Do you regularly find yourself thousands of feet above the ground at any given time? Regular travel can make it difficult to find time for fitness … unless you know a guy. I’m that guy: here’s how to stay active—in a tiny hotel room or in a sardine can otherwise known as an airplane.
When I used to work in a gym, the two main barriers clients cited for not being regular exercisers: time and money. In response, I created a do-anywhere full-body workout that doesn’t require equipment. It can be done in a gym, a park, heck, even your hotel room will do!
Before we travel any farther, I want to challenge personal trainer zeitgeist and say that “not having enough time” is a perfectly legitimate reason not to exercise during occasional lapses in an otherwise active routine. Fitness is a purposeful action, and detoxifying your lifestyle is no small task when you’re busy travelling.
But you have to create time for you, because no one else will. This means finding 15 minutes in your hotel room after getting back from the conference and before you shower for the dinner meeting. Just remember: like Jell-O, there’s always room for fitness!
Leave no muscle untouched
Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and let’s be honest, if I haven’t scared you off yet, you’ve already got what it takes!), is to perform three rounds of these five exercises, in order, for 30 seconds per exercise. You can crush this do-anywhere full-body workout … Every. Single. Day.
7 tips to stay fit while travelling
Drink plenty of water.
Walk or take the stairs instead of using expensive taxis and elevators/escalators.
Avoid the global fast food joints; eat at local mom-and-pop shops.
Always pack workout clothes (or be prepared to work out naked in your hotel room!).
If you’re going to be sitting for hours, on a flight or in a conference, for example, eat light—and healthy.
Do a quick stretch every morning when you wake up and every night before sleep.
Be versatile: if there’s a pool, swim; if there’s a treadmill, run; if there’s nothing, do this workout.
The Corn Dog is every bit as fun as it sounds. You’re basically a hotdog with no arms and legs to help you move, and so you have to roll yourself around using only your core muscles (although if at first you need to use your arms and legs a little bit, we won’t tell).
Lay face down on the ground with your arms and legs extended as far as possible, so that your body makes a straight line.
Raise your arms and legs off the ground and try not to let them touch throughout the entire exercise (though if you need to here and there, it’s okay), while keeping your face toward the floor.
Rock to your right by rotating your left shoulder and hip off the ground (allow for a slight left leg kick, if necessary) and complete the roll onto your back.
Now that you’re on your back, continue to keep your arms and legs off the ground by using a slight crunch motion with your core, and roll back to starting position, rotating your left shoulder and glute across your body, again allowing for a slight scissor motion with your left leg.
Complete the same motion on the other side, using the opposite limbs.
You know that one exercise in a workout that appears to be a “rest”? But once you get into it, you imagine the thigh and shoulder burn eliminating all visions of recovery? This is it! It may not be pleasant, but it’s the most effective exercise around for fighting “office worker disease” (sloped shoulders and a tight lower back).
Find your favourite wall (if you don’t have one, a tree, sign, or light post will do).
Stand with your back to the wall and slide down the wall until 90-degree angles are made at your hips and knees, as though you were sitting in a chair.
At the same time, orient your arms so they’re also touching the wall: elbows in line with shoulders, 90-degree bend, backs of your hands touching the walls (palms forward).
Slowly slide your hands up the wall, attempting to touch them as high as possible overhead, but stopping before either your elbows or hands lift away from the wall; when you feel they’re about to lift (or do lift), slide down to starting position on the wall.
Continue this motion, with your head, back, backs of your elbows, and backs of your hands maintaining contact with the wall at all times.
I don’t mind playing favourites: this is the most fun exercise of the bunch and it’ll have you believing you have a future in breakdancing. (You probably don’t, but it is fun!)
Begin on your hands and toes, as if you are about to do a push-up, and then walk your feet in toward your hands, about 3 or 4 in (7.5 to 10 cm), allowing your knees to bend and bump to raise into the air.
Lift your left foot slightly and twist your hips, opening them to your right.
As you pass your left leg underneath your body, working to get it to full extension, allow your weight to go into your right heel, and continue to pivot your hips all the way open to the right side.
As you begin to pivot your hips closed, back to the left, tuck your left leg back underneath you, returning it to starting position.
Complete the same movements to other side, focusing on your right leg.
Increase the intensity: go as fast as possible and add a little hop-step to the transition.
The Step-Up Push-Up will get your heart beating in a hurry. It incorporates a lunge, push-up, and mountain climber, targeting your lower body, the front side of your upper body, and your abs!
Begin in a standing position. As you bring your hands to the floor in front of you, at shoulder-width, step your right leg back as far as it can go.
While stepping your left leg back to match, lower your upper body toward the floor. At this time you can allow your knees to rest on the ground to assist with the push-up, if you wish.
As you push your body away from the floor, step your right leg forward as far as you can and stand up, bringing your left knee toward your chest.
Complete the same sequence, but this time with your left leg stepping back first, thus alternating sides for the entire 30 seconds.
On one hand, you don’t want to be that person who insists on doing lunges (Ministry of Silly Walks-style) down the aisle. On the other hand, long flights can be pretty uncomfortable, and humans aren’t made to sit without moving for hours on end.
The answer? Exercises akin to Pilates, where we focus on isometric contractions—activating the muscle without lengthening or shortening it.
Here are a few of the more discreet exercises you can do to get your blood flowing while you’re flying. Do these once every half hour (or as desired): 10 repetitions, 10 seconds at a time, squeezing as tightly as possible.
Exactly how it sounds. Squeeze those cheeks as tightly as possible while relaxing all other muscles.
Low shoulder-blade squeezes
This will fight rounded shoulder posture. Pull your chin back to your neck, push your shoulders down, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
This will get blood flowing to your upper legs and stretch the backs of them. Simply put your feet under the chair in front, point your toes up, and push up by straightening your legs.
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, specializes in functional movement and athletic training in Vancouver, where he strives to bring healthy lifestyle choices to every household.