If working out is an important part of your routine, frequent travel is likely to blow it into smithereens. You're thrust into unfamiliar places, lack amenities and resources, and often have little control over your schedule. But you don't have to give up on fitness completely. Here are some helpful tips, my fellow fitness enthusiast.
Me at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Image by Karen Hong Photography.
Commit to Doing Less
Count on things to go wrong or your mind to change. Maybe you had planned to hit the hotel gym before it closed to do a killer arms workout, but the plane got delayed, a work emergency had you on the phone for way too long, a kitten was saved from a tree -- oof, where did the time go?
Instead of getting frustrated for missing a workout, try committing to doing less. If you normally spend 60 minutes at the gym, for example, do a 20-minute workout instead. It saves time, yes, but it also helps you avoid that "all or nothing" mentality (for example, "I already missed this workout so I might as well not work out at all") and weasel out of working out completely.
I used to think that anything less than 60 minutes or outside of a gym wasn't a "real" workout, which just isn't true. Staying active in any way keeps that workout momentum strong, whether that's a long walk, some stretching drills, this 15-minute bodyweight workout, or quick exercises you can do in your hotel room.
We've all experienced the difficulty of returning to the gym after a hiatus. Nowadays I try to remind myself that workouts don't have to be perfect. Just doing something is better than nothing at all and helps me maintain good habits, even if the workout is super quick.
Try Something New
While it feels like travelling throws everything out of whack and could be the bane of your fitness goals, reframe the change in routine as an opportunity to try new things or pursue new goals. Or if you're the type of person that works out hard all the time, treat it as a necessary break.
If you normally lift heavy objects in the gym, switch things up with strength-building bodyweight workouts. If you have the time, you could check out the local hikes and parks where, incidentally, you can get a killer playground-inspired workout.
When I didn't have my regular routine, I worked toward a pistol squat, for example, and also found more ways to be active than normal. During my recent stay in downtown Toronto, I used the city's bike share to get around town and walked pretty much everywhere. I also popped into random fitness classes and activities, such as boxing. If you're meeting with people, ask if they'd be willing to conduct your meeting while walking, as this article by Quartz suggests.
Check Out Local Gyms for Promotions
I don't need fancy facilities. Oftentimes hotel gyms are good enough for me. You can cobble together an intense workout with just a few dumbbells. If a hotel gym isn't an option or you have certain preferences, however, you can widen your search. Big cities have plenty of gyms. The question is: How much are you willing to pay?
Many day passes cost between $20 to $50. While that's a fine alternative for short trips, it gets needlessly expensive for anything longer than a couple of days. I'm not about that day pass life, so I try to negotiate a weekly or monthly pass, or ask about promotions for visitors. I recently snagged a too-good-to-pass-up deal for a month's membership by buying it on Groupon. I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't asked.
Bring Travel-Friendly Workout Equipment
If you're keen on staying in shape while travelling, consider getting a pair of suspension trainers, which are a pair of straps with handles. You then attach them to all sorts of anchor points, such as doors, lamp posts, tree branches and so on, and use them to jazz up your bodyweight workouts.
You've probably seen me rave about them before. I've been using them for my own long-term travels for the last two years and have been successful in staying in shape (and building strength, too!).
Two months ago, I was about to embark on a nomadic life, a suitcase and laptop in tow, knowing that I was also saying goodbye to a proper gym. But fitness is important to me, so I had to make do with the most important 'equipment' of all: My own body. I made it work, and you can too.