Exercising while traveling has always been a challenge, but it can be even more difficult nowadays if you’re one of the many people opting for house shares instead of hotel stays. Foregoing hotels usually means no gym or pool access, and can make working out on the road less likely.
But it doesn’t have to be this way – if you can tap into your innovative side. I know: I was recently traveling in Nicaragua in an area where running alone was not advised, and I had no access to a fitness center. Only armed with a towel and a watch, I was forced to be creative. Here are some of the tips I took away:
Even if you’re confined to a room or location with no running trails, you can always train your cardiovascular system. Calisthenics like jumping jacks, burpees and mountain climbers are a great way to your raise your heart rate. Try completing three sets of 10 to 20 repeats of each exercise and you’ll have yourself a quality Tabata-style workout. Don’t feel like counting, or need more of a challenge? Set your alarm for timed intervals. Need to log miles? Laps around a parking lot or repeatedly climbing stairs can mimic a good run or hike.
No weights, no problem; bodyweight exercises are an excellent way to both tone and strengthen your body. My four favorite bodyweight exercises are pushups, lunges, squats and planks because they simultaneously work multiple muscle groups to give you more bang for your buck.
What’s even better about these exercises is that they can all be modified easily to make them more challenging, or to target additional muscles. If an exercise is too easy consider changing your base of support. A narrower stance or standing on one leg is much harder than using two legs. While in a plank, for example, raise one leg or arm off the ground. Need an even bigger challenge? Try raising your arm and leg at the same time, and alternate while keeping your form intact. If you need to increase the intensity of resistance exercise, you can simply lengthen the lever arm. For example, do pushups on your toes instead of your knees.
Another way to manipulate your routine is to change the surface or surroundings. Standing on an unstable surface like grass, sand or even a pillow is more of a challenge than standing on firm ground. Add in a distraction or a component of coordination while performing an exercise to add to the difficulty. For example, if walking lunges are too easy, add a torso twist while performing them, or add a high kick after each one. If this is still too easy, you can try closing your eyes.
DIY Boot Camp
Having to do the same routine day in and day out can get boring. But there are lots of ways to keep your fitness routine interesting – even on the road. Change the order of your exercises or, better yet, leave it up to chance by using a deck of cards or rolling a die to decide what your next exercise is and how many sets or reps you should do. You can also try making up a new workout progression; go from a squat to a lunge to a pushup all in one move.
If you have to exercise alone, make a new playlist; music can set the tone of your workout. Or, simply set new goals. Switching up your typical target of 30 repetitions to holding a position for 60 seconds can really change your workout. With a bit of motivation and ingenuity, you can create a quality fitness program anywhere.