Between work commitments, waning energy levels and a sheer lack of willpower, staying fit any day of the week can pose a serious challenge. But throw travel into the mix, and it’s no wonder 2017 research from travel booking platform Expedia found that only around half of American travelers prioritize workouts while on the road.
But because exercise has been proven to yield serious benefits like a boosted mood, an improved immune system, better overall longevity and regulated circadian rhythms (a serious bonus when changing time zones and beating jet lag), it might be worth it to carve out space for intentional movement on your next trip.
As a certified personal trainer with a specialization in orthopedic exercise, I always remind my clients that anything is better than nothing. That is, a few minutes of bodyweight exercises and simple feel-good cardiovascular movements a day or every second day can help maintain your existing level of fitness and energy levels without taking up too much time in your day of precious sightseeing and taste-testing. Experts echo that “less is more” sentiment.
“Commit to less so you can show up more … workouts don’t need to be long to be effective,” says Megan Roup, a celebrity fitness trainer and founder of The Sculpt Society. “Consistency is the key to feeling good while on the go.”
Got a trip coming up? Here, experts share how to incorporate more exercise into your travels so you can make the most of your trip.
One of the main barriers to access when it comes to fitness is struggling to decide on your game plan. “Pick out your workout class and outfit the night before to reduce decision fatigue when you wake up in the morning,” Roup says.
This matching set from Lululemon provides everything you need to get stoked about your workout the following day: a buttery-soft legging that promotes ample range of motion and a cropped fitted tank with a built-in shelf bra for added support. Bonus: It dries super quickly should you wish to get started on sightseeing right after you’ve hit your last rep.
Should your hotel lack a gym or basic fitness amenities, Joanna Dase, a fitness expert at Curves International, recommends bringing travel-friendly exercise equipment with you — starting with resistance bands. This set with more than 118,000 Amazon reviews features five intensities to switch up your resistance needs on the fly. Plus, it comes with a handy carrying case to pop them into your carry-on bag while packing.
“Set yourself up for success by pre-selecting quick and effective workouts that energize you and get you ready for the day ahead,” Roup says. Along with her Sculpt Society platform that emphasizes equipment-free workouts you can do from the comfort of your hotel room, you’ve got plenty more options for travel workout apps. There’s Alo Moves for everything from sun salutations to energizing HIIT; Peloton for live or on-demand bodyweight and weighted resistance and cardio workouts; Xponential for barre, boxing and more; and iFit for every class under the sun — including super-cool travel-themed workouts that immerse you in remote locations around the world.
Plan to take your workouts to the streets? Strava is stellar for tracking your cycling and running routes and it features a helpful social community to keep you motivated and accountable.
To release your inner child, Dase recommends a jump rope for a heart-pumping workout that’ll bring a smile (and a dab of sweat) to your face. For best results, use it in a nearby park to circumvent low ceilings, fans, light fixtures or sleeping neighbors below you. We love the Crossrope Amp Jump Rope Set for its three weighted ropes for added resistance and Bluetooth-enabled handles that send your stats straight to your phone.
“Travel routines should include flexibility and mobility exercises to counteract the effects of sitting for extended periods or sleeping on unfamiliar beds and pillows,” Dase says. For this reason, she recommends incorporating yoga into your travel routine focusing on hamstring stretches, shoulder stretches and spinal twists to help you maintain supple joints while on the go. This foldable travel yoga mat is the backbone of any yoga practice with its packable design and non-slip texture — plus, it provides a more hygienic alternative to practicing on your hotel carpet.
Hand towels won’t only help you dab off the sweat accumulating from your brow, but they make for an excellent bodyweight strength tool as well, Roup says. Simply use this cotton towel in place of gliders to keep your muscles challenged during the likes of lunges, squats, planks and hip thrusters.
Staying fit while traveling is all about making creative use of what you already have on hand, which is why Roup recommends using water bottles as hand weights. Our all-time favorite water bottle, the 26-ounce Yeti Rambler, will also help you stay hydrated when filled before, during and after your flight, according to Dase. Pro tip: If you’re going to be sipping from your water bottle during your workout (as you should be!) be sure to keep it filled so as to maintain its weight as a makeshift dumbbell.
Getting enough steps in a day (anywhere between 7,500 to 10,000) totally counts toward your physical activity quota, which is why you’ll want to invest in one of our favorite walking shoes for travel made with extra cushion, a wide toe box to account for swelling and several exciting colorways. “If you’re traveling to a new city, explore your surroundings on foot,” Dase says. “You can walk to local landmarks, shops or restaurants, or go for a jog in a nearby park.”
“Long periods of sitting can cause tension in your body, so it’s important to move whenever possible,” Dase says. “Look for opportunities to walk and stretch, such as during layovers or breaks in your itinerary. You can also do some stretching exercises in your accommodation to keep your muscles loose and relaxed.” This physiotherapist-approved strap features a durable reinforced fabric that allows you to gently move deeper into therapeutic stretches from forward fold to dancer’s pose.
“My No. 1 tip for staying fit while traveling is to hit the ground running with a quick morning workout followed by a nutrient-dense breakfast,” says Dani Speegle, a CrossFit athlete and Dymatize fitness expert. “When paired together, these can help keep your fitness routine as consistent as possible.” The best way to pep yourself right up from your hotel bed? This bestselling compact personal white light device that mimics sunshine. While it’s recommended for folks suffering from seasonal depression, it’s equally as effective for those with jet lag or who need an extra boost of motivation in the mornings.
“From a workout perspective, do your best to find ways to replicate what you do at home, even if it’s not exact,” Speegle says. “If it means going for a quick jog or lifting in the hotel gym, staying with your routine can help you retain muscle and physique you worked so hard to build.” To replicate your workout while abroad, use this fitness notebook to record your stats a couple of weeks out from your trip so you can have them on hand during your trip.
Our experts agree that swimming in the hotel pool isn’t only a luxurious way to sunbathe, but it makes for a great form of cardiovascular activity that’s easy on the joints. Be sure to bring a bathing suit with ample coverage so you can comfortably tackle a few laps before dinner. Our editors are all over anything by Cupshe, including this highly flattering one-piece swimsuit with adjustable straps and extra compression.
Whether you’re going to be catching waves or a game of beach volleyball, you’re going to want to add this TSA-friendly water-resistant and sweatproof sunscreen to your cart stat. It has everything our editors look for in an ideal sunscreen — it’s weightless, scent-free, loaded with skin-friendly antioxidants and available in SPF 40.
Add that extra level of resistance to your bodyweight workouts with these ankle weights I’ve used for several years that stay put during everything from leg lifts to scissor kicks. At only 1.5 pounds each, they’re light enough to only make a minuscule dent in your luggage or carry-on, yet still amp up each move to a noticeable degree. Their thick and durable Velcro strap keeps them secure during high-intensity workouts and their generous padding keeps your ankles (and wrists!) comfortable for the duration of your sweat session.
Your rest and recovery are just as important as your workout itself. Instead of schlepping a clunky foam roller on your travels, grab this compact and highly effective foam ball to practice myofascial relief. Simply press down or lean into it to access hard-to-reach muscles for improved performance and overall well-being.
If you’ve yet to invest in a smartwatch, allow one of our favorite fitness trackers, the super-low-profile Garmin Vivosmart 4, to be your foray into smart fitness. Not only does it track your steps, but it monitors your heart rate, stress levels and blood oxygen saturation levels so you can work out abroad without all the bulk associated with most smartwatches. While you can easily set a timer to track your workouts, the device is really good about detecting them and tracking them automatically.
Get a full-body workout with this suspension trainer system that’ll have you feeling like you’re messing around on a playground. Simply affix the ropes to any door threshold and use the integrated foot cradles and handles to squeeze in some assisted pull-ups, mountain climbers and more. Best yet, they fold up into a neat little pile in the included mesh carrying bag so they’ll take up virtually no space in your luggage.
Between hot and humid climates and walking around for several hours at a time, chafe happens. Get back in the game with this soothing balm that takes the friction out of your inner thighs, arms and anywhere you need a little extra TLC. At just over 2 ounces per stick, it’s small enough to carry in your travel purse should you need to reapply throughout the day.
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