Stay active when you travel

Photo of a person doing a sit up with "Workout while you travel" text

Whether you arrive by bike, bus, car, or airplane, traveling is almost always a disruption to our normal schedule. It can be for fun reasons to see family, friends, to vacation, or for work and other obligations, but no matter the reason, being able to stay active and keep up with exercise can be hard when you are traveling. However, it is important to remember the mantra that when it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing, so get in any exercise you can, even if it’s five minutes. Here are a few tips to help stay active with travel.

Use anything and everything as equipment

Exercise doesn’t just take place in a gym, for example, so use this as a chance to explore a new place by walking around. If you’re looking for a more focused workout, use publicly accessible options like stairs, parks, publicly available school fields and playgrounds, benches, and parking lots. In the event of less than traditional equipment (and to maximize your enjoyment when traveling or a busy schedule) aim for higher intensity, shorter duration exercises to get the most bang for your buck, or even work out in short intervals. Quickly jogging or running up a flight of stairs, or a few, do hill repeats, use the lines of a school field, or lines of a parking lot to get in some cardio. Use the playground, benches, and your own body weight to get in resistance. Use your hotel floor space for some flexibility. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but finding time to exercise can help to deal with the stress of travel and maintain some of your normal routines.

When using public spaces, make sure spaces are legally accessible and safe. Make sure that school zones are accessible to the public and that parking lots are free of cars.

Try local

Depending on your stay, many hotels will have access to a hotel fitness center, some larger and better than others, but as we discussed above, you don’t really need a lot. With greater use of rentals like Airbnb, gyms might be harder to come by. Many chain and local gyms offer a couple of days to a week trial pass, or smaller studios may offer a free class or two. Some chains may even allow you to use their gyms in different locations as a part of your membership. It might take a little research ahead of time to find a gym or studio close to your stay or to see if you can take advantage of a free pass or reduced day rate while in town. If you’re visiting family and friends who have a local gym, investigate temporary guest passes, which can often be minimal to free for a short duration. Keep in mind, you don’t have to go to a chain gym, as many towns and cities will have recreation centers along with college or university campuses, or you can even consider a local school gym that may have public hours. Take time to do a little more planning, look into local options like scenic walks or runs. Some people will plan their trip around a marathon, but investigate local events to see if a 5k or 10k is going on while you’re in town. It can be a great way to tour the area, be active, and have some fun.

Pack right

Packing is important for the weather conditions and plans you have while traveling, but it’s also important to motivate you and make sure you exercise. Always consider a pair of athletic shoes and comfortable clothing. Depending on your length of travel and plans, if you know you won’t have access to much, consider packing some exercise equipment yourself. An exercise band is lightweight and easy to throw in among your other items. We also don’t get far from home without our phones these days, so consider downloading fitness apps or videos that you can do while your travel. Find a favorite video to repeat or choose a new class or workout every time. Consider other small items like headphones and a water bottle that make a workout enjoyable, or even a swimsuit for the hotel or local pool. Maybe you don’t swim at home, but that’s because you don’t really have regular access to a pool. With a hotel stay this could be the time to take advantage of something fun and different.

Here’s a workout to try!

  • Using a flight of stairs

    • Walk, jog or run (your preferred intensity) up the flight of stairs. Depending on the length and number of steps, consider a large staircase to be around 15-20+ steps, and a shorter staircase to be about 8-12 steps. If using a large staircase, consider running up 3-5 times, and if using a shorter staircase consider more flights or repeating 8-10 times. Be careful on the walk back down, and use this time as active recovery to catch your breath and be ready to go for the next trip up. Avoid tripping and other people using the stairs.
  • Add in some strength exercises

    • Pick about 8-10 movements do for 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
      • Squats – do traditional squats, or take it up a notch by jumping up one step height on the stairs, squat, and repeat.
      • Calf raises – use a flat surface for calf raises, or take it up a notch by using the step and dropping the heels off the step for a bigger range of motion. Feel free to use the handrail for support.
      • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift – stand on one foot, slight bend in the knee, hinge at the hip to lean forward while leg comes out behind you. Slowly lower till fingertips touch the first step, and slowly control your movements as you come back to a full stand. After 15 seconds, switch sides.
      • Bridge – Laying on the ground, or putting your feet up on the first step for increased intensity, dig in at the heels, squeeze the glutes and hamstrings to draw the hips in the air, and slowly lower.
      • High knees – using the first step of the stairs, tap toes onto the step in an alternating pattern.
      • Elevated plank – placing toes or feet on the step – likely the first, second, or third step depending on height – walk your hands out to a plank position. Hold the plank, and to add upper body strength alternatives, add in shoulder taps.
      • Inclined Push-ups – using the rail of the staircase, or the first step, to place your hands in a push-up position. Slowly walk your feet out at an angle to complete push-ups as you would do on the ground.
      • Triceps Dips – using the rail or a step, place your palms on the edge and feet on a step one or two lower. Flex at the elbow to lower your body weight toward the ground, then extend back up to a straight elbow.
      • Ab holds – sitting on a step, place your hands on both sides, palms down, on the edge of the step. Fully extend your arms to lift your hips and weight off the ground.  Hold the legs up by bracing at the core and hold.

Kimberly Burke is a lecturer in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and the director of their Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University.  Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see the Adult Fitness Program website.