By Jay Williams, Ph.D.
A little commitment and planning can go a long way toward helping you stay in shape when you travel. I like to use the E.S.C.A.P.E. route when calculating how I will best stick to my daily fitness routine when on a trip.
Easy: Nobody wants to add more stress to traveling.
Scalable: Scale to your energy levels.
Convenient: No one wants to travel extra miles to find a workout option.
Adaptable: Hotel gyms can be limited, so have a plan B as a backup.
Portable: Pack travel-friendly workout accessories.
Effective: Plan workouts that are time and energy efficient but get the job done.
Research Your Options: Contact the hotel and ask about on-site or nearby fitness facilities. If none are available, bring your own portable gym. Make sure to inquire about safe walking and running trails.
Mandatory Packables: Your swimsuit, jump rope, heart rate monitor and resistance tubing or band should be packed and accessible. Prepackaged kits that come with exercises are also good options; try Fit Kit or AquaBell Travel Weights. The latter is an innovative set of dumbbells that fits into your briefcase or carry-on. Just fill them with water at your destination, and they can provide up to 16 pounds of resistance per dumbbell.
Get More Mileage
Move It: Wear your walking or running shoes and workout clothes when you travel, so you can jog or take a brisk walk in the airport or train station. Incorporating some movement into the travel day will prevent aches and pains and help to lower your risk of blood clotting, not to mention bloating.
Arrive In One Piece
Economy-airplane seat width is usually 17 or 18 inches, with mere centimeters in front of your knees. If you are anticipating walking off the plane with stiff hips, knees and back, the following techniques are must-dos in the airport or on the plane.
Backache Relief: To relieve pressure on your back, keep your knees higher than your hips. This can be accomplished by placing your carry-on under your feet and will help relieve pressure and strain -- especially in the sciatic nerve area.
Knees, Calves, Ankles: Lift your heels up so that only the balls of your feet are on the floor, then reverse the movement and lift your toes with the heels on the floor. Continue in a back-and-forth pattern. You can also “spell the alphabet” with your feet (this doubles as a distraction to pass the long flight time).
Core Strengtheners: Sit up as tall as you can, and lift one foot three to six inches off the floor. Hold for five to 10 seconds, or longer. Repeat with the other foot for a total of 15 repetitions.
Triceps And Shoulders: Place your hands on your armrests and push up, lifting your rear end off the seat. Hover over your seat for up to 20 seconds before coming back down. Breathe normally, but hold your abdominal muscles in to work your core.
Modified Down Dog: Place your fingertips on any available wall at hip height. (If you get strange glances, make it look like you’re waiting to use the bathroom.) Walk your feet back and bend from your hips until your legs and torso form a 90-degree angle with the floor, ankles directly underneath your hips. This move is optimal for stretching your chest, shoulders, back and hamstrings while relieving lower back pain. On a related note, CNN Airplane Yoga offers a complete program for yoga aficionados who have no problem with doing yoga in public while curious strangers look on.
Survival (Upon Arrival) Of The Fittest
Hit The Ground Running: Even though we experience some stress and fatigue with travel, studies have shown that exercise performance can remain the same even after crossing several time zones. Thirty minutes of exercise when you arrive will buffer the effects of travel stress. Bonus: A power walk will help you familiarize yourself with your surrounding area (take along a resistance band, too!).
Stay On Your Home Clock: If you're accustomed to early morning, noon or evening workouts, try to exercise at the same time when you travel.
Make New Friends: Check ahead to see if there’s a local run club and tag along. If you're in NYC, contact The Running Center for visitors' running classes.
Hotel Room Gym: Use the toys you packed for an in-room “gym” session. (Option: Use online fitness/yoga classes or fitness apps to guide you through your workout.)
Halls And Stairs For Cardio: My favorite buns workout is climbing up hotel stairs and doing wide-leg squats in the elevator going down. (Repeat as needed.)
Swim Laps: No hotel pool? Use the local Y.