Whether traveling for three days or three weeks, long flights, flight delays, strange venues, interminable hours in the car, time crunches, and crowded conditions don’t have to signal a hiatus from healthy lifestyle and exercise routines. Experts say it doesn’t take long to undue the benefits we’ve reaped from months of weight training and cardio pursuits, so maintaining some form of work out when traveling is integral to our good health.
Work Out When Traveling: Fitness is an Exercise in Creativity
Let’s face it: When we leave home, our daily routine, which may typically include a trip to the gym, a run, swim, yoga class, cycle time or just a brisk walk with a friend, can sometimes give way to the rigors of a road trip or vacation temptations that are more about Margaritas and less about marathons. Stress mounts in endless security lines and during our efforts to navigate unfamiliar places, not to mention time changes, crushing schedules, and all-day meetings, making that (uh-oh!) double scoop of Jamocha Almond Fudge the not-so-wise cure for what ails us. If we’ve taken off weight and are trying to maintain it, or are working hard to lose some, a little effort and “far from home” ingenuity can mean the difference between success and frustration. For optimum health at most any age, exercise, after all, is a lifestyle, not an afterthought.
Regardless of where you go or how you get there, packing a few essentials can make maintaining a fitness program easy and even activate the creative “where to exercise” gene. Loose, comfortable clothing, a swimsuit, an iPod, a pair of athletic shoes, jump rope, bungee cords and a resistance band in place of heavy weights can transform the corner of an airport lounge (here’s where resistance bands provide some nice options), a hotel room, parking lot, shopping mall, or an automobile (assuming you’re not the one driving!) into a makeshift gym or track.
For starters, though sustaining something close to a normal exercise routine is the goal, don’t be too hard on yourself if conditions precipitate modifying or even deviating greatly from your typical choices. Trainers tell us that varying what we do can actually jolt the body from a plateau, as it does occur, and rekindle our interest which can also wane after weeks or months on the same program.
Pools and Tools to Work Out When Traveling
If your routine includes swimming and the hotel pool is under renovation, the concierge may be able to recommend a nearby community pool or fitness facility which offers a day pass. While some newer hotels feature reasonably-sized fitness facilities, many offer just two or three basic machines so using resistance bands for arms and legs can enhance and expand the experience, as will incorporating a jump rope session into the workout (these activities can even be done in the privacy of your room, taking the sound element into account). A quiet corner of the hotel parking lot also makes an excellent space for jumping rope, vigorous squat-thrusts, or tried-and-true jumping jacks (try varying this by moving your feet separately from front to back instead of only out to the sides).
If you typically cycle—and even if you don’t—a new venue is an opportunity to shake up your workout routine by renting a bike and exploring urban vistas or the countryside, even seeking out more challenges by asking where the hills are (to quote a favorite movie line, “There’s gold in them ‘thar hills”—in the way of greater glutes!).
Many experts who work out when traveling say the stairs—among an athlete’s most rigorous workouts—are generally overlooked, whether they are right in your hotel or in that 20-story office building downtown. Tighten that left and right Avia, grab a towel and some water, and head for one of the most grueling workouts ever. A few days of sustained stair sprinting and you’ll wish you were back home tooling around on the friendly bike, though your quads will thank you for the added challenge!
If you choose to run outside, an outdoor shopping center with its many customers and security guards (just maneuver to the perimeter if it becomes too crowded) may be a safer bet than a strange neighborhood, especially in urban areas. Running during daylight hours will also limit your exposure to unsafe elements, and if alone, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
Work Out When Traveling: The Asana Advantage
If yoga is your thing, and where stretching in general is concerned, many hotels have a list of area yoga studios and some, like D.C.’s Washington Hilton, even offer classes of their own. If your schedule precludes time for a class, fifteen minutes on a towel to extend those hard-working muscles (which can constrict and even cramp from carrying heavy suitcases and sitting in small compartments) can relax and re-energize you for the rest of the day or evening ahead. As one of the primary principles of yoga is to use your own body as resistance, time away from your usual workout routine lets you put this tenet to the test by using floors and walls to push yourself up, down and away. And a series of concentrated neck, back, and shoulder stretches and rolls, followed a warm bath before sleep can ease you into a peaceful night’s rest, despite a strange bed which is among the major complaints of travelers.
Finally, those who have mastered the work out while traveling know that lowering your expectations may be the key to feeling good about whatever exercise you’re able to do while away. Chances are you won’t have the time or facilities to maintain your typical fitness regimen, and if your plans take you to another time zone, your body clock may also wreak havoc with your efforts.
Overall, though, with just a little exploration and planning, staying in shape on the road can be stress relieving and fun. It may even introduce something new and challenging into your usual fitness routine that you can take home and share with other savvy travelers.
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