Do you travel often? If you do, you know that there is no bigger hassle than dealing with airport travel. And if you travel often, you know how hard it is to stay healthy at an airport. After my recent trip to Spain (for pleasure) and Toronto (for business), I appreciate that challenge more than ever.
Frequent travel can wreck havoc on your fitness. But if you travel regularly, all hope is not lost. Staying healthy on the road (or in the air) just takes a little extra determination and planning.
Here are my top travel tips to help you fit “fitness” into your next trip.
What To Pack
With luggage space at a premium, you won’t want to bring along your home gym, but there are certain essentials that will fit into your carry on bag. First and foremost, pack gym clothes and tennis shoes. You’re obviously going to skip your workout if you don’t have clothes to wear to the hotel gym.
Secondly, my favorite travel tools for fitness are a jump rope and a lacrosse ball. You can *always* get a good cardio workout with a jump rope, and it packs down to nearly nothing. A lacrosse ball is great for working out the kinks from sitting in uncomfortable airplane seats once you land. For resistance training without a hotel gym, you can also pack bands.
Packing Food and Water
Packing food is best because you can carefully control what you eat. Apples and carrots pack the best out of your fruit and vegetable options, and jerky and nuts are good protein and fat sources, and protein or granola bars are good in a pinch.
Otherwise, stick to your regular diet as closely as possible – if you would normally eat salad, seek it out at the airport. Likewise for eggs, wraps, diced fruit, or stir fry. All great options. There are more healthy dining locations than ever at most airports; you’re not stuck choosing between Dunkin Donuts or McDonalds.
Pack a shaker bottle and use it to stay hydrated. Buy individual serving sizes of protein, or use the Blender Bottle storage cups to bring a protein scoop or two with you for a quick shake.
Wear your super-hero gear
Okay, so spandex doesn’t make you a super-hero, but wearing compression socks or leggings on your flight will help combat the swelling that occurs at altitude, and will reduce the sensation of fatigue in your lower body. Some fancy compression gear even has “directional” compression to help with blood flow, which is important when sitting for extended periods of time. I swear, my 2XU compression socks have (basically) saved my life on long, international flights.
Exercising at the airport and in hotels
When you are at the airport, instead of sitting at the gate, walk or stand. You’ll sit enough on the plane.
And to help “undo” some of the damage from sitting on the plane, use the lacrosse ball packed in your carry on bag to unglue the knots in your feet, legs, and neck. To roll out your foot, set the ball on the ground and gently “stand” on it with the ball directly under the meaty, sensitive spot just below the ball of your foot. Apply gentle pressure to that spot, and flex and extend your toes. Keep the ball in place rather than rolling it around. You can do that afterward, but the idea is to apply pressure to one sensitive spot in order to break up the knots in your foot muscles.
Use your jump rope to squeeze in a quick cardio workout once you arrive at your destination. Tabatas are perfect for this. Set a timer, or download a Tabata workout app. Jump rope for 20 seconds, getting as many repetitions possible in that time, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat the intervals for eight total rounds. The workout takes only four minutes, so If you have more time, you can always do a couple rounds. Trust me, Tabatas will elevate your heart rate and get you sweating. And it’s just enough stimulus to maintain your fitness.
For resistance training, you can ALWAYS fit a short, intense, bodyweight workout into a travel day. The best exercises are push ups, squats, lunges, and jumps. If you want more variety, you should buy a set of resistance bands to add rows, presses, bicep curls, and tricep extensions to your travel routine.
Thinking you can’t train on the road is just an excuse for not wanting to. Just do it. Even if it’s five, ten, or fifteen minutes of stretching when you wake up, it’s better than nothing because it gets you moving and reinforces your exercise habit.
Sleeping on the road
The hardest thing about traveling, for me, is getting enough sleep. What helps is having an eye mask. You can sleep anywhere with those things. It’s like a blackout curtain for your face. The other thing that helps is sticking to your usual rhythm – waking up, going to bed, and eating meals at the same time you normally would. If traveling across time zones, get on the local time as soon as possible.
Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail.
These strategies are not complicated, but they can feel to implement. Relax, you got this. It just takes a little planning to be proactive about your health when you travel. If you can apply some of these tips to your next trip, you’ll return home much happier and healthier.
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