I like looking at training problems from angles most people don’t think of – until they come up, of course. Take your typical travel workout, for example.
The usual articles focus on killer bodyweight workouts in idyllic settings. But how often do you have a perfect gym while you travel? How often are you actually motivated to do any exercise? And how often do any of those travel workouts resemble what you do at home? Hardly ever, in my experience.
I find that there are two main roadblocks to travel workouts: equipment and motivation. Let’s talk about jumping over these hurdles, and then I’ll tell you how to create your own perfect travel workout.
Most travel workouts feed fears that if you don’t train while you’re away, you’ll lose all your gainz.
But I prefer to look at it from a more positive spin: If I work out while I travel, it will be much easier to bounce back when I get home. I found this out firsthand when I took two back-to-back trips over the holidays.
Training to Bounce Back
Normally, if I’m traveling for a week or less, I couldn’t care less about missing lifting sessions. I see it as a chance to let my body recover, because I rarely miss a session at home. But two weeks is a long time to do nothing. Once you get into the 2-3 week range, it could take several weeks to bounce back.
When you come back to lifting after a layoff, you have to back up a few steps. If you don’t lower the weight and decrease the volume upon returning, it’s very easy to find yourself with a pulled muscle or worse. This has happened to me on a number of occasions (see my tips for avoiding this below).
I’ll add that sometimes you have to force yourself to train when you travel. You do it even though it feels like shit at first, and then it’s easier once you get started.
Put on your clothes and shoes, pull out your resistance band or whatever meager equipment you have, and just do it. (Never was there a more apt marketing slogan.)
Recently, I stayed at a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that had a full gym and even a personal trainer. I was in pure nirvana.
But this isn’t going to happen every time you travel. In fact, it varies wildly from hotel to hotel.
The solution is to make equipment a secondary concern. Instead of focusing on what equipment you might have (it’s often unknown), focus on your goals. Do you want to maintain your strength or cardiovascular endurance? Make it easier to return to the gym when you get back? Stay regular? (A valid goal if there ever was one.) Once you know your exact goal, you’ve got everything you need.
Creating A Successful Travel Workout
Traveling isn’t the best time to start a whole new style of training. Improvise on what you normally do with quick workouts that deliver a nice burn.
It also helps enormously to plan what you’ll do ahead of time. Write it down or put it in your phone before you leave (you’ll thank me). Just remember your goals.
Full Body Works Best
A full-body workout is perfect for traveling because you get a lot of bang for your buck. A 30-60 minute workout that trains your whole body might even feel more challenging to you than your usual training split.
During the two weeks I was Texas and Mexico, I did three full-body workouts. I was pleased with this and felt it helped me come back strong when I got home. (I didn’t train at all the first week and it didn’t affect my strength.)
I normally do upper/lower body workouts, so I enjoyed the noticeable challenge of full-body workouts. I ended up doing more volume than I’d do at home, because I trained each muscle three times instead of twice.
How to Create Your Own Full-body Travel Workout
There are certain things that will give you more bang for your buck in a travel workout. You may not think of it once you get there, so plan ahead.
- Supersets. Doing two exercises back-to-back lets you save time, burn more calories, and get stronger. To increase the calorie burn, rest as little as possible between exercises.
- Hamstrings/glutes and quads (hamstring curl and reverse lunge)
- Chest and back (chest press and bent-over row)
- Anterior and posterior shoulders (overhead press and rear delt raise)
- Chest and shoulders (push-ups and lateral raise)
- Calves and abs (standing calf raise and plank)
- Biceps and triceps (cross-body curl and overhead extension)
You can do any of these exercises with either a band or dumbbells. Or if you don’t have any equipment, do push-ups, pull-ups, planks, and bodyweight lunges, squats, and hip thrusts.
- Low-risk exercises. You don’t want to strain your low back or pull a groin muscle on vacation. Risky exercises for your low back include deadlifts, good mornings, and even barbell squats. Bent-over rows can tweak your back too. If it feels iffy, don’t do it. If you feel strong and like your normal self, go for it. You might want to avoid upright rows, too, or any other shoulder exercise that might get wonky. Keep your form pristine and don’t rush.
- Back-healthy exercises. Do face pulls, cobras, scapular retraction, and any other exercise to strengthen your upper back. Bunching up in planes and over pina coladas can tighten you up good.
- Core activation exercises. Get more bang for your buck by doing exercises that engage your core big time. Unilateral, full-body, or standing exercises will do the trick. Think squat to presses, lunges, single-leg planks, or military presses.
- Unilateral exercises. It’s always smart to do exercises one leg or arm at a time to improve your balance and stability. But unilateral exercises are especially useful if you don’t have access to heavier dumbbells. Do lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and single-arm presses and rows.
Don’t forget to warm up thoroughly, either on a cardio machine or with dynamic warm-up exercises like this one.
Two Ready-Made Workouts
Here are two workouts I created that can work while traveling:
- If you’ll be traveling with a band or tubing only, check out my full-body resistance band workout.
- If you’re a beginner who won’t have any equipment, see my full-body bodyweight workout.
I bet you hadn’t thought of some of these tips, had you? Now go enjoy yourself and come home feeling strong.
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.