I just returned from a three-day conference.
While there, I was shocked at the number of conversations I overheard and the number of people who mentioned to me (perhaps knowing I am a fitness “guru”) how much fitness they lose while traveling, participating in multi-day conferences, and jetting to and from in planes, trainsn and automobiles without access to their normal daily workout routine or health club.
But I beg to differ. I’m not saying this to brag, but rather to give you a personal example. As a guy who is on the road for an average of two weeks out of every month, I manage to:
Maintain 3% body fat at 180 pounds of mostly muscle
-Compete in some of the most difficult races on the face of the planet
-Get sick an average of once every 3 years
-Squeeze 60-90 minutes of exercise and movement into every busy day
-Return from many days of travel across multiple time zones with zero jet-lag
You get the idea. So how do I do it?
1. Make the Airport a Gym
No, you don’t have to drop and do push-ups outside the Delta lounge, or perform head-turning, embarrassing burpees at the gate while waiting for your plane to depart. Instead, you can try a few of my personal tips:
-Don’t sling your bags across your shoulder. Instead, hold them in your hands to work on grip strength.
-Duck into the stall of the bathroom and do 50 body weight squats
-Take stairs. Always. No escalators, ever (unless there aren’t any stairs)
-Don’t sit while waiting for your plane to board. Either walk, stand or find a quiet corner and do calisthenics like jumping jacks and body weight squats or stretches that move lymph and blood flow, like arms swings and leg swings.
-While standing in line at security, to board the plane, to get a coffee, etc. always be doing toe raises, arms curls with your bags, knee dips or squats and any other movement you can muster. Don’t worry: there will be plenty of time waiting for your plane to leave the ground for you to do any last-minute phone checks.
2. Exercise Upon Arrival
Exercising when you get to your final destination is one of the best ways to beat jet lag and establish a normal circadian rhythm (the other ways are via exposure to natural light and eating at the set meal time for the destination you’re traveling to).
And yes, I’m just like everybody else: I find exercise to be difficult when I get done with a long day of travel. My body is stiff, my eyes are tired and all I really want to do is flop on the hotel bed and flip on the TV.
But here’s a few of my key secrets to making exercise happen anyways:
-Get through the first 2 minutes of exercise and it all gets easier from there, probably due to the fact that 2 minutes is about how long it takes for your body to switch from an anaerobic non-oxygen utilizing mode to an aerobic oxygen utilizing mode. So I suggest beginning with something relatively passive and easy that tricks your body into getting through those first 2 minutes, such as jumping jacks, walking on a treadmill, treading water in a pool, etc. Trust me, starting with heavy squats or burpees is much more difficult than easier options.
-Have a plan. On the plane, for example, I’ll jot down on a piece of paper what I will do when I get to my hotel, such as:
-2 minutes jumping jacks
-30 mountain climbers
-40 vertical jumps
-Reward yourself. I’ll often avoid eating any snacks, food, meals, mini-bar indulgences or anything else until after I’ve done my workout, but I do promise myself that if I can simply get through a 30 minute workout after arriving at my destination, I’ll treat myself to a walk over to a local restaurant that ranks high on Yelp or Trip Adviser, or make a trip to the hotel pool for 15 rewarding minutes in the hot tub with a newspaper and a glass of wine. You get the idea: give yourself a carrot on the end of a stick.
If it’s written down and outsourced to a piece of paper, I’m far less likely to succumb to decision making fatigue, and far more likely to simply set my bags down in my hotel room and get it done.
3. Use Google Maps
As soon as I get to my hotel or AirBNB or wherever else I’m staying, I open Google Maps and plug in my lodging address. I then use the “Search Nearby” function to identify the following
-Gyms & Health Clubs: any of these often have very affordable guest pass rates or, if you visit the gym’s website, free guest passes you can print or put on your phone to get you a complementary visit to the facility. These facilities are often far, far better and more equipped than a hotel gym.
-Pools: Local city pools, YMCA pools, health clubs with pools and any other pools give you water to exercise in. When combined with the fact that I always travel with goggles and an underwater .mp3 player in my travel bag, this allows me to get instant access to lap swimming, water running, underwater breath holding routines and all my favorite water workouts.
-Parks: the oxygenation from plants and trees, therapy from nature, green and plant aromas, sunlight, and fresh air can make the overall “blah”, stale feeling a body often has during travel to simply melt away. A brisk walk through a local park is something that can easily be mixed with dips and pushups on park benches, burpees, short sprints, pull-ups from tree branches or mini-yoga sessions.
You get the idea. With just a few habits and systems worked into your travel routine, you don’t need to be the person whose body gets wrecked every time you go to a conference, event or other travel obligation. Instead, there’s no excuse not to arrive back from a bout of travel even more fit than when you started!