Tips for Working Out When You're Traveling

It can be done!

Getty Images/Trinette Reed

Do you find it hard to workout on the road? Maybe you find it hard to stick to a routine when your daily schedule changes or when you don't have the equipment you normally use. Whatever the reason, I am about to make it harder for you to get out of exercising.

Sure exercise can be difficult when you're out of town, but this is the perfect opportunity to breathe some life into your routine and do something different. Being limited in the time you have and the equipment available can be a good thing, forcing you to be more creative with your workouts.

You Can Take it With You

Packing your dumbbells and your weight bench for a trip isn't the best idea, but if you don't have a clue whether your hotel has a decent exercise room, there are some alternatives:

  • Resistance Bands. Resistance bands are great traveling companions for so many reasons. First, you can target every muscle in the body and, since you have tension throughout the entire movement, you'll really feel the burn. Secondly, you can stuff them into your suitcase without taking up much space. Use them at home, at work or in your hotel room. You can find a variety of bands and tubes online or at your local sporting goods store.
  • Jump Rope. Jumping rope is a great exercise for your heart and body, and will really help you burn calories. If you haven't jumped rope in awhile, start with just a few minutes at a time and recover with some light marching in place. Alternate jumping and marching for 10-30 minutes for a great interval workout.
  • Swimming. Swimming is a great cardio exercise, and it targets every muscle of your body. If you're at a hotel with a pool, swim laps or try pool running.If you're at the beach, the ocean offers even more opportunities for exercising while having fun - surfing, boogie boarding or riding the waves are great for burning calories and staying active.
  • Walking and Running. You don't need much more than a good pair of shoes to get a great cardio workout and, if you're at the beach, you'll get even more out of your walks by using the sand to your advantage. Walking in soft sand is much harder than walking on pavement. If you're going for a long walk, you'll want to wear shoes since walking barefoot for a long time could cause shin or calf pain.
  • Machines. Many hotels have multi-purpose machines (think Soloflex) that target all of your body parts for a great strength training workout. Focus on working the large muscles (e.g., chest, back and legs) for short, efficient workouts. You might also find staples of most gyms - treadmills, bikes, and stair-steppers. Below is a sample workout you can do in most hotel fitness centers:
    • 15-Minute Hotel Fitness Room Workout:
      • 5 minutes - Warm up brisk walking on the treadmill or any other machine
      • 1 minute - Do as many pushups as you can
      • 1 minute - Grab some heavy dumbbells and do as many squats as you can
      • 1 minute - Choose a cardio machine and work as hard as you can
      • 1 minute - Grab some medium dumbbells for 30 seconds of lunges on each leg
      • 1 minute - If you have a strength machine, do one set of 12 lat pulldowns followed by one set of 12 triceps pushdowns
      • 1 minute - Choose a cardio machine and work as hard as you can
      • 1 minute - Do as many triceps dips as you can
      • 1 minute - Do as many pushups as you can
      • 1 minute - Choose a cardio machine and work as hard as you can
      • 1 minute - Cool down with a slow walk

    If you're only going out of town for a couple of days, you can get away with using your hotel's exercise room and your own equipment to get in a quick workout. However, if your travel plans include multiple cities, airports, hotels and days, there are some ways to squeeze in a little exercise. Your body will thank you after sitting on a plane for so long.

    1. Airports.
    Getting stuck in an airport with long layovers or plane delays is no fun, but you can take advantage by getting in a little exercise. Your best bet is to walk the airport, avoiding the escalators and other shortcuts throughout, and keep your arms going and your posture straight. If you have a ton of carry-on luggage, find a locker and stash it there or take it with you to add some intensity to your walk. Some airports even have gyms available for the frazzled traveler, so take advantage of that. Most charge anywhere from $10 to $20 for the day.

    2. On the Plane.
    Is there anything more uncomfortable than the seats on an airplane? You can combat a stiff neck and back by getting up every thirty minutes or so and walking the length of the plane. While you're up, get the kinks out by lacing your fingers together and stretching them up and then in front of you while rounding your back. Try isometric exercises while you're sitting - squeeze your glutes 20 times, contract your abs and hold for as long as you can or do leg extensions if you have the leg room. Anything you can do to keep the circulation going will help reduce some of the aches and pains.

    3. Hotels.
    Many hotels have exercise rooms but, if they don't, they might have an affiliation with a local gym for a small fee. Ask your hotel manager about local health clubs and about any parks or trails close by. You can also use The Athletic-Minded Traveler to find the best places to exercise in your destination city. Don't forget, walking and running are great ways to explore the city and there may be local running clubs that offer ideas for different routes. Do a little research before you travel so you're prepared when you get there.

    4. Eating.
    Traveling can play havoc with healthy eating. From the questionable airplane food to the quick and yummy food at the airport (pizza, burgers, fries, etc.) it's easy to get off course. Then you have the temptation of new and exciting restaurants to try while you're at your destination. Try to bring easy, packable snacks for the plane (fruit, granola bars, etc.) and, when eating out, try to make at least one healthy choice for dinner. Instead of getting the double cheeseburger and the fries, pick the one you want the most and then get a vegetable and skip dessert.

    Whatever your destination, a little advance planning can ensure that you stay on track with your exercise program. Oh, and if you're on vacation, forget about routines and sets and reps. Be active and have fun.