Whether for work or vacation, most of us spend at least a few days to a few weeks away from home each year. Traveling usually means a lot of sitting in a plane, car or bus. And if you’re going away for work, then there’s those all-day meetings with even more sitting. Add in a time change and that trip can cause havoc on your exercise program. It may be tempting to go on an exercise vacation too, but being active while traveling can be equally important, if not more so, than at home.
With all that sitting (which isn’t good for us), getting on your feet and moving around is a must. Even walking around for ten minutes can do wonders, making you feel refreshed throughout the day. And exercise can help you beat jetlag as it reduces melatonin (the sleep hormone) and helps reset your biological clock. Keeping up with your activity while away isn’t hard, it just requires some simple planning and creative thinking. Here are some tried and true tips I use to help me out.
Preparation Starts at Home
If you’re a frequent traveler, you probably have a vanity bag ready with travel toiletries already packed. Why not also have a fitness bag ready to go? This will make it easy if you end up going to a gym or pool when you’re away. Put a padlock in it in case you need to use a locker as not all places have coin-operated lockers. Include any fitness gear, shampoo, other toiletries, etc. so everything’s ready to go when you leave. If you’re into swimming, have your swimsuit ready and pack a swimming cap. Most public pools in Europe and Asia require one. With this kit, you’ll have everything you need to be active while away.
Booking the Hotel
Nowadays most hotels have gyms and swimming pools, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that will help you be active. Also, look for a hotel that’s in an area good for walking, such as near a park of in a city centre. If you’re away for a conference, avoid the conference hotel at all costs. I’ve known many colleagues who have stayed in the conference hotel and end up not going outside once during their trip. Getting a hotel nearby forces you to get out and walk to and from your meetings. Besides getting some exercise will expose you to the natural light which will energize you for the day ahead.
At the Airport
It’s hard to avoid sitting for half the day or more if you’re traveling by plane, but being in the airport doesn’t mean you have to sit down. Airports are huge buildings filled with long halls and shops all around. Plenty of room to do some walking. Whether before your flight or during a lay-over, try to avoid sitting in one place or going to the lounge. Remember, you’ll be sitting enough on the plane. If you have carry-on luggage and don’t want to lug it around, many airports have small trolleys to use or you may be able to leave it in a lounge. Try also to avoid the escalators and movators. These usually aren’t any faster than taking the stairs or walking .
In the Plane or Car
Keeping your muscles moving on a plane or long car ride is important to prevent you from stiffening up and keep your blood moving. This helps prevents blood clots, which are a minor risk of being seated too long. Unless you’re planning to sleep for a good part of the flight, pick an aisle seat. This makes it easier to get up and walk down the aisle, go to the washroom or get something from the overhead bin. Every movement helps, you can even do some stretching and walking in place in the washroom. If you’re traveling by car, take a break every few hours to get in a walk. Plan your trip to stop at interesting sights instead of whizzing by.
While sitting, you can also do simple things like heel raises, shoulder rolls and neck rotations. These will help you keep loose and also limber you up for any luggage lifting you may need to do once you arrive. A body that hasn’t moved for a few hours is in no shape to be lifting heavy luggage right away.
Get Out and See the City
Don’t get stuck sitting in the hotel lounge after an all-day meeting, or even on the beach at the all-inclusive resort. Get out and see the city. For those of you who like running, ask the concierge for a running route, or see if there is a running club you can join. Most running stores have organized running and walking sessions throughout the week that are free to drop-in on. Walking is also a fantastic way to explore your surroundings. Create your own walking tour or sign up for one through the hotel or tourism centre. Many tours are either free or a small cost. For getting to sites further away, or if you want to see more in less time, rent a bike or see if your area has a bike share program. Bike share programs are popping up in many cities and usually have day and week use options for tourists. Take the opportunity to try something different you can’t do back home, such as horseback riding, a local dance class or watersports.
Make your Own Traveling Gym
If all else fails, and there’s no gym or place to go walking, you can always bring your own gym with you. I often bring a skipping rope for cardio and a resistance band for strengthening. There’s usually someplace outside the hotel you can do some skipping in like a courtyard or even the parking lot. But you don’t even need that equipment if doing calisthenics is your thing. There are also plenty of exercise videos you can load onto your phone or tablet and follow along to in your hotel room.
Whether you’re able to keep up with the same amount of activity while away that you do at home, or even get in a smaller, modest amount, it’s still better than going on an exercise holiday. You’ll not only feel more refreshed while away but it will be easier to get back into your routine when you get home.
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