Training on the Run: How Can You Maintain Your Physique on the Road?
What’s the fastest way to derail someone’s progress?
Force them to travel.
Humans are largely creatures of habit. They have the innate ability to complete repetitive daily tasks without much conscious thought based upon their prior experiences. However, the fastest way to change habits is to change someone’s environment.
This can be beneficial if someone is trying to break a bad habit (like overeating or smoking) but on the other side of the equation, it can be detrimental if someone doesn’t understand how to adapt relative to environmental demands.
Hopefully this article will take some of the guesswork out of the equation and reduce the already high levels of stress which typically accompany travel.
OPTION 1: Experiment – Find a Gym on the Road
Pretty much every gym has a “trial membership” or day pass option which is relatively cheap. There have been times when I’m traveling and I’ll utilize 2-3 different gyms for the length of my stay due to the time frame on their trial memberships.
Simply call the gym and ask if they allow new members to check out the gym for a few days before deciding upon a membership.
OPTION 2: Be Loyal
Choose a gym which exists as a nationwide chain. For example, Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and 24 Hour Fitness all have multiple locations across the U.S. and allow users to train at nearly any time of the day (location dependent).
If you’re planning on being on the road for a couple weeks or months (due to business, vacation, or leisure), then consider one of the chains above depending upon which franchise has a location nearest to your travel destination.
If you get really, REALLY desperate, there’s always Planet Fitness. It’s only $1 to join and $10 bucks a month after that. Some gyms will charge you $15-20 for a simple day pass so if finances are tight, it might be your best option on the road.
I realize to many lifters this advice might be considered blasphemy but sometimes travel requires one to be adaptable. No, it might not be ideal in terms of equipment selection, music choices, or gym atmosphere. But, on the bright side, at least you still get to train.
OPTION 3: Bodyweight is Better Than No Weight
Sometimes travel throws off your schedule and you’re stuck with a late night or early morning check-in. If you’re short on time and can’t make it to a gym for a 60-90 minute workout, then you may want to consider working out in the comfort of your hotel room.
If you’re uncertain of your fitness accommodations on the road, plan and pack a few essentials – this may require a slightly larger suitcase or extra book bag but it’s always better to be prepared:
- Valslides (these are essentially glorified furniture sliders available in most gyms) – if you want a low-cost option, consider a towel or paper plate on a hardwood floor which will slide easily.
- Jump Rope – As we age, most folks don’t jump, hop, bound, or sprint but these are some of the most fundamental aspects of human movement. Most strength training requires high tension and low speed within movement but the jump rope adds an element of velocity while training tendon elasticity with increased cardiac load. However, I wouldn’t recommend trying this inside your hotel room.
- Suspension Trainer (i.e. TRX) – The TRX is probably one of the most versatile pieces of travel equipment available. Find a sturdy door, ensure it’s firmly anchored, and get to work.
- Mini Foam Roller/Lacrosse Ball – Sometimes you sleep wrong and your neck
- Beast Protein Powder – As long as it’s not in a Ziploc bag in your carry-on luggage, TSA probably won’t think it’s anything suspicious.
If you want to go the old school route, you could consider an equipment free routine which might look something like this:
A1. Split Squat/Reverse Lunge – x6/Leg
A2. Desk Chair/Ab Wheel Rollout – x8
B1. Pushup (Add a decline if desired) – x10
B2. Desk Chair Leg Curl – x10
C1. Single Arm Luggage Row – x8
C2. Reverse Crunch – x8
*Repeat for 3-4 rounds depending upon your training experience and time constraints.*
OPTION 4: Chill Out
When I have clients go on vacation, I typically give them a few options (just like I have in this article). However, if I have been working with an individual for a few months and they exhibit the classic signs of being a type-A, spreadsheet wielding, overly sympathetic, dopamine driven individual, then I may use travel/vacation as a tool to drive more parasympathetic activity.
You see, over time stress (aka resistance training) has a way of driving your nervous system into a more sympathetic state. This is commonly referred as the “fight or flight” mechanism within layman terminology. Stress isn’t bad in the short-term as it is needed to drive adaptation internally and externally.
However, when the stress response is maintained in the long run, humans start to run into issues. The body was designed to function in a state of physiological balance – there is a need for times of sympathetic dominance but we must be able to shift to a state of “rest and digest” (parasympathetic dominance). Some may refer to this concept as “nervous system plasticity” – i.e. the ability to exhibit flexibility in one’s physiological state relative to the stress of their environment.
So, getting back to my original point, if someone exhibits signs of too much sympathetic activity (changes in sleep quality/quantity, mood alterations, gastrointestinal dysfunction, high incidences of joint/tendon problems, etc.) then I will typically recommend that someone completely drop their training load for 5-7 days.
To most this sounds rather counterintuitive and is typically met with quite a bit of pushback. Usually the conversation goes something like this:
(Before they leave)
Client: “Why would I stop training? I’m going to lose muscle and get fat if I’m not in the gym.”
Me: “We’ve been training hard for a few months – trust the process and take a step back.”
(After they return)
Client: “WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?! I lost 3 lbs, my sleep is great, and my abs got leaner seemingly overnight.”
Me: “Sometimes less is more. Glad you enjoyed your vacation!’
So, what exactly did I do? It’s not rocket science – train someone and induce fatigue, give them time off to rest and recuperate while allowing fatigue to dissipate. That is essentially the concept of supercompensation in a nutshell. #science
If you do choose option #5, here’s a few guidelines I typically recommend to folks before they leave just to make sure things don’t get too crazy while they’re away:
- Stay active and try to get 7,000+ steps daily
- Sleep as much as possible (8 hrs or more is ideal) and aim to be in bed before 11 pm every night
- Eat for health and performance, not simply for taste. Taste is still very important when it comes to sustainability but it cannot be the primary focus if one has specific goals in mind
- Before you leave, read this article, it will be immensely helpful in understanding how to eat on the road: https://www.beastsports.com/blog/2018/08/07/eat-healthy-road/
So, there you have it. The options are before you, now the choice is yours.
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