Is Travel Killing Your Workout Goals and Motivation? - ITS Tactical
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Is Travel Killing Your Workout Goals and Motivation?

By Nick H.

Heritage Hotel Fitness Center

One thing that unites us as Americans is our work ethic and our accepting the busy lifestyle that often accompanies success. The result is often long hours traveling, multiple days on the road, staying in hotels and eating restaurant food. This is a major contributing factor to the business professional slowly gaining weight from year after year of inconsistency in their workout routine. Personally, I’ve spent many years traveling for much of the year, so I know what a drastic impact positive decision making can have on a lifestyle and how devastating a lack of routine can be to a physique.


Make a plan and stick to it. The only way to ensure that a work trip isn’t going to prevent you from maintaining your weight and fitness level is to dedicate a time of day that is yours and yours alone for your workout. This can take many forms for different people with different work hours and obligations but in principal it’s the same for everyone. If you’ll be working from 8 to 5, then you can plan on waking up an hour early to get in a good sweat. No one can take away your mornings except the alcohol from the night before.

Many motivated people, myself included, have fallen victim to whiskey telling them to hit the snooze button. If your plan is to workout in the morning, then create a positive context that will support your plan. Don’t go out drinking, or leave the bar early and drink water between every alcoholic drink to prevent dehydration. If there’s a social aspect to your trip that involves having a lot of fun in the evenings, then I would recommend enjoying yourself and not worrying about waking up early. Rather you should probably get your workout in between the conference and the social gathering. There’s usually a couple of hours that people use to return to their room, make phone calls and shower up. This time is ideal for working out on the go.


Hopefully we can agree that there’s always time in the day to make your own, but still one question remains. Where do I work out? Is there a hotel gym? Maybe. Does it suck? Probably.

Using a Hotel as a Gym

One of my biggest pet peeves is the hotel gym. The equipment is usually ridiculous and the weights are too few and too low. This doesn’t mean that it’s unusable however. One motivating factor to remind yourself when faced with the hotel gym debacle is that something is always better then nothing. Also, you can easily adjust your routine to fit the equipment available. If it’s leg day, then grab the heaviest dumbbells available and begin walking lunges. It won’t take as much as you may think. If you’re wanting to do a circuit then use a dumbbell as a kettle bell for kettle bell swings, transition to pull ups, then mountain climbers for heart rate and finish with push-ups. My point with that example is merely to demonstrate that it doesn’t take much equipment to get in a good workout.

Travel Workout

Unconventional Mindset

If you spend a lot of time on the road then you won’t be able to sacrifice cardio. Time is a hot commodity when traveling so long runs may not be a reality. One trick that I highly recommend is to utilize the hotel stairway. Running stairs is an awesome workout. Your heart rate goes anaerobic quickly which maximizes your time like nothing else. Even if the hotel only has a couple floors, you can still use this technique. I did a 12 week transformation routine last summer that had me walking up the stairs in my home for 20 minutes every morning. Not only was it better than coffee for waking up, I also saw great results.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received for working out on the go is to use your room and everything in it. This does require a bit of imagination, but the truth is that we’re always surrounded by potential workout equipment. You just have to adjust your personal lens and think outside the proverbial box. There are a few things that EVERY hotel room in the developed world will have, you just have to know how to use them.

Chair – Your room will have a chair. Use it for something other then preparing your Power Point presentation or relaxing at the end of the day. Chair dips are a fantastic way to work your triceps and mix up an in room circuit. If you slide it close to your bed then you can elevate your feet onto the bed to up the intensity.

Bed – Surprised? Don’t be. It’s pretty heavy and lifting it will not disappoint. I’ve heard this move coined as the “Romanian Bed Lift.” Get close to the foot of your bed, bend over and lift the bed until you are standing erect. As with any dead lift, be sure to keep your back straight and lift with your legs. One inventive way to up the weight is to put your luggage close to the foot of the bed so that it’s directly above the portion of the bed that’s being lifted completely off the ground.

Travel Workout

Your Luggage – Adding weight to your bed for the Romanian Bed Lift is only one use of your luggage. Another thing that I like to do is to hold my luggage over my head while doing squats. Adding the extra weight is great because your legs will fatigue faster. Also, having an object, especially a cumbersome one, above your head will force you to engage your core for stabilization.

Travel Workout

The Daily Burn of P90 Insanity – There are so many resources out there for video workouts. Personally, I don’t think the living room workout is a fun way to spend an hour a day, but it’s easy to see the practical application in the traveling scenario. Keeping a few of these types of workouts on a computer hard drive is a great way to ensure that you’re self sufficient and able to workout anywhere anytime.

One of my favorite video workouts, hold your laughter, is the P90X Yoga routine. Before you start posting jokes about yoga, hear me out. There’s nothing better for flexibility and injury prevention than yoga. After a long day of sitting down on airplanes, cab rides and eating travel food, getting in a good stretch and some static holds feels fantastic. If you don’t have access to these video files but have Wi-Fi in your room, use Hulu to access “Daily Burn” workouts to get you through the trip.

Take a Walk – Don’t underestimate the benefits of a long walk. It’s a great way to keep your body burning calories throughout the day as well as de-stressing from the daily grind. If you’re at an expo or conference, try walking from the hotel instead of using a vehicle. If you happen to be in a place with nice scenery or a park, walk the grounds after your dinner to clear your head and aid in digestion.

Travel Workout

Another one of my favorite travel tips is to take advantage of a long layover. Instead of spending the whole time in the nearest sports bar, spend it walking the terminal. Sometimes I’ll walk for hours on my layover. Instead of using the escalator, use the stairs. Instead of using a small piece of luggage with wheels as your carry on, put it in a backpack to add weight. There’s always plenty to look at and it makes time go by much faster than sitting in one spot. Just be sure to bring headphones so that you don’t have to listen to all the credit card kiosk people offering the “deal of a lifetime.”

Lightweight Travel Equipment – This is one thing that you can do to enhance your workout experience that requires very little effort. A jump rope is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to pack. It makes for a good way to ensure an elevated heart rate without needing anything else. One trick that I’ve used before is to bring a canvas stuff sack. If you’re traveling with a back pack, fill the sack with sand or rocks and place them in the backpack to effectively turn any walk into a ruck march. Another way to do this is by using a few water hydration bladders. Water is heavy, the bladders fold up to practically nothing and they can even be filled with water from the room. This is obviously easier than locating sand.

Travel Workout

Adapt and Overcome

If you’re going to get serious about maintaining a strong level of fitness while on the road, then you need to have a plan and stick with it whenever possible. If you go into it without one, you’ll fail in the long run. It’s impossible however, to be prepared for everything. A plan is merely a starting point. Be ready to make changes when necessary. Schedules change, accidents happen and the future is uncertain. What should never waiver is your level of resolve. You’re not merely committed to a plan, but to the intent of the plan. Learn the methods listed above and you’ll be able roll with any punches the trip can throw at you. Be both active and reactive to ensure a healthy and happy future.

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Nick recently left the Navy after serving for 10 years as a Navy SEAL with multiple deployments, having been awarded the Bronze star for operations in austere environments. Nick’s been with us since the beginning here at ITS on our Advisory Board.

Title photo © Heritage Hotels and Resorts

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