Fitness and Travel
I am on the road quite often. There are months where I spend way more time living out of a hotel than my own home. Sometimes it feels like I may as well trade in my house key for a key card.
I try my best to make sure that my travel doesn’t disrupt my routines. I stick with my coding agenda and my fitness regimen while on the road, but I’ll admit it isn’t always easy.
For a lot of us, keeping up with fitness at home is hard enough. Now imagine trying to keep up your physique and diet while being constantly on the road.
Home-cooked meals are replaced by cheeseburgers and takeout. A gym routine falls to the waysides of jetlag or exhaustion from driving. I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t easy.
Sometimes finding the right place to workout can be tough when you’re out of town. Even tougher – when flying or driving you may not have the space in your luggage for all of your workout gear. Now even if you can find a workout spot, you might not even have the right shoes or clothes.
What do you do then?
Letting Go of the Routine
Before we jump into our 3 tips on staying fit while traveling, you need to get into the right mindset for success. Ready? Here it is:
You have to let go of your routine.
No, not forever, just while you travel.
The problem a lot of folks have with working out and dieting while traveling is that they become too rigid with it. Some of you have the mindset that if you don’t do an exact regimen everyday that all progress will be lost.
Even worse, some of you will use this as an excuse to make no progress at all. Some people will decide that if they can’t do their usual workout they just won’t work out at all. Or maybe they decide if they can’t stick to their strict diet, then its okay to pig out.
Don’t let yourself stumble into these pitfalls. Let yourself be flexible and find ways to make it work.
Here are three ways I’ve managed to make a healthy lifestyle mix with a life on the road.
1. Utilize the Fitness Tools (and Spaces) at Your Disposal
I am quite fortunate that a lot of my travel is done through my work. Being on the road all of the time isn’t ideal, but my company puts me up in decent hotels. This works out great for me because most nice-ish hotels will offer some sort of gym or fitness center.
There are a few things I like about hotel fitness centers:
- Most are open 24/7.
- They are usually stocked with a weight set and a few cardio machines.
- These gyms are almost always empty.
A nice hotel gym is like your own private 24 Hour Fitness. They are usually open at all hours, and in my experience, most guests don’t utilize them nearly enough. This combination of emptiness and availability makes them perfect for early morning/ late night pump sessions.
What is also great about these gyms is they have just enough equipment to get the job done.
The Equipment You’ll Usually Find at a Hotel Gym
These fitness centers will always have a handful of cardio machines to get your blood pumping. A few treadmills is the norm, but some will even have bike and elliptical machines. Most will also have a decent set of dumbbells so you can get your pump on. In my experience, finding dumbbells ranging from 5 lbs to 40 lbs each is average.
A lot of the hotel fitness centers I’ve seen recently have BowFlex-type machines, which are very much welcome. The amount of substitution workouts that you can do with a BowFlex is astounding, so take advantage if you have one. Google how to do squats and deadlifts with a BowFlex and you will quickly be back in the rhythm of things.
Now I know what you are thinking – “But I don’t do machines, I only do weights”. Picture me rolling my eyes.
That’s fine and good if you don’t like machines, but remember what I said about flexibility. Beggars can’t be choosers here. The goal isn’t to get shredded in a Marriott fitness center, the goal is to stay in shape.
Suck up your pride and do what you must for the time being. Your muscles will thank you for it when you finally do get back into a real gym.
2. Hold the Fries (and the Soda. And the Liquor)
One of my least favorite things about traveling is the lack of a home-cooked meal. Without a kitchen and fridge, I end up eating out a lot for all of my meals.
I figured out pretty quickly that most restaurants serve the same basic stuff – salt, fat, and sugar. It tastes so good, but it looks so bad when it transforms from a gooey cheeseburger into a bloated belly.
How do you combat having to get all of your meals from drive-thru windows?
Making Smarter Fast Food Choices
As with all things fitness (and coding), we have to start with the mindset. Imagine you’re hungry and pulling up to a McDonalds drive-thru window. Images of burgers and fries and Coke are dancing in your head. Take one guess at what you’re going to end up ordering.
The issue is that if you go to a restaurant with a preconceived idea of what you have to order then you are going to end up ordering that. You have to be willing to think outside of the box before you decide what you’re going to eat, because there are options out there.
Of course, this isn’t true for every place you’re going to visit. You can’t expect to go to a Cinnabon and find some healthier choices than a giant cinnamon roll. What I am saying is you’d be surprised as to what you can come up with.
Consider the Following:
Let’s use McDonald’s as an example.
A cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke will set you back about 1000 calories depending upon what size fries and drink. For most of you on diets, that would be about half of your daily caloric intake!
I’ve preached to you guys before about the concept of swapping out unhealthy options for slightly better ones. The key is not to starve or deprive ourselves, but to make better choices that are still palatable.
Here’s an idea for a better swap:
Two hamburgers and a Diet Coke. Just as filling and (as a bonus) slightly cheaper than the first option. But what about the nutrition on this meal?
500 calories and 26 grams of protein. No, that’s not a mistake.
Am I advocating for you to eat McDonald’s hamburgers and Diet Cokes everyday? Of course not.
The point is that when we are forced to turn to fast food, there are always slightly better options available. Making the decision of a diet drink over a full calorie one can save you an easy 200 calories. Saying “No” to French fries can easily save you another 200.
The key is to not have your mind set on what you need to order and instead research what options you can order.
3. Only Pack the Essentials
Like most of you gymrats out there, I have a gym bag packed with equipment. Two pairs of shoes, gloves, weighted gloves, a lock, a can of deodorant, a water bottle, headphones – the list goes on.
But what about when we travel? Do you really want to lug a 20 pound gym bag with you through hotel lobbies and airports?
Of course not! But how do we make sure we have all of the equipment we need without bringing our whole bag of tricks with us?
We only pack the essentials.
So what are the essential pieces of workout gear for when traveling?
The 4 Things to Bring When Traveling Fit
The key here is to pick a few things that fulfill as many needs as possible. Personally, I stick to these four things which take up only a small amount of suitcase space:
- ONE pair of workout shoes. Running shoes, cross trainers, or a pair of Chuck Taylors for lifting. Pick whichever you think will meet the most of your current workout needs, and stick with them.
- A refillable water bottle. We all need to stay hydrated, but this one serves a lot of purposes. For one, I hate having to pay crazy rates for a bottle of water at a hotel or gas station. Secondly, not all hotels offer complimentary water bottles/pitchers for their guests. Bring a sturdy water bottle and refill it before leaving the gym to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- A set of headphones or earbuds. This one is a no-brainer. Chances are you will already have a pair that you bring when you travel, but some folks like to have a separate set of “workout” headphones.
- Workout clothes. Keep this minimal – one pair of pants/shorts per every two days working out, one shirt per day. Personally, I save space here by using my work undershirt from the previous day as my workout shirt the next morning. Note: This only works if you don’t get too ripe during your work day.
These may seem like no-brainers, but the goal is that we steer clear of what we don’t need. We don’t need three pairs of shoes. There is no need for 10 workout outfits for a 4-day trip. Ditch the gloves, the belts, the towels. Travel light, travel trim.
Hit the Road!
When we plan ahead, keeping fit while traveling is a piece of cake (figuratively).
Map out where you’ll go, what resources will be available, and what tools you’ll bring along with you to stick to your goals.
What fitness tips work best for you when you’re on the road? Let me know down in the comments!