I should probably start by rolling out a big, fat disclaimer: I’m not, by any means, a workout junkie. I wasn’t born with a naturally athletic build and I have to fight for the limited muscle tone I do have. Working out is not a natural part of my normal life at home, let alone something that has been an easy addition to a busy road warrior schedule.
As my years on the road have unfolded, however, I’ve gotten better at taking my home-based workout routine on the road with me. I can’t say I’m perfect at it, but I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that allow me to have a greater chance of workout success.
In the beginning…
Back in the day, I didn’t even bother trying to work out while on the road. The shoes and clothes took up too much room in my carry-on, I was always dragging my jet-lagged bones out of bed to make the first meeting of the day, and when I was running a convention or conference, I couldn’t imagine how adding MORE time on my feet was going to be something my body could handle. Airplanes make me puffy and tired. Not having filtered water at my fingertips all day make me dehydrated. I hate the “energy” of hotel gyms (too many people angling for not enough equipment). Most of the time, just maintaining my overall health and energy while on the road was all I could mentally juggle.
Because of these excuses, I had this terrible cycle in my fitness life. Just when I’d be getting into a great routine of early-morning workouts and endurance-testing classes for a week or two in a row at home… I’d then end up on the road again and my routine would go out the window.
It was frustrating. Even for a non-workout-a-holic. It was time to learn how to take my fitness on the road.
Fitness, fitness everywhere
Once I decided to prioritize my workouts on the road, I had a series of false starts. There were times I had to choose between the other pair of heels I needed for my navy suit and my sneakers. There were times my travel life was literally spilling out of my carry-on tote in the airport because I filled the bottom half of it with workout gear. I forgot sports bras. I forgot gym socks. I forgot pretty much everything a good number of times before I figured out how to make it a part of my routine and finally stop forgetting.
My system for making workouts work for me
Look, everyone’s workout preferences are different. Here’s what worked for me:
- I had to invest in a smaller, lightweight pair of shoes. I was used to running in thick, clunky running shoes due to my slight pronation. I eventually figured out that running in a lightweight pair of shoes that are not 100% suited to my gait was not going to kill me. I might have to cut back on the number of miles or the number of runs in a week but something was better than nothing… and it started with giving up on what shoes I thought I needed to have to run.
- Then, I learned how to pack my workout gear. With smaller sneakers, I found a few of my carry-on staples that fit perfectly inside of the shoes so I can maximize the space in my suitcase. Often, I shove my backup eyeglasses (in a plastic case) in one shoe and a couple of pair of socks and my wireless mouse (which I never use on a plane, but like to have once I’m onsite) in the other.
- The right workout clothes are key. Much like my running shoes, I had to figure out that my favorite workout clothes were not necessarily the ones that were best suited to travel. I had to ditch my heavy-duty sports bra for a more sleek version, and I make sure I have light, breathable capris (which work in almost every climate) and quick-dry tanks. This is important because…
- Every day after I work out, I rinse my clothes in the sink, hang them to dry, and they’re ready to use the next day. Obviously, this wouldn’t work for weeks on end, but for 2-3 workouts in the course of a normal business trip, it works.
- Whenever I can, I ditch the hotel gym. I’m NOT a fan of the “dreadmill.” Not at all. I’ll do it when I have to, for sure, but I’d always rather be outside passing the miles in the great outdoors. Now, I have to juggle important issues like the climate outdoors (too hot, too cold?) and my personal safety (I am a female traveling alone, so I’m not inclined to run too early or late in the day in an unfamiliar territory). But when I can, I get outside and enjoy the city I’m temporarily residing in.
What I eventually figured out about working out on the road is that something is better than nothing. I can’t always recreate my home-based workout and I don’t always log the miles I do on my familiar trails/routes at home, but getting out and moving on the road makes me feel more like myself.
Those excuses I used to make about working out on the road (too tired, too many hours on my feet, getting up too early, etc.), are today the exact reasons I force myself to set the alarm an hour earlier.
Ultimately, it’s worth it.
Trust me–it’s not always easy. I am a woman who needs a healthy amount of prep time in the bathroom in the morning so it’s not like I can juggle a run, breakfast/coffee, and a meeting-ready presentation in an hour. It’s the same issue I manage getting out the door in the morning at home. I just found a few ways to make my routine work for me on the road, and I’ve found it’s definitely worth it.
What are your tips and tricks for staying active on the road? Are you a road warrior who has identified a system that works for you? Please share!