Whether it’s for work, leisure or family commitments, it can be easy to let travel come between us and our regular workout routine. Faced with flight delays, day-long drives, gridlock traffic, unfamiliar foods, luggage constraints, climate changes and dueling time zones, it’s sometimes tempting to rationalize “skipping a day.”
But here’s the thing: When it comes to travel, exercise is a secret weapon to maintaining routine and well-being. It sets us up for success in everything from sound sleep, to crushing our 8 a.m. boardroom presentation, and maybe even a bit more patience in the airport security line.
The best part about taking your exercise routine on the road? With a little planning and flexibility, it’s easy! Here are some ideas:
Delayed flight? We’ve all been there. Rather than sitting and stewing, or eating more than you planned right before a red-eye trip because you are bored, take the opportunity to walk around the airport and get your heart rate up and circulation going. Take the stairs and skip the moving walkway. Stretch, lunge or do some gentle yoga or meditation in a quiet corner. Some airports have dedicated yoga rooms or spaces. Others have stretch rooms or even gyms.
Once you reach your destination, it can be tempting to indulge in Netflix, comfort food or that soft bed with pillows in six levels of firmness. But one of the best ways to ward off jetlag and adjust your sleep pattern, or recover from 8 hours in sitting in car, is exercise. If you talk with those who travel often, especially internationally, the first thing they do is take a run or walk around the city, head to the hotel gym for cardio or a swim, or do a simple workout routine right in their hotel room. There are tons of apps that can help you find great running or hiking routes in different locales, and many hotels offer running maps for their guests – just ask!
Look to the locals. In many European towns and cities, the locals take river swims to get some exercise and cool off during hot summer evenings. Bike rentals are a fantastic option, too, and a great way to explore. If you visit somewhere for a week or more, look for a Meetup or similar group that fits with your favorite activities.
Routine is one of the most important aspects of regular exercise. So it can be difficult to decide you’re going to start running on a January trip to Boston, for example, when you usually do a HITT workout in your hometown gym or attend a Pilates class. Peleton and many other companies offer apps for around $20 a month that go way beyond just a stationary bike, and allow you to take your regular workout anywhere, and adjust it to your surroundings and circumstances.
Even if you are traveling with kids, a quick trip to a local park can give everyone some much-needed exercise. Some parks offer dedicated exercise stations, but you can always work in lunges, pushups, pull-ups, skipping, hopping and jogging to keep things light, fun and active.
Resistance bands are easy to pack in your suitcase, and lightweight. Bodyweight exercises can be enormously effective, but if you prefer to use light weights, get creative. You probably don’t want to pack those, so improvise with reusable water bottles, books or even canned goods if you are staying in a home or Airbnb. A jump rope can be a great travel option of you have limited space to exercise. If you have a membership with a large gym, some offer access to other locations. Even if you don’t have a membership, many gyms or smaller studios will offer a day or week pass for free or a special introductory rate. It’s always worth asking!
One key to making all of these options a reality is preparing with the right clothing and footwear. Comfortable shoes should always be part of your travel basics, along with a T-shirt, pullover or tank, and leggings, joggers or shorts. Many quick-dry technical fabrics offer odor protection, and you can always wash them in the sink or use the hotel laundry for longer trips. If you’re a swimmer, take your goggles and suit along in case the hotel offers a pool. If you travel often, especially for business, look for hotels that offer your preferred workout options, and join their loyalty club.
Lastly, always be aware of your safety and surroundings. If you visit a new city, ask the front desk of the hotel or your host if it’s safe to run or walk alone. Be mindful of air quality, temperature, uneven sidewalks and unfamiliar traffic patterns and pedestrian awareness, and if it doesn’t feel right to exercise outside, choose one of your indoor options. Armed with a just a bit of pre-trip planning and the feeling you’ll get after a great workout, pretty soon you’ll be a pro at taking your exercise plan on the road!