You have finally gotten into a good rhythm with your training regimen, or maybe you’re in the process of establishing one. You’re finally tearing down barriers to regular exercise.
…until a lot of them come all at once.
Packing. Weather. Traffic. Jet lag. Airport security. Bad (but expensive) food. Unwashed hotel room comforters. Oh, and don’t forget that career-changing Powerpoint you have to present in twelve hours.
With all of the challenges that come along with travel, it’s no wonder that people miss a few workouts while on the road.
Or worse, fall off their routine entirely–even once they’re back home.
You’ve got enough to worry about when you’re traveling. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips to increase your likelihood of successful training when away from home, including three great sample routines.
Travel: The Routine Killer (and How to Overcome Common Challenges)
Everything’s upended when you’re traveling. You don’t follow the same sleep pattern, in the same bed that you’re used to. You eat differently. Your schedule might be different. And wouldn’t you know? There’s a cold snap where you’re visiting and you only packed t-shirts, shorts, and crocs.
All of this already puts your nervous system on higher alert, meaning that your focus might be less-than-optimal. On top of that, one or more of these is probably an issue:
- You don’t have enough space to train
- You’re out of your normal routine
- You don’t have access to the equipment you need
- You just don’t have the time
- You aren’t sure what to focus on
I’m not going to tell you that you absolutely have to exercise while traveling. If you’ve been training regularly, you’re not going to lose all of your strength and skill from taking some time off–even for a week or so. This could actually be good for your recovery, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep up your training regimen while traveling.
But if you want to learn how to make it happen despite the obstacles, let’s take a look at how to tackle each of these common issues.
Challenge: Limited Space
Maybe you’re staying in a smaller-than-average hotel room, a gym is not an option, and there is no good outdoor space (or weather makes that impossible).
Whatever is causing the space limitation, the answer is to focus on those exercises that don’t require a lot of space. Locomotion drills give you a lot of bang for your buck and don’t require much real estate. Even just going back and forth within a small space is great.
This is also a good time to work on some body maintenance with basic stretching and mobility work, since those require almost no space at all.
Even in a 3×3 closet, you can do isometrics. Focus on the basics–those can fit in a smaller space.
Challenge: Routine Disruption
Let’s say you normally work out at 6am during the week, but you’re attending a conference that starts at 6:30am each morning–your workout is obviously not going to happen at your usual time.
The solution is an obvious one: squeeze in a session at a different time than usual. Forget about your normal routine.
And your session doesn’t have to be all that long–just a few minutes will work fine. Even if you know you won’t perform as well outside your normal routine, something is better than nothing.
Maybe start with light practice of the basics for 5-10 minutes whenever you can get them during the day. If you have more time and you find your attention increasing, keep going! If you feel done, it’s okay to be done. At least you stepped out of your routine.
Challenge: No Access to Equipment
Athletes who find themselves devoted to a particular style of fitness, such as spin or CrossFit, might be tempted to find an associated gym around where they’re visiting. If you can make this happen and it makes you happy and gets your workout in, go for it!
But if you can’t get that kind of time, or if the options are not up to your standards, this might be a good time to learn how to build a workout session around exercises that don’t require any equipment. This is one of the reasons we love bodyweight exercise, as it’s convenient and can be done anywhere, anytime.
Spend some time on the basics of movement, such as squats, locomotion, and mobility work, and you’ll get a lot of benefit.
Challenge: Not Sure What to Focus On
The stars align and you can work around space, time, equipment, and routine issues. But you’re still scratching your head about what to do.
Often, travelers might fall back on the standards: push-ups and squats. Maybe burpees or sit-ups, at most. The thing is: that’s totally fine. We may have mentioned already, but when there are challenges to getting your work out in, it’s the perfect time to focus on the basics.
But to help make that even easier, in the section below, we’re going to tell you exactly how to build a quick and simple routine around any goal you may have.
Challenge: No Time
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you’ve probably got pretty packed days while you’re away, and you might feel like you don’t have enough time to do your full routine.
Good news: you don’t need to. Just get something in that’s quick, simple, and relevant to your goals.
If you have 5 minutes, you can do a drill or two. Even if it’s while waiting in line at the airport. There is always time, if only a little.
One thing that will help you navigate this particular issue–both while traveling and when back at home on your regular routine–is disengaging from the very idea of “workout.” What comes to mind when you hear that word? An hour or more of rigorous training?
If you want to stay fit for life, while traveling or otherwise, think of your training as more of a practice.
Remove your own self-created restraints. You are always practicing something, even when you doing nothing. So you might as well do it intentionally.
Spread your fingers as wide as you can while sitting on the plane. Take off your shoes and grip the ground with your toes. Open your mouth as wide as possible. Depress your shoulders while standing in line. Hold a squat while waiting for your flight to board.
You may not have two hours to find a gym, mix your BCAAs, activate everything in a thorough warm-up, lift weights, do some conditioning, and have a shower–but you do have wonderful little increments of your day in which you can move more thoughtfully.
Doesn’t that sound much better than sitting in your hotel room and worrying about not having done your workout while knocking back expensive hotel bar drinks?
The Big Guns of Keeping Consistent While Traveling
You really can’t go wrong by practicing basic strength and movement patterns. That’s why we want to hammer that point home. But there’s another big gun to your success: planning ahead.
All of these tips are enhanced when paired with planning. Your trip itself may be so busy that even with all these suggestions, your brain/nervous system is just too overtaxed to think about all of these things. Planning ahead will make all the difference.
One tip is to take out a pad of sticky notes and write out a couple of exercises you want to focus on. Stick these notes around your hotel room in places you’ll see them regularly.
It sounds simple, but it might be just the nudge you need, and it requires practically no brain power.
Whatever’s going on during the actual trip itself, you’ll typically have some time before the trip even starts to get at least a few things written down. It could be as simple as “work on wrist mobility” or as complex as a daily training plan with time and reps and everything clearly spelled out.
That being said: keep it simple at first. Planning takes practice. Scale your planning up only when you can do simpler planning consistently. Just like an exercise. Your brain is the same.
3 On-the-Go Training Routines for Specific Goals
There can certainly be a lot of challenges that come along with maintaining a training regimen while you’re traveling, but as you can see, you can overcome most of them with the right planning and approach.
And to help you out, we’ve put together these three routines that can easily be done in the comfort of your hotel room (or wherever you may be). Each routine has a specific goal emphasis, so you can choose the routine that fits whatever your current training focus may be. Click to skip ahead to the routine you want to work on:
This routine focuses on helping you build strength, using exercises that don’t require a lot of space.
Here are the exercises included in this routine:
Negative Pistols Squat
Do 3-5 sets of 5 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
- Stand beside a table, chair or counter to aid with balance, if needed.
- Bring one leg up in front of you and slowly lower your hips down as far as you can, bending your standing knee as you lower.
- Once you are at the lowest depth, bring your extended leg back down so you’re in a low-squat position, and stand back up as in a regular squatting motion.
- Now bring the other leg up and repeat the movement–that’s one repetition.
Side to Side Push-Ups
Do 3 reps on each side, for a total of 2 sets, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
- Start in the top of a push-up and shift your weight over to one side. Drop down and press back up.
- Repeat this three times, then shift over to the other side and do three more push-ups on that side.
- You’ll have to adjust how much weight you shift over to complete all the repetitions, especially as you fatigue.
Kneeling Lat on Chair
Perform 10 reps on each side and do 3-5 sets, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
- This is a unique exercise that allows you to work on your back muscles without needing a pull-up bar or other equipment.
- Kneel in front of a chair or low table, placing your palm on the seat or tabletop.
- Push down as you lower your face toward the ground, keeping your elbow straight.
- Think of pulling your hand toward your hip as you sit upward in the kneeling position.
- You can adjust the resistance by how you shift your weight. Work on making this a smooth motion.
Hold for 30 seconds and do 3-5 sets, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
- This gymnastic-style exercise is great for your core.
- Lie on your back with your arms reaching up to the ceiling.
- Keeping your legs straight, lift them off the ground so they’re at a 45-degree angle from the floor, and lift your shoulders off the ground. Think of rounding your lower back and curling your shoulders toward your hips with straight arms and straight legs. Press your low back into the ground and hold for 30 seconds.
- You can adjust this as you need to by bending your knees to make it easier to do the full 30 seconds. If you would like to make it harder, put your arms above your head so your biceps are parallel to your ears.
Fire Hydrants to Superman
Perform 5 reps on each leg, then hold your Superman for 15 seconds. Do 3-5 sets, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
- We’ll end this routine with a combination glute and lower-back exercise.
- Begin on all fours and lift one knee up and out to the side.
- Keeping your leg suspended, rotate your leg from your hip to bring your knee back behind you, and push your foot toward the ceiling.
- Bring your knee back to the ground. Repeat five times, then switch and perform on the other side.
- Then drop down to your stomach with your hands out in front of you and legs extended. Lift your arms and legs, balancing on your stomach and hips, and hold for 15 seconds.
This next routine will help you work on your conditioning if that’s a current focus of yours. You really don’t need much space or fancy gear to get a good conditioning workout in!
Perform these movements one after the other in a circuit style, with no rest between the exercises for a “round.” Then rest as little or as long as you need to before the next round. Repeat for 5-10 rounds.
You may need to increase the rest periods in the later rounds, and that’s just fine. A good starting point is resting one minute between rounds. Some people can do without any rest, and some people need to rest more than a minute. Do what’s best for you!
Let’s look at these exercises in more detail:
Do 5 reps.
- Bring your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly.
- Keep your chest up tall and your weight centered in the middle of your foot as you drop down as low as you can and come back up again.
Do 5 reps.
- Start on your hands and the balls of your feet with your hips up in the air like an “A.”
- Bend your elbows to bring your head down to the ground between your hands. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked in to your sides as you do this.
- Adjust how much weight and the space between your hands and feet is needed to do five repetitions.
Do one rep per side.
This is a nice active core exercise that combines the Hollow Body and Superman (described above).
- Lie on your back with your hands above your head, biceps framing your shoulders. Roll once to one side and then to the other side.
- Bend your knees and bring your arms down as needed to complete the exercise.
Hop to Lunge
Do 2 reps per leg.
- Here, you’ll hop onto one leg, bending as you land into a lunge position.
- Start with hopping forward, then come back to the middle and repeat to the side and behind you.
- Repeat twice, then perform on the other leg.
Last up, we’ve got this simple flexibility routine that hits on the most commonly troublesome areas for people. You can work on this routine on its own or as a cool down after one of the other routines above.
For each movement, you will move slowly with control into and out of the stretch for five repetitions, then go to the stretched position and relax into a hold of 15 seconds. Only go as far as a slightly uncomfortable stretch; there should not be any pain.
Here are some more details on these exercises:
- In the video, we show two versions of this exercise–one on a chair and one with just a support.
- For the supported version, sit on a chair with one leg bent and the other outstretched behind you.
- Round your lower back and pelvis, and you’ll feel more of a stretch in your hip and leg.
- Shift your weight forward and back in and out of the stretch five times by bending and straightening your back leg.
- Then settle into a stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- If you feel good, you can just use the chair for support at your side rather than sitting on it.
- Stand in front of a chair to use it as support.
- Spread your legs about twice the width of your shoulders, and rock to the side as you bend that knee and straighten the other.
- Shift your weight back and forth in and out of the stretch five times.
- Then settle into a stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Sit in front of a table, with your seat back far enough so that you can comfortably place the back of one elbow on the table as you bring your chest down toward the floor. Keep your arm next to your head.
- Move into and out of the stretch five times.
- Then settle into a stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other arm.
Bent Arm Chest Stretch
- Sit in front of a table, and place your palm on it with your fingers pointing toward the middle of your body and your elbow up high and bent at about 90 degrees.
- Move into and out of the chest stretch by rotating your body away from your hand and dropping your chest toward the ground. Do this five times.
- Then settle into the stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Just Show Up
I want to reiterate that there’s no need to feel guilty for missing a few workouts. Movement is joyful and enriching, so it doesn’t help to think of it like a chore.
If you’d like to be able to get in some training while traveling, the tips and routines in this article will help you out.
Consistency is extremely valuable to making progress with your strength and skills. So when travel–or anything else–throws a wrench in your routine, keep it simple, plan ahead when possible, and most of all just show up to the degree to which you are able at any given moment. If you’re being thoughtful and participating in your self-betterment even just a little more than you otherwise would have, you are making progress.
At very least, if you end up getting pulled aside for extra special screening at the airport, you’ll be glad you stretched.
One great program you can work on wherever you may be is our free Strength and Mobility Kickstart. It’s a 1-week program, so that might be the perfect option to work on while you’re traveling.