Busy professionals like us have a laundry list of excuses of why we are justified in abandoning our fitness goals while on travel, and some of them are actually pretty good! But, for the most part, it really isn’t all that hard to make it work.  I wrote a piece earlier on eating right on the road here: but I wanted to share some real life experiences from clients, fellow gym-enthusiasts, and professional competitors on tips they have used to make it to the gym, while on the road.
1) Even if your hotel gym sucks, get to it, and put in your sets and reps.   A strong male client of mine commented while he was on travel: “I’m jet lagged, the hotel gym sucks, and the heaviest DBs I can find weigh only 60 lbs, but I’m making it work.”  Moral: Even with the lousiest tools, you can still “make it work.” Be creative: superset, bump up your reps, keep your heart rate up and keep your rest periods short, do challenging body weight exercises when possible.
2) Do your research and plan ahead. I know clients who look into what kind of gym their hotel has even before they look into the local weather.  If you like what you see, great. If you don’t and you crave more, look beyond for a bigger gym.  The internet is your friend. I know of a professional powerlifter who travels extensively and manages to keep up with his lifting program, 4 days a week, no matter where he travels.  Powerlifting watch has an excellent gym locator link: here Some gyms will sell weekly passes or daily passes, so ask to speak to the manager and see what kind of deal you can get. Plan ahead if you’ve got some really big barbell needs, as most hotels won’t appreciate you deadlifting their treadmills and benching hotel guests.
2b) If you already belong to a corporate gym or franchise you may be able to use locations other than your home gym for free or at a reduced cost.  I work in the DC/VA/MD area, and many of my fellow lifters are affiliated with the military. If that’s true for you too, take advantage of the military affiliation and lift on military installations for free. Free is good.
3) Commit to your plan. If you have a fairly flexible per diem that allows you to spend a certain amount of money on daily passes, you should absolutely use it. You know everyone else is blowing it on another happy hour or over the top meal.  If you travel in a team, make sure they understand you are committed to getting in your workouts. The next time they travel with you, there won’t be any question as to where you are, and how you roll.  And I know someone who rolls with several hard boiled egg whites.
4) Always have some extra gym gear ready and packed.  Just like the cooler items I mentioned in part 1, Eating Right on The Road, don’t forget to pack your socks, sneakers, training log, iPod, supplements, whey protein, etc and whatever else you need to feel “at home” and ready for a workout.  If you can, ship some items to be waiting for you in advance, or leave behind a happy hour outfit and the second pair of salsa dancing shoes.

5) Along the lines of spending, use your per diem wisely.  I’ve worked at places that wouldn’t blink if I ordered a steak dinner every night, and that sort of thing is perfect if you’re picking up some metal and trying to bulk up.  And if a lean steak is not your thing, any decent hotel will carry several lean protein options on the menu.  Moral: use the per diem wisely, and towards your healthy goals. You can have the egg whites, chicken breast, and tuna when you get home.
6) Be flexible. Travel delays are inevitable. If you’re following a program that has you lifting 4 days a week, plan to get in the bigger muscle groups BEFORE you leave town, use your travel days as rest, and save the smaller muscle groups or cardio days for the hotel gym where you might have fewer heavier options.  On rest days, make it a point to taper your cals if you anticipate getting in little activity, like when you spend 4 hours in a cramped chair waiting on the tarmac.
Bottom line: it’s all about research, planning, spending your time and money wisely, and maintaining the right attitude.  Make exercise a lifelong commitment and part of your lifestyle.  And don’t leave home without some clean socks.

Sumi Singh is a Personal Trainer in Austin, TX and an online diet coach. Her website is www.shailafitness.com

  1. Jim 13 years ago

    I have a Gold's Gym membership that let's me work out for free at other Gold's Gym locations as long as I have a travel pass, which I get from the Gold's Gym where I regularly work out at. If you belong to Gold's Gym, check to see if you also have this option.
    Before traveling, I always check to see if there is a Gold's Gym near my hotel. If there isn't one, I look for other gyms near my hotel that offer day passes. I enjoy visiting other gyms when I'm traveling. It provides a nice change in scenery, equipment, atmosphere etc.

  2. Lee 13 years ago

    Great article, Sumi. You're spot on – its all about research, planning, and preparation. It's also about testing your commitment to your goals. Figuring out how to make your workouts happen while on the road is just another item to work through, no different than that early alarm clock or some other item that can become an easy reason not to work out.
    All the tips you give are good ones. The one other – bodyweight exercises. If all else fails – the hotel gym sucks, there is no other gym close by, you have very little time – you can get a reasonable workout in by just doing bodyweight exercises. There are multiple sources of very good BW routines. Do a little research on those to have in your hip pocket. Throw a heavy resistance band in the side pocket of your luggage so you can add a little something extra to a BW workout. You may not add any new muscle mass, but you can definitely get maintenance work in.

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