Convenient ways to exercise on the road
Travel can really throw a monkey wrench in our workout schedules for those who like to exercise on a regular basis. It usually takes me a little while to get back to baseline after being away for a couple of weeks.
There are a few things that I do while on vacation to attempt to stay in reasonable shape while I’m off my usual routine. For a little background, the exercises I do at home consists of two general categories: I go trail running once or twice a week and I lift weights at home. The trail running not only gives me a top notch cardiovascular workout, but it also is great for my legs and core since unlike regular road running, I’m constantly going either up or down the side of a mountain. Since my lower body is adequately taken care of with the running, the weights are focused on my upper body.
So I do exercise regularly, but I’m not one of those roided out gym bro-dogs with swollen arms. I also do not run competitively, do anything even remotely close to marathon distances, or participate in any fad workout programs. As much fun as flipping tires, peeing blood, and getting rhabdo sounds… hell no. My goal is to still be fit and mobile when I’m 80 years old; not to have completely busted joints by age 60. If you’re one of these intense workout individuals, you can stop reading right now, as I have nothing to offer you.
When I’m on my travels, I like to keep things simple. For general cardio, I walk around a whole lot — not hard to do when you’re in a brand new environment just asking to be explored. For my upper body strength training, I also keep it easy and straightforward and stick to one all-purpose excellent body weight exercise: the push up. Not only does the push up work your arms and chest, it’s also a much better core workout than most people give it credit for. If you’ve got decent arm and chest strength and you’re low in body fat, you can probably do a whole lot of regular pushups without too much difficulty. Here’s where some variations come in handy to make your workout much more challenging.
The great thing about this is that it can be done on any flat surface anywhere. You don’t need any special equipment. Just a little bit of space and a willingness to set aside a few minutes per day, and if the hotel floor is questionable, you can throw down a towel so your face isn’t all up in the dirtiness. There are three main types of pushups that I cycle through.
1) The regular pushup. Hopefully I do not need to describe this to you. You know how to do a pushup. The key to this is good form — a straight back and dropping all the way down to the ground — and doing enough repetitions until muscle failure. For someone just starting out, the standard pushup is likely the only variation you’ll need for a while. I can usually do between 40 and 50 of these before I collapse, so I like to throw in the following 2 variations to ramp up the difficulty:
2) The diamond pushup. Keep your hands next to each other and form a diamond shape with your thumbs and forefingers. Here’s an illustration if you’ve not ever seen these done. These are quite a bit harder than doing standard pushups and are a great exercise for your triceps. Once you have these down, then the next step is…
3) The one arm pushup. See: Rocky montage video (around the 50 second mark). Not only is this a beast of a chest & arm workout, it’s also great for your core due to the amount of balance involved. It took me a few months to learn how to do these properly, but now it’s one of my favorite body weight exercises. Here’s a nice tutorial that eases you into the process so you don’t seriously injure yourself attempting these.
And that’s pretty much it. I’ve kept my workout routine both at home and on the road simple for the last 10 years of my life, and it’s worked well for me, both in results and the ability to consistently stick to the program. If there’s anything you do during vacations to stay fit, please feel free to comment!
*Since I originally started writing this article, I injured my rotator cuff doing dumbbell presses, so I’ve been sticking to lots of pushups while my shoulder heals over the next several months. I honestly think the one arm pushup is a better workout than what I was doing on the bench.