Travelers face a variety of challenges in a fast paced world. Attempting to juggle home and business responsibilities can be an anxiety provoking experience alone, but if you travel a great deal this can significantly decrease your ability to engage in a healthy lifestyle.
Even though technology has made travel easier, you can still experience missed flights, flight delay or cancellation, lost or damaged luggage, car rental cancellation, missed connections, having to travel with multiple connections, car problems, traffic congestion or reroutes, eating on the road, weather, rude people, Jet-lag and much more. It can be fatiguing and stressful to say the least.
It’s Hard to Maintain an Exercise Program on the Road but it is Important
Many of my clients tell me one of the hardest things to manage while traveling is their fitness / exercise program. However, I will maintain that this is one of the most important aspects in planning your trip. Research has clearly demonstrated that exercise has anxiety reducing qualities. In many cases it performs as well as anti-anxiety medications and has many more health benefits plus lacks their undesirable side effects (Amen, 2013). In a Meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine by Dr. Steven Petruzzello and colleagues they observed that no matter how anxiety is measured physical activity is associated with a lessening of symptoms. The findings also indicated that as little as 20 minutes per session was sufficient to gain an anti-anxiety effect (Petruzzello, Landers, Hatfield, Kubitz, and Salazar, 1991). In fact, a few studies observed an anti-anxiety effect at 5 minutes of aerobic exercise (Petruzzello, S.J, et al., 1991). Therefore, the bottom line is that moderate intensity aerobic exercise of relatively short duration will help you manage stress and anxiety.
Exercise will also have positive effects on sleep, cognition and concentration, ability to maintain a healthy diet, self-esteem and over all work performance. For many exercise is critical from a disease management perspective such as in diabetes for example. The best way to ensure that you keep your fitness program going on the road is by planning. As you would plan for traveling to your location, where you’re going to lodge or eat, you should plan how, where and what time you’ll have to exercise.
A number of years ago I attended a weight control seminar in Chicago that lasted a week. One of the things I did while planning the trip was make sure the hotel I stayed in had a fitness center. In no way could the hotel have been considered economy. In fact, it was a posh establishment with a great fitness center. There was one problem, I did not ask for usage fees. It never occurred to me staying in a place that cost $250.00 plus a night (it was where the seminar was held) would have “usage fees”. Upon arrival I was informed that it would cost $20.00 a day to use the center. The fact was that the fitness center was privately run with a membership of its own, in but not part of the hotel. I had to alter my plans as I just could not see paying the fee. I asked the staff at the desk what other options where available for exercise. By chance I spoke with an individual who was a runner and was able to give me the lowdown on some excellent running routes in the city. I was great, I was able to exercise and see the city. I did my resistance training in my room using simple body weight exercises. The take home message is that even if one plan doesn’t pan out, there are always other options.
As I work with clients I educate them to options. Options aimed at being able to adapt and successfully exercise while not in their usual fitness environment. Most of the time I operate under the assumption that they will have no facility to exercise at and may have to spend lengthy time being idle such as at a layover in an airport. My clients are taught the basics of adapting their program to be accomplished in different situations.
Walk to fitness
One of the best and most effective aerobic activities is walking. It can vary in intensity from low to high. You can build interval training in for variety and do it just about anywhere. Using target heart rate, perceived exertion or mileage and time you can monitor your workout. In a recent article published in the Journal of the International Dance and Exercise Association, it referenced a pace of 100 steps a minute as being moderate intensity for most people (McCormick, Mermier, and Kravitz, 2013).
You can walk in airports, malls, outside in parks, in the hallways of your hotel. Use the stairs to increase the intensity if desired. It doesn’t matter what your favorite mode of exercise is walking will provide a suitable workout for just about anyone. To spice up walking use a player for music using ear plugs made for exercise from Yurbuds, Bose, Decibullz or Motorola. Bear in mind, on the road, any exercise is better than no exercise. The point is not to be in the mind set of “I always train in a gym and I cannot find one so I can’t exercise”. In that statement there are lots of cants and no cans!
Body Weight Training
According to the American College of Sports Medicine 2013 fitness trend analysis body weight training is in the top 20 at number 3 behind strength training and educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals. It beats the popular Zumba and other dance workouts, core training, personal training, yoga and boot camps to name a few (Thompson, 2013). According to an article on the American Council on Exercise Web site it states that “using one’s own body weight is an excellent way to gain strength, flexibility and a more shapely physique” (Webb, n.d.).
Let’s face it, we like our gadgets and for many of us that includes equipment at fitness centers. However, we don’t need this to achieve an effective workout. I can remember (I’m about to date myself) observing my Mom watch Jack LaLanne an early fitness guru on his TV show which ran for over 30 years! On his show he used simple body weight exercises and house hold items to help women get fit. He was often referred to as America’s “first fitness superhero”. Ironically, his TV show was low tech but he is credited with inventing many resistance training machines and opening his own chain of fitness centers named – Jack LaLanne’s European Health Spas which was taken over by Bally Total Fitness. His simple TV program used mostly stretching and body weight training using chairs and eventually rubber tubing.
Bodyweight exercise makes sense as our bodies move in a kinetic chain, not like fitness machines which generally force movement in a singular plane isolating muscle groups. Given that bodyweight exercise is not restricted by the limits of a machine and will meet all the demands needed to provide good physiologic benefits – it can be used successfully in all fitness programming, not just as an extra on the road. For some however, machines are the way to go. For example, if you have joint instability machines may be for you.
Bodyweight exercise can be done anywhere and anytime and can be structured to provide a range between low intensity to high intensity circuit training resistance programs. This is an excellent option for people of all fitness levels who travel. Adding some spice you can take lightweight resistance bands or if you would like something a bit more “high tech” using a system like TRX Suspension Training or GoFit Gravity Straps, both which are simple to travel with. Also consider that you can use your luggage or items found in the hotel to add resistance. In many cities you can find outdoor fitness courses in parks that will even further enhance your experience. Of course check your hotel, but remember ask about what the gym has to offer, if it is in working order, hours open, and if there is a fee.
Being fit on the road requires some planning, flexibility and maybe a bit creativity. Remember, something is better than nothing. So do something. There are good books on bodyweight exercise and low cost accessories that can make your exercise program a bit more interesting. In reality, a pair of good walking shoes is all the equipment you need to be healthy on the road. Be well and be fit!
Amen, Daniel G. “The Sane Way to Beat Anxiety and Depression.” The Dr. Oz Show. ZoCo Productions, LLC, 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.
McCormick, James J., Christine Mermier, and Len Kravitz. “Walking Extravaganza!” IDEA Fitness Journal 10.9 (2013): 40-47. Print.
Petruzzello, S.J., Landers, D.M., Hatfield, B.D., Kubitz, K.A., Salazar, W. (1991), ‘A meta- analysis on the anxiety-reducing effects of acute and chronic exercise. Outcomes and Mechanisms’, In Sports Medicine, Vol.3, March 11, pp.143-182. ISSN: 0112-1642
Thompson, Walter R. “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2013.” ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal 16.6 (2012): 8-17. Print.
Webb, Marion. “Fitness Programs | Lift Your Body Weight to Get in the Shape of Your Life.” ACE Fit. The American Council on Exercise., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.