Hitting the gym can be tough enough on a regular day but what about when you’re away from home? Whether you’re travelling, going on a family holiday or working away, there’s not always the guarantee of a gym close by.
Running might be one of the easiest and most accessible exercises to do on the fly, but it isn’t popular with everyone, and cardio might not even be your primary fitness need.
And it’s not just about motivation.
There can be practical problems to solve, too, if you’re taking a flight, for example. Budget airlines make it easy to ramp up the air miles, but they're not so generous with luggage allowance (especially if you’re only taking a carry on bag). Will your gym kit make the cut or is it always just easier to travel light, sticking to your regular clothes?
Habits can slide in different environments, and it’s easy to see why someone might fall off the fitness wagon, but curling a cold beer at the poolside isn’t the only exercise you can do when you’re on vacation.
Pack a skipping rope
These aren’t just for pre-teen girls and Rocky Balboa. They pack a real punch: lightweight, easy to stick in your hand luggage, inexpensive and powerful enough to get your heart racing when used properly. A skipping rope will work your lungs, your legs and your lower body, and you don’t need heaps of space, either. Use it in your hotel room, in a corridor, on a car park, a pavement, a lawn… almost anywhere.
It’s a versatile piece of kit, and what’s great about skipping is that it won’t just help you physically. According to the Jump Rope Institute (who sound a little like the X-Men of skipping), skipping will also improve coordination, reflexes, bone density and muscular endurance.
Once you’re good at it, ten minutes of non-stop jumping works out to be the equivalent of 30 minutes of jogging. Skipping isn’t just a compromise when you’re away, it’s something that can have a real impact on your training so much so that you might not even miss the treadmill.
Take Resistance Bands
Resistance bands won’t replace your weights but they’re worth taking next time you’re away from home. The elastic bands create the resistance that makes them so great for strength training; they’ll help you stay on top of your bicep curls, shoulder presses, overhead tricep extensions and bent-over rows.
They’re inexpensive and won’t take up much room in your luggage, either. Variety is key in strength training, and what’s great about these is that they offer real versatility that can be done in a hotel room.
Try New Ways to Exercise
Mixing up your routine when you’re away is a great way to help motivate you. If you’re lucky enough to be somewhere warm, then add swimming to your day-to-day exercises or hire a bike or go surfing, play tennis, go rollerblading... Think outside the gym to give your brain and body a break, too. Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes so don’t assume you have to unpack your normal routine once you’re away.
Pack Your EarHugz
Music can be a real motivator, and if you’re used to working out with headphones, then don’t forget your EarHugz.
We already know that they’re fantastic in the gym, but they’re even more important if you’re working out in a hot climate. You don’t want to have to throw away your headphones because of sweat damage, and you shouldn’t have to switch to in-earphones just because you’re worried about excess moisture.
The other great thing about EarHugz is that they won't take up any additional space. Just slip them over your headphone speakers and you’re ready to go.
Wear Your Kit on the Plane
If you’re travelling light — with a budget airline, for example — then you can save a heap of space by wearing your gym kit on the plane. It’ll make you less likely to ditch your workout gear for your regular clothes, give you more space for non-gym essentials, and you’ll be hella comfortable when you travel.
One additional benefit of keeping your kit with you is that you’ll be able to Usain Bolt it right to arrivals the second they open the cabin door.
Pack Easy to Dry Clothing
By packing lightweight, easy-to-dry clothes, you can make it easy to rinse your kit under the shower with shampoo or shower gel to keep them fresher for longer. Most hotel rooms have an extendable washing line to hang items over the bath, but if not you can use coathangers next to the room’s air vents or even lay your kit out on the balcony. If there are creases, then turn the hot water on in the shower and shut the bathroom door to let the steam sort them out.
Use a Showercap
If you’re not planning on wearing your gym shoes on the way home, then stick a shower cap over the soles so the germs can't get to your clothes and personal items. If you’ve got a spare plastic bag, then put them in there, too, and seal it.
There’s an interesting (read disgusting) fact given by Runner’s World: there are animal and human faecal matter on the bottom of running shoes and, let’s face it, probably a lot of other nasty stuff, too. You do NOT want this in a bag with your clothes and toiletries.
Most hotels offer complimentary shower caps — USE THEM and keep your kit hygienic.
Take a Yoga Mat
If you’re planning on doing strength training or yoga in your hotel room, then a yoga mat is a good way to keep your face and hands away from the hotel carpet.
Luxury suite or not, we’ve all seen episodes of CSI, and in the absence of an ultraviolet light, it’s probably best to assume that there’s stuff on the carpet you might not want to press your palms against. You might not want your nose anywhere near where hundreds of people have spent an evening.
Yoga mats will make pushups, burpees and squats more comfortable, and they’ll help with stretching if you’re using resistance bands. You can pick them up cheaply, so you don’t have to feel bad about leaving it behind at the end of your trip. If you’ve got hold luggage, then they’ll roll down to most suitcases.
Use Your Smartphone
If you’re looking for a more structured workout, then technology is your friend because if you’ve got a smartphone, then you’ve got a personal trainer that can go everywhere with you (or at least everywhere with a WiFi connection or data roaming.)
Apps like Nike+Training Club are great for tailoring a workout to your fitness level and tracking your progress. What’s great about Nike+Training Club is that it can sync with the Nike+Running Club, so you can tailor make your workouts whilst keeping the variety you’d enjoy at home, too.
Fitbit Coach is another that tracks your daily activity with your Fitbit as well as offering guided exercise routines and plans.
Freeletics Bodyweight is another app that with an impressive range of routines requiring only your bodyweight and no equipment.
We all need a break sometimes. Giving your body and brain a rest from intense activity can do your fitness some serious good BUT don't fall off the wagon completely, because by being prepared, organised and excited for the fitness possibilities when you're away, you can not just maintain your fitness but increase it, too.