where have you traveled this year and where do you plan to go for the rest of summer?
We kicked off the 2021 New Year with a handful of friends as we boondocked in Quartzsite, Arizona. From Arizona (Phoenix & Tucson), we hit up New Mexico (White Sands National Park), and Southern Texas (Galveston & South Padre Islands). We sold our Airstream Interstate in Houston, Texas, then hot-shotted over to Naples, Florida. We spent time on the beach while we shopped for our truck and our new RV. From Naples, we traveled through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and back into our home areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota. From Minnesota, we will head towards Colorado, where we have plans to meet up with more RV friends, and will also pick up our new RV!
RV: Do you have any projects or travel on the horizon that you’d like to share?
We are really excited to take off from Minnesota and head West, where we will be able to use our rooftop tent and camp out on free lands. We are looking forward to having BLM land to stay on and get back out in nature. We have numerous projects on deck from kicking off an 8-week group fitness challenge (starting 8/1) to mastering living out of a tent, and picking up our new RV. Once our RV is ready, Aaron will be working on our electrical system project, partnering with Battle Born Batteries. We also are excited that we will be at the Xscapers Annual Bash in Lake Havasu in January, putting on some fitness classes at the event.
LMRV: Where can we follow along?
Website – www.ireneironfitness.com
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ireneironfitness/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ireneironfitness
Can’t get enough of inspiring road warriors? Check out our recent interview with RVing Mum and Dad to learn everything you need about life on the road with kids!