We all know the benefits of regular physical activity—from reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers to improving our mental health. Yet, it is hard to find the time to exercise. In fact, 2014 data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that only 20.8% of all adults over 18 meet federal physical activity requirements for both aerobic and strength-building physical activity.
Even for those who have managed to get into a routine and fit exercise into their daily schedules, business travel poses a further challenge. Hotel gyms can often be limited in their equipment offerings, and as trainer Amy Mac tells Inc.com, “a lot of people are really intimidated by a hotel gym.” Also, packed schedules with meetings and dinners leave little time for workouts. If you are a frequent business traveler, use these tips to fit fitness into your work trips.
1. Try bodyweight exercises
If you’re used to using a lot of equipment at the gym, limited hotel equipment options might throw you off. Bodyweight exercises (exercises that don’t require equipment, such as push-ups and pull-ups) can be performed in your own room, outside, or at the gym. While some may not view these as effective as using heavy weights, bodyweight exercises can be incredibly beneficial for staying fit. According to fitness and lifestyle consultant Jason Ferruggia, body weight training can be as effective, if not more so, than training with free weights. Bodyweight exercises “don’t beat up your joints as much as traditional weight training exercises do,” he says, and they “allow for a more natural range of motion.” Plus, if you choose to do bodyweight exercises in your hotel, you may even save yourself some time that you might be spending getting ready to go to the hotel gym and setting up/getting familiar with the equipment.
Connor Moore, a Crossfit Coach, tells us that performing 100 burpees for time is a “classic go-to for a quick and dirty workout on the road. Gets the heart rate up and the blood flowing!” Workouts like this are quite short—making sure you get to your first meeting on time—but also very effective in burning calories and building strength at the same time. You can also take advantage of items in your room, turning your bed into a bench for tricep dips or using a chair for support as you do calf raises.
Proper burpee technique demonstration
2. Pack light
While bodyweight exercises are a relatively hassle-free way of working out on the road, there are also options for bringing along some packable workout equipment. There are a variety of portable exercise aids that take up very little room in your carry-on. Kettlebells are currently a trendy workout tool that not all hotel gyms have, but taking along your 30-pound kettlebell just isn’t feasible on a business trip. Luckily, there are portable kettlebells that weigh less than 10 ounces and can be rolled up for travel. When you arrive at your destination, you can fill the kettlebell with sand, water, or dirt.
Jump ropes and resistance bands are also light and easy to pack. If you really need your workout to be fun in order for you to stay on task, Hoopnotica offers collapsible hula hoops that break into six sections for easy portability. Balance disks are also light but offer you similar benefits as full exercise balls.
3. Take advantage of apps
Creating your own workout that you can do in your hotel room might work for you, but others need their trainer or the energy from a workout class to keep them motivated. Road warriors, therefore, might consider using some fitness apps to keep working hard while on the road. Many of the exercises shown in these apps can be performed in your room or outdoors, although some require equipment. The benefits of apps include timers, voice cues, guidance on proper form, and a variety of exercise ideas to choose from, to help your workouts remain creative. Megan Rose, Marketing Manager at Yahoo! Inc., often travels for work, and she tells us that she prefers the Nike+ Training Club App. This app, according to Rose, “is really helpful for travel. They have over 100 free workouts that target every area of the body that you can do in whatever amount of time you’d like, with or without equipment.” This app features audio cues that keep you on track and videos that show proper form for each exercise.
The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout App is also a popular choice, and it might be particularly useful for business travelers needing to fit in exercise quickly. While 7 minutes may seem like not enough time to get a good workout, the workout was designed by Chris Jordan, who is the Director of Exercise Physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, and was designed to help you get a full workout in within minutes. The app also offers additional workouts, with guidance on proper form, and a nice touch is its ability to gauge your fitness level and make recommendations accordingly. Business travelers might also like the Jawbone Up App, which suggests daily fitness goals, tracks calories burned, helps you track food intake, and lets you challenge friends to fitness duels. The food tracking feature is useful for business travelers faced with tempting airline pizza and fast food options, and the ability to challenge friends might keep you motivated from afar.
4. Explore the city
You can kill two birds with one stone if you turn your workout into an outdoor adventure where you can explore the new city you’re in. Maybe you need to get in a run, but you also want to find the most feasible walking path to your next meeting. Use your outdoor run to explore the route you’ll take later on. You may also find that exploring the city keeps your mind off of the workout. Rose even recalls a time when she created a tour of the National Mall for herself in Washington, D.C., using exercise activities along the way.
Crossfit coach Moore recommends an outdoor workout that will help you wake up your legs and “allow you to experience some scenery.” He suggests the following:
- Four rounds of
- 400 meter run
- 50 air squats
Even just forcing yourself to walk to your next meeting or client lunch will help you get in a little exercise when you’re traveling.
5. Wake up early
Your normal exercise routine may also be impeded if you just can’t find time in your busy work schedule to work out. You may be in meetings all day and courting clients in the evenings. Your best bet is to fit in those workouts in the morning. According to Mitzi Dulan—a nationally recognized nutrition and fitness expert—in the Huffington Post, there are a variety of benefits to working out in the morning. These benefits include increased productivity, a boosted metabolism, better sleep, and a better diet—because research shows that individuals who work out in the morning make better meal choices throughout the day.
Marketing Manager Rose also finds waking up early essential, specifically for business travel. She says, “The hardest part of staying fit is definitely getting enough sleep to be motivated to wake up early…Working out has to happen in the morning before your day starts, or your time will slip away. Getting up an extra 30 minutes to 1 hour early will only make you feel better throughout your long day.”
6. Plan ahead
Regardless of your on-the-road workout preference—from running outdoors to doing burpees in your room—planning ahead is key to making sure you actually fit workouts into your business trips. You can start by using a site like fitforbusiness.com. This site includes a directory of hotels with great athletic facilities and details some of the specific equipment offered at these hotels. To plan ahead, you might also consider researching other gyms in the area, workout classes such as Soul Cyle or yoga, or parks for runs. Make sure to pack everything you need—from tennis shoes to workout shorts—so you have no excuses not to work out. Also, try to schedule your workouts in your trip itinerary. Just seeing your Google calendar or iPhone reminder might help you stay accountable.
Exercise is, of course, only part of the equation when it comes to being healthy on the road. Business travelers will want to try and maintain a healthy diet while traveling—which is admittedly difficult! Yet, with research suggesting that working out during a business trip improves reaction time and alertness by 61%, finding the time for fitting in fitness on your next business trip will serve you well.
What strategies help you fit exercise into your business trips? Share with us in the comments section below!
Jenna teaches college-level writing courses at the University of New Haven, and she regularly freelances for 30SecondsToFly. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be found traveling, running after her toddler, and/or enjoying some mac & cheese.