Staying Fit While Traveling: Your Full Guide!
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
If you travel a lot for work then you probably know how difficult it can be to stay on your game when it comes to nutrition and exercise. There are many challenges to staying active, eating well and keeping up a vibrant exercise program while on the road for work and for pleasure.
Traveling for Work
Why is it so hard to exercise while on business trips? I've boiled it down to 5 basic reasons; lack of time, lack of energy, stress, lack of access to exercise facilities and being off your routine. Do any of these resonate with you? Let's break it down.
Who has the time?? If you're on the road for business chances are your time is not your own. Between the travel time itself which almost always involves sitting for long periods and the actual work that needs to be done, you probably just don't have much free time for yourself to do anything, including exercise or sitting down for a healthy meal.
I'm Exhausted! Traveling can be stressful, time-consuming and draining. Often times the last thing you want to do after a long flight and hours of non-stop business meetings is go to the gym. Having a drink at the bar, taking a long hot shower and zoning out with the TV on are all you have energy for. Even though you may know that getting a great workout would energize you and lift your spirits, it's so easy to sit this one out when there are so many easier options.
The hotel gym is a joke! Ever been to a hotel that claims to have a well-endowed fitness facility only to discover that it is a 200 square foot hole in the hole with a moldy smell, few weights, old and bulky pieces of exercise equipment, a half blown-up exercise ball and a treadmill that seems more like a death trap than a safe place to get your running on? This has happened to me many times...I'll walk into a hotel gym and the most redeeming quality it has is its small size that allows me to get the hell out of there quickly.
Maybe you're not a gym person anyway but just don't have access to any kind of facilities, equipment or a decent outdoor space. This can make it very difficult to exercise the way you want to and combine that with the time constraints, stress and exhaustion of business travel...and what can you do? It's a critical mass of factors that can suppress any desire or motivation to get your sweat on or even do light exercises.
Wow, I'm stressed. You don't have to be on the road for business to experience exercise-deterring stress levels. You just can't think about anything other than work or how much you don't want to work. Even though for many people exercise can be a huge stress reliever, when you travel you're just off your game and can't even bother.
I'm just off my game when on the road. At home you have a routine and perhaps exercise is smack in the middle of it. Perhaps you take classes at specific times, perhaps you have standing appointments with your personal trainer, perhaps you have a biological clock (and an alarm clock) that gets you up early enough to hit the gym before work. But on the road all of that often goes away and you just can't make it happen.
Tips for Exercising When on Business Trips
Make the time! It doesn't have to be a full workout or a long one. A little bit is better than nothing. Do a 10 or 20 minute workout comprised of bodyweight exercises such as planks, pushups, bridges, crunches and lunges. Or climb 20 flights of stairs in the hotel. The bottom line is that time is an issue but it doesn't have to be a non-starter. Even 5 minutes of jumping jacks or running in place, though painfully boring for many (myself included), can help you burn off some steam and a few calories to boot.
Keep it simple. Perhaps you are accustomed to doing high-intensity spin classes or bootcamp-style workouts with heavy weights. But if those aren't options for you while on the road for work, go back to the basics and work on extending your plank record or the amount of push-ups you can do. Moreover, you can actually do a high-intensity, bodyweight exercise type circuit training session without overcomplicating things.
Bring Your Own Gear: You can still pack light and yet bring some nifty exercise bands with you that can enable you to get a good workout or at least work on some basic fundamentals to keep your body strong. Many of these bands you can just tie around a doorknob or wedge into a a closed door to get the anchor you need to safely perform a variety of dynamic exercises.
In addition to bands you can anchor onto walls and doorknobs, there are great ankle bands that allow you to get good lower body workouts. You can do side, front and backward walks to work your glut muscles, modified quadripeds to activate your core muscles and resistance-added and squats and lunges.
Go for a Short Run: Whether you love to run or not, whether you prefer long distance running over shorter, higher-intensity runs, the bottom line is that even a 10-20 minute jog or fast run can be done without a lot of before and after time.
Exercise Outside: Perhaps you do have some free time but just don't want to exercise in your hotel room, in a tiny hotel gym or by running up and down stuffy staircases. In this case, take your running shoes and perhaps an exercise band or two, find a nearby park and get your workout on outdoors.
Find a track, a grassy field, a stable fence to anchor an exercise band or TRX to and a playground jungle gym to do pull-ups on (just stay away from the little kids). It's not that complicated and all it might take is some motivation, perhaps info from locals and a little creativity.
Tips for Exercising While on Vacation
Do you ever feel guilty, lazy and indecisive when it comes to getting in some exercise when on vacation?
Well, first thing's first...
When it comes to exercise, not all vacations are created equal.
If you are on a much-needed beach vacation, don't feel guilty, don't worry...just relax. That's what these vacations are for! If, however, you can only take so much beach, sun and pina coladas, then go have some fun. But you don't need to be in a gym or on a bike or out for a long run to get enough exercise. There are other options, especially while on beach vacations.
The nice thing about beach vacations is that there is water, to swim in, kayak on, surf above, snorkel under and paddle board along. All of these activities can get your heart rate up and muscles pumping. Don't underestimate the power of the ocean to help get you a great workout!
What about non-beach vacations?
Reasons not to exercise when on a beach vacation often vary significantly from the reasons not to exercise when on a ski trip, tour through Europe or a boat cruise to the Galapagos. However the chances are that, if you are on an active vacation of some sort, that you are probably getting more exercise that you might realize.
Sight-seeing in the City
If you've been fortunate to travel through Europe like I have, then you know how exhausting a day sight-seeing in Barcelona, Paris and Rome can be. While I don't believe walking is enough exercise on its own without doing any sort of strength training or cardiovascular exercise, when you travel in big cities the chances are you are on your feet, a lot! 4, 5, 8 hours of walking in parks, museums, churches and monuments is great exercise.
No, you may not 'feel the burn' like you do while doing a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class or when doing sprints on the treadmil but you do burn calories and force the lower body muscles to maintain endurance.
And of course in many cities in Europe and elsewhere, you have the option of renting bikes. It's a great way to see the city and if cities have hills, which many in Europe do, you'll get a workout.
Vacationing in the Great Outdoors
If you are hiking in Colorado, scuba diving in Mexico, surfing in Sydney, skiing in Utah, white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon or kayaking in Canada, you should be covered! Don't sell yourself short when taking adventures in nature even if it doesn't involve pumping iron at the gym and consuming 150 grams of protein each day.
One benefit of getting your exercise on outdoors is that it might offer you the chance to cross-train and to give the muscles and joints that you use all the time to rest and recover, which brings me to my next point.
Rest and Recovery are Vital
Recovery from both single bouts of intense exercise and a week or two off from one's normal exercise routine are probably the most underrated and yet the most important components of an effective, injury-free fitness program.
Without proper rest and recovery time, muscles and joints will break down and be subject to repetitive strains, tears and inflammation. So, if you have a 10-trip planned to Europe in April, you may want to think about creating your exercise program with those 10 days away as your designated recovery period.
The take home message here is that travel doesn't have to impede your ability to stay in shape and feel good. Yes, travel can make it harder, but it also creates opportunities to be creative, be more efficient, try new activities and manage stress.