Ah, life on the road. By the time this article goes up, I’ll be on an airplane headed to Vegas for SHOT Show and waiving goodbye to my hard-earned gains as I zoom across the sky with a Cinnabon and two nips of vodka in hand.
Finding a way to workout while you’re traveling can be tough. With uncertain levels of equipment at your disposal and no room in your luggage for free weights, it’s a near certainty that your normal regimen won’t cut it. The thing is – that can be a good thing. If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself falling into some workout habits. They’re not necessarily BAD ones, they’re things like doing shoulders on Monday or always starting chest workouts on the flat bench – but when it comes to fitness, you tend to get the best results from keeping your body guessing. We’re exceptionally good at adapting to the challenges we face regularly, so as functional athletes, we need to stay one step ahead of that process.
And a week on the road can serve as your opportunity to switch your game up entirely.
While lots of people head to Las Vegas for SHOT Show and stay in hotels, we here at SOFREP will be living under one roof – sort of like the Jersey Shore, but with way more highly trained veterans and way less hair gel. Renting a whole house offers a lot of benefits – including privacy to work – but it also means there won’t be a gym on site like those enjoying the hotel life get to take advantage of. These types of circumstances leave the fitness-minded with a few options, and it’s best to pick which is best for you based on circumstances, over preference.
Option 1: Go find a gym
Let’s all be honest with each other here, most of the time that we’re traveling, it’s for work – and that means two things: you probably have a rental car, and you’re all by yourself in a new place. While some nights may be full of work trip (TAD/TDY) drinkups with coworkers, customers, or cohorts from afar, there will inevitably come a time where you’re back in your room, feeling a bit antsy about being holed up in there until morning, but not really the type to lounge in a hotel bar. When you find yourself in that position, hop in your sweet rented econobox and drive to the local gym.
Most gyms have a policy regarding out-of-town lifters – they may let you hit it once for free, but often they’ll charge you a few bucks for the chance to sling some weights around in new territory. You’ll also need to sign a liability waiver, but if you’ve got the time and access, this is as close as you’ll get to maintaining something approximating your existing regimen while on the road.
But what if you don’t have a rental car, don’t have the time to shmooze some kid at a counter for 15 minutes just to lay your hands on some weights, and still want to get your heart rate up? Well, then it’s time for option 2…
Option 2: Go off the reservation with your workout
I’m a lifter. Since my kid was born, I’ve managed to set aside time to go clang and bang my way through my home gym each day, but that’s only because I can keep a baby monitor handy while I do. Since she was born, cardio has become tougher and tougher to come by – the time, and the distance, are just too big a hurdle to overcome with a new baby relying on you – so, I’ve been getting soft. Spending a week outside of my comfort zone (I’m not good with crowds… or people in general) can be good for me, and so can spending a week outside of my fitness habits.
You don’t need equipment to tear yourself up, you just need the willingness to do so – and maybe be willing to look a little silly along the way. Find a sturdy floored room (might not be best to do this workout on the third floor of your grandmother’s rickety old house) and clear a five-foot by seven-foot space. That’s all you need to get started. Here’s a beginner’s guide to the traveler’s floor space workout:
- Push ups. A tried and true classic, push ups are great ways to activate large muscle groups in your upper body, and will tire you out faster than you may realize. Interchange elevated surfaces beneath your feet, hands, or individual limbs to approach those muscle groups in creative, and painful, ways.
- Air squats. These seem simple enough, but once you get above 50 or so, they start to seem more like “invisible weight on my shoulders” squats.
- Crunches. Without something to slide your toes under, it’ll be hard to do sit ups, but you can do crunches anywhere.
- The Pilates 100. Similar to crunches, this exercise sees you holding your body in a V-shape, like the up position for crunches, with your legs off the floor at a steeper angle than your torso. Extend your hands toward your butt, palms down, and move them up and down slightly like you’re paddling water. Count to 100 and then just be grateful that you’re done. You can see it demonstrated here.
- Planks. Engaging your core is an important part of any workout, no matter where you are, and planks are a great way to do it. Get into the push up position, then lower yourself down onto your elbows, then just hang out for a while with your ab muscles clinched. For varsity level plankers, try interchanging lifting your opposite limbs (left hand, right foot, then switch).
- Hand Stand Push Ups. If there’s a wall handy (and in all indoor spaces, there tends to be) start in the push up position with your feet touching the wall, and then walk your hands backward and feet upward onto the wall. Once stable and steady, start doing push ups with your feet above your head (still on the wall). You don’t need to be vertical to give your shoulders, chest, and triceps a thrashing.
- Burpees. Oh burpees. Nobody likes them. If jogging is like fitness waterboarding, burpees are the equivalent of what happens when interrogators take out the pliers.
Of course, remember that there’s also the option to go do something geography specific, time permitting. Go for a hike, rent a bicycle, and if you’re in Colorado, I can hook you up with a guy that always needs help wrangling alligators.
Those lifts aren’t nearly all you can do in that space, but I assure you, running through that list alone will leave you ready for the showers. Remember that if you’re a weight lifter, you’ll likely need to use higher reps in every one of these exercises than you’re accustomed to – but then, that’s part of the benefit. Changing up your workout patterns once in a while is a great way to keep yourself rounded.
Of course, some trips don’t leave much time for working out at all – and if that’s the case, remember the number one rule of staying fit while traveling: avoid the food court… (Not me though, some people go to Vegas for strip clubs or casinos, but I’m all about the buffet).
So if you’re headed to SHOT, make sure to introduce yourself if you see me – I’ll probably be the guy doing push-ups in the media room, shouldn’t be hard to find.
Images courtesy of the author