Whether you’re traveling for business or traveling for vacation, you do not have to let your fitness goals suffer!
Here’s what needs to be done…
1 - Get enough movement
2 - Manage your food intake
3 - Drink enough water
4 - Watch the alcohol
5 - Get enough sleep
This is hard enough to do at home, so you are going to have to be on point to get this right while traveling.
It’s easy to think you are going to stay on top of your health when you are planning your trip. You think you are going to do a lot of amazing things when you are well rested, levelheaded, and ambitious. But let’s be real, if you were always well rested, levelheaded, and ambitious would you be reading a blog titled “Tips for Staying Fit While Traveling”?
If you can agree that you will most likely have some low will power moments while traveling, then read on. If you think your willpower and discipline is all you need to return just as fit and healthy as you were before you went, you're either wrong, or we need to study you.
So here is the plan…
Step 1 - You are going to make succeeding as simple and frictionless as possible to give yourself a fighting chance.
Step 2 - You are going to plan ahead.
Step 3 - You are going to share this plan with anyone you’re traveling with and get them on board. (This last one is a tough one sometimes. Make sure you pick a friend who is on the same page and isn’t going to try to sabotage you. It is perfectly fine to be the only one interested in staying fit, but having an accountability partner helps!)
Let’s get to it!
1 - Get Enough Movement
Option 1 - Strength Training
Strength training while traveling is awesome! Something about traveling always makes us want to look our best. Strength training gives us the opportunity to work on those specific body parts you want to show off….or hide…the most. In your usual routine you may always feel pressure to work on the muscle groups that you avoid because you know you shouldn’t only work on your favorite muscles every time. You’re right… but a travel workout is different. While traveling the most important thing is that you do SOMETHING, so if chest and biceps gets you out of bed in the morning with excitement then chest and biceps it is! There is no shame in getting in a pump before hitting the beach, exploring with the locals, or preparing for a business meeting, if it makes you feel confident it is the right thing to do! Additionally, if muscle building is a goal of yours then you damn well know how long it takes and how consistent you need to be to make progress. Since your diet is already bound to be somewhat sub par strength training while traveling is a must if you plan to keep your gains! Go hit those weights!
Option 2 - Cardio
If breaking a sweat and celebrating how many calories you burned is your thing then think no more, let’s find you some cardio! Just like strength training it’s not important what you do, just that you do it, so let's pick the type of cardio that least makes you want to hide back under the covers and “save it for tomorrow”. Unless you’re swimming, or love hearing the waves crash while jogging on the beach, I find that headphones are a must! If you can look at cardio as a chance to multi-task and listen to something you’re looking forward to you will increase the likelihood of doing it. So pack your headphones and plan on what podcast, playlist, or audiobook you’ll be listening to while you break your sweat.
Option 3 - Hotel Room
Some of the best traveling exercises can be done in the privacy and safety of your own hotel room. Grab the jump rope you packed 😉, pop in your headphones or turn on your TV, and get ready to knock out a quick circuit before heading out for the day's adventures. I repeat…the best workout for you is the one that you actually do! So don’t overthink it.
Pick 1 of each:
Leg Exercise (Squats, Lunges, Glute Raises)
Upper Body Exercise (Push ups, Bench Dips, Suitcase Rows)
Core Exercise (Sit ups, Planks, Russian Twists)
Cardio Exercise (Jump Rope, Mountain Climbers, Burpees)
Do 1 minute of each movement (4 total minutes), then take 1 minute of rest. Repeat for 30 minutes. Have fun with it, play upbeat music, watch your favorite movie, or talk with your friend about that day's adventures to keep the mood positive! There are a ton of travel workout videos on YouTube to follow if that floats your boat, and you can take it one step further and pack your own TRX to suspend from the doorway!
Option 4 - Uh no!
If you wouldn’t be found working out at home, then I can understand you wouldn’t be caught dead working out while traveling. No worries, we can make it work! Luckily not all traveling exercises are what you would think. Here’s the deal… If you’re not going to work out while traveling, then you’ll have to come up with some compromises. Here are a few:
- Take the stairs
- Walk to your destination
- Walk on the beach
- Pack a tennis ball and play catch on the beach
- Go for a walking tour
- Book excursions that require more activity
- Swim in the ocean
- Build sand castles
- Use a city bike or scooter - better option than Uber
- Run from locals trying to sell you trinkets
2 - Manage your food intake
Admit it, you won’t be perfect with your diet, and that is OK! The first thing you can do is download my Traveling Cheat Sheet to get the food, beverage, and supplement options I recommend. Second thing to do is plan for poor will power, and terrible discipline. It is challenging enough to stay on the top of your game when you have your home routine. You can expect a 50% or more drop off on that when you travel. The best tool to combat this is reducing the frequency of eating. For me I know that my discipline vanishes as the day goes on so I hold off on eating until later in the day. Once my floodgates are open there is no closing them so you will rarely see me indulging in a morning meal while I travel. I stick to 2 meals per day personally and I would recommend that for you as well. This is a tricky prescription because there are so many variables. But reducing your opportunities to mess up is key. If you have the opportunity to hold off until after noon for meal number 1 you are doing great. If you have a full day excursion planned and you need to fill up on the breakfast buffet to hold you over, do yourself a favor and skip the fried stuff and heavy carbs like pancakes and waffles, you’ll need a nap by 12 if you don’t!
3 - Drink enough water
EVERY CHANCE YOU GET! Something about traveling and the food that is available will dehydrate you in the blink of an eye. Bring a reusable water bottle or 2 and fill up at every opportunity. Thank me later! This will help keep your stool consistent and your energy high.
4 - Watch the alcohol
Refer to the Traveling Cheat Sheet and stick to the better tiers. Tier 1 are my top recommendations. If your favorite drink didn’t make the list it’s probably quite unhealthy for you. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for indulging while you travel, but if the goal is to keep your fitness, be aware of your indulgences and keep them to the Minimum Effective Dose. M.E.D. is key!
5 - Get enough sleep
Traveling for business and traveling for leisure are two very different animals, but if you find yourself always coming home more tired than you left you are not alone. Our modern lifestyles have us filling every moment of every day. This overworked and overstressed schedule leads us to need a break every now and then. Any sort of traveling is a great opportunity to break out of that overworked routine and make a more relaxing schedule for yourself. It is up to you to prioritize your sleep in a way that works for you and your circumstances, but I urge you to remember what it feels like to come back from traveling more tired than when you left. Don’t learn that lesson again. Filling every single moment with an experience sounds like a great way to get the most out of the trip, but you will have to pay the price for that mindset afterward. Schedule your rest just like you schedule your activities.
Putting it all together!
1 - Download my Travel Fitness Plan Worksheet and fill out your plan.
2 - Remember that your discipline is a finite resource! Front load your day with the good stuff. Lots of exercise, activity, water, healthy food options should fill the early parts of the day. As the day goes on your quality of decision making will diminish. Make those good decisions early in the day! Not sold on that idea. Read “Discipline is Bullshit” and you’ll be thinking otherwise!
3 - The most important thing here is avoiding regret. If you indulge too much you will regret, it. Likewise, if you are a total stick in the mud and have no fun you may find yourself with even more regret! This is where the M.E.D. mindset is so important! You know what is and is not healthy for you. When partaking in the pleasure side of consumption, be aware, be in the moment and indulge to the level necessary to get the most out of the experience. Going beyond this point will lead to regret. Manage your portions and the frequency of unhealthy options and you will come back to normal life proud and feeling great! The best relationship with your health never leads to regret. Regret comes from over indulgence or under indulgence - Stick to the M.E.D.!