A Traveler’s Guide To Fitness

Equipped with headphones and my favorite pair of board shorts, I made the descent to the tenth floor of the hotel where the gym was located. After two long flights on small regional jets not well suited for my six foot, five inch frame, I was looking forward to breaking the figurative cement cast that my muscles felt like they were in. As the elevator doors opened with a telltale ‘ding’, I was greeted with a beautiful view of the pool that sat in my path. Briefly distracted by the view, it took me off guard when I arrived at the glass door to the gym… if that’s what you want to call it.

It seemed as though the work out facility was an afterthought, with the bare bones set up seemingly shoved in to a room that was barely big enough to move in. One treadmill, one elliptical, and a rack of dumbbells with a wobbly bench nearby was all that I had to chose from in the approximately 125 square foot space. The suspended ceiling made any overhead movements impractical, and the meager floor space that was available made doing something like a burpee suspect at best. Despite my disappointment, I still made the best of the area via a little creativity and enjoyed a solid workout session.

For many, it’s conditions like these that make working out while traveling undesirable. This is exactly when you need to be working out though, with your diet often being degraded to less healthy food options in the airport and restaurants you will be frequenting. There are many ways to not lose your edge on fitness though, if you are open to mixing up your usual routine.

Running is my go to option, and the best way to see a new city. I can’t think of a better way to discover your surrounding in an unfamiliar environment. It’s an incredible experience to wake up early in the morning before the bustle of the city has reached it’s peak, and experience it at it’s quietest. Stoplights can make for great markers to do sprints, and the hills of many cities will challenge anyone on a long run. If you keep your head up and pay attention, you’ll find some great hidden restaurant gems along the way that you can further investigate later. For me, this is also a time to make up for the running that I often skip at home in favor of high volume lifting or rowing.

Maybe running isn’t your thing, the weather isn’t cooperating, or the area you are staying in is not safe for venturing out in that capacity. Check out the hotel fitness facility, even if it’s not as good as your home gym. Many will have dumbbells, medicine balls, and even jump ropes. There are infinite possibilities with those pieces of equipment when combined with some body weight exercises. Kettle bell swings with dumbbells, dumbbell snatches, dumbbell burpees, medicine ball slams, medicine ball sit ups, and of course all the traditional dumbbell movements will provide you with plenty of options. Warm up and cool down on the treadmill, and you will have a solid workout under your belt.

What if the weather is brutal outside and your accommodations provide no gym at all? The next option is calisthenics in your hotel room. It doesn’t take that much creativity to come up with something that will drench you in sweat and work every area of the body, but I have a few favored body weight exercises that I like to mix up in different combinations. Burpees are an obvious and brutal choice all by themselves. You can do as many repetitions as possible in a set period of time (I prefer seven to ten minutes), or you can do five every minute on the minute for a set period of time or until you can no longer complete the round before the next starts. In addition to burpees, here are a few more calisthenics that you can mix and match for a hotel room sweat-fest:

  • Alternating leg lunges
  • Air squats
  • Sit ups or crunches
  • V-ups
  • Flutter kicks
  • Push ups (any variation)
  • Mountain climbers
  • Planks

Finally, if you have the extra funds for it, you can investigate local gyms close to your hotel that might offer day rates. This will obviously give you the most options, and sometimes you will have access to equipment that you wish your home gym had. I love using a Jacobs Ladder for a good full body cardio session, but my local spot doesn’t have one. I was thrilled when I walked into an Anytime Fitness in Seattle last year that had one, and had one of the best workouts of that year there.

The bottom line is that if there is a will, there is a way. Of course, the ‘will’ part is often the problem either at home or abroad, especially for me. I’ll admit I’m no stranger to skipping the gym, but traveling is never a valid excuse. Remember that fitness is a primary component to being ready for anything, so it needs to be a primary component in your readiness training. Whether you travel for work or pleasure, it’s never good to get back home and have to play catch up – just stay on it no matter what!


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