April 2007

Health Note - Fitness on the Run

Author: Ken Weisner

“We travel to expand our horizons, not our waistlines.”—Author unknown

Does your workout routine get out of whack when you travel? Do you think a demanding schedule makes it impossible to stay healthy and fit on the road? Do you think stress, poor health and reduced fitness levels are inevitable byproducts of frequent travel?

It’s tough enough to squeeze in exercise when you’re at home on a consistent schedule. Exercise helps keep your mind and body in shape. But when you are traveling it’s easy to neglect your regular exercise routine. To keep up an exercise program on the road, you need determination, realistic expectations, and a willingness to adapt. With some knowledge and a little planning, you can maintain your fitness level no matter where you are.

Sticking to your regular exercise program isn’t always easy. After all, there are plenty of potential excuses: You don’t have time; you feel unsafe walking or jogging in an unfamiliar place; or the weather is inclement. It’s easy to talk yourself out of exercising on the road. But it’s also easier than you may think to talk yourself back into it. The key is to anticipate the inevitable roadblocks and prepare to circumvent them.

How you feel on the road is more directly related to your lifestyle choices than the challenge imposed by travel. Whether you travel for business or pleasure, it pays to take your fitness routine with you. Here are some proven strategies for doing just that:

Plan Ahead
Looking for a place to sweat takes a bit of initiative. When making hotel reservations, inquire about the workout facilities. Amenities at hotel gyms vary widely. When booking your reservation, ask very specific questions about the available facilities. Also ask about the hours. Some hotel chains don’t have onsite fitness centers but have agreements with nearby clubs which you can use free or for a minimal charge.

Use Your Environment
Effective workouts aren’t limited to the standard fares of walking, jogging and fitness machines. Consider your destination in advance. By planning ahead, you can come up with some appealing adventures. Find unique, fun ways to exercise instead of doing the same routine you do when you are at home. Try biking, hiking, sightseeing, dancing, beach volleyball, etc. The hotel pool is a great place for an enjoyable workout. Try 5-10 minutes of pool walking—walking in waist-deep or higher water is a really challenging workout).

Downsize Your Routine
Can’t find 45 minutes for a full-scale workout? Some exercise is much better than none at all. Use small chunks of time during the day for physical activity: run up stairs; take a brisk walk; jump rope; do some pushups or squats. Even short bursts of strenuous activity are proven fitness boosters.

Create your own 10-minute anywhere workout by choosing upper-body exercises like modified push-ups or chair dips, followed by lower-body exercises like squats, lunges or step-ups. Warm up for a few minutes by jogging in place or performing jumping jacks, then follow with 10 to 15 repetitions of an upper-body exercise and 10 to 20 of a lower-body exercise.

Next, do one minute of jumping jacks or jogging in place. Repeat this same routine for two-three sets.

After three sets, begin a variety of abdominal exercises, low-back lifts and stretches. You want a travel workout that’s easy and automatic, so practice it! Be comfortable with your routine before traveling.

Bring Your Own Gear
One of the first obstacles to overcome while traveling is not having your regular workout equipment. So pack comfortable walking shoes, comfortable clothes to work out in, a bathing suit and any other gear you might need.

Consider investing in an exercise band (or tube) with handles for resistance. These lightweight, inexpensive and easy to pack resistance bands work the muscles as though you’re lifting weights.

Jumping rope is a great way to get a short but beneficial cardio-workout, and it can be done in your hotel room.

Plan to Relax
Don’t expect relaxation to happen naturally while you’re on the road. You can’t avoid stress, but you can identify your stressors and either avoid them of disarm them as they arise. The down time you spend in your hotel room is a perfect time for meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation or visualization techniques.

Pack Healthy Goodies
There is no excuse for being hungry or thirsty if you tote your own emergency refueling kit. Bring bottled water, raisins, fruit, veggies, dried cereal and any other healthy snacks. Do your best to avoid alcohol, caffeine, sodas, and salty snacks, all of which will dehydrate you. Always drink plenty of water—every hour to keep hydrated.

Have Fun
Be sure to enjoy yourself and make the most of the place to which you have traveled. Remember to bring comfortable shoes so that you can easily get a workout while using your feet as your main mode of transportation. Make some time for yourself everyday.

Getting creative with travel exercise will add variety to your wellness program. With a little research and proper planning, you can create an easy-to-follow plan to keep you fit and healthy no matter where you travel; and you can come home feeling more healthy and energized than when you left.

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