Saturday, February 1, 2014

5 Workout Travel Tips

Left: An actual menu choice from a recent trip to St. Louis, Right: Easy fitness packing

I usually don't write general blog posts up here aside from what the workout of the day is, but this year I've had to travel about once a month for work and there are a few tips for CrossFitters (or anyone else attempting to stay in shape) that I've realized. So here are my own failings and discoveries in case any of you live the consulting life at some point in the future.

Bottom line - make goals before you depart and make small, smart decisions along the way. In the end, it's about fitness for your life and if you miss a workout or two during the week, it's not going to kill you - think about the week as some active recovery while not losing too much fitness capacity and you'll feel much less stressed about a trip away from your normal routine.

1. Try to decide your workout schedule before you leave
As tempting as it is to just see how the day goes and if a workout will fit itself in somehow, it's more realistic to think about your basic schedule and pack accordingly. 4 day trip? Realistically are 4 workouts going to happen? Probably not. Think about not wasting anything you pack - if you pack 5 workout outfits and only go for a run on one day, you're probably going to feel disappointed. But if you pack 2 sets of gym clothes and then manage a 3rd workout in your hotel room in some clothes you've already worn that week - hey you win! Also, deciding when you will workout will make you make better decisions for what you're going to eat...

2. What you eat is everything
If you're capable of cooking all of your grass-fed, zone-balanced, omega-enriched foods for the week and then eating out of ziploc bags in front of your co-workers, hey more power to you. Odds are though that you're going to navigate between airport food, chain restaurants, and obligatory happy hours. I think the hardest part of these situations isn't sticking to what you know are good food choices - salads with a balance of protein and fat (think spinach, chicken, raspberries dressed in oil/vingar) - the hardest part for me is co-workers somehow feeling judged by their food choices of the fried cheeseburger and fries. See the menu excerpt above for a heart-stopping menu option I saw this week. Honestly, ordering that burger and fries (and eating the bun) is just what may be needed to make it through the week, so no judgment here if every meal isn't perfect. A little easier strategy is to let your travel group know that you're training for something (5K, the Open, whatever) and that you're watching what you eat this week but normally you'd be down to go bite-for-bite on some buffalo-chili-cheese-pretzel-fried-potato-skin appetizers. Let it be known that you're not judging other people, but just have different priorities for the week. Just know that if you take this tack and then order the chicken parm with extra alfredo sauce, your co-workers will probably call you out. Bottom line - be smart about your choices for breakfast and lunch, and if there are more drinks and fries during dinner than you'd normally have, don't sweat it. Your chosen workout days will do enough to keep you honest.

3. Pack a jump rope
Packing some light fitness equipment like a jump rope, lacrosse ball for moblity work, or even some resistance bands will remind you of the workout days you've chosen. Also, it's definitely not a lost workout day if you do some stretches while watching your favorite mindless TV show. Keep it simple.

4. Body-weight exercises are your friend
While barbells, kettle bells, medecine balls are slowly making their way into hotel gyms, you should never underestimate the burpee. There are also countless other exercises that you need minimal equipment for - mountain climbers are becoming a new go-to for me, as well as any of the following:

  • Running or sprinting
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Mountain climbers
  • Push-ups (any variety - feet elevated, handstand, diamond)
  • Pull-ups if you have a bar (resistance bands can be used for assistance)

5. Don't go crazy with deciding your workout
Here's how it goes - you have 60 minutes allotted to workout. So you stroll down to the hotel cage gym and start searching on your phone for possible workouts. Searching - "travel workout", "minimal equipment WODs", or anything else will give you a bunch of ideas, but before you know it, 15 minutes has passed and you haven't even warmed up. Keep it simple - do you go to a gym back home? Keep following their workout schedule and modify whatever workouts they have posted. Or a better alternative if you're in one location for more than a few days, find a local CrossFit (or Yoga or spinning - whatever you're into) gym in the area. Pay for a week and they will make all your decisions for you (and you can even show off with a new t-shirt when you get back!). If you're still stuck, you know your body best. Do you want to focus on a weakness? Did you do 8000 squats before you left and can barely walk? The best way to google for WODs is to choose the movements you want to do and then get inspiration from there. For example, search lunge, push-up, double under - a bunch of results for workouts with different time domains and movements combinations you haven't thought of will come back. Don't over-think this one.

To summarize - lay out your rough workout schedule early, make a few smart decisions, pack with a few workouts in mind, and keep things as simple as possible. You definitely won't be making it to the olympics if you're traveling 4 days a week and eating at TGI Friday's every night, but you also don't have to lose everything you've worked so hard to achieve. Good luck!

Some sample workouts
Hotel gym have dumbbells? Give these a go:

Hotel gym have a treadmill? Give these a go:
  • 5 rounds: 400m run, 20 burpees
  • 3 rounds: 800m run, 50 squats, 30 push-ups

Have a jump rope? Give these a go:
  • 5 rounds: 50 Double unders, 20 Walking lunge steps, 20 push-ups
  • 200 Double unders, every 30 seconds, do 10 overhead squats with the jump rope

Only equipped with your phone? Give these a go:
  • 150 burpees for time
  • 100 jumping jacks, 100 4-count mountain climbers divided in any way
  • Choose four of the bodyweight exercises above, and do 8  tabata intervals of each exercise (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest)

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