Do you need a gym to exercise?

The short answer to that question is, no. But, if you are staying at a place that has a sweet, decked-out gym then good for you and go have some fun.

Going to a gym is nice because there is a large variety of equipment, lots of classes, social interaction and because misery loves company.  

But, all that equipment may be sweat-stained by that dude that doesn’t know how to wipe things down. And, to be honest, you will not use most of the pieces of equipment anyway. 

Sometimes people suck and having to be around them when you exercise just makes the whole experience worse. 

Maybe you prefer to sweat, make ugly faces and struggle with your exercises in the privacy of your hotel room.

Regardless of where you like to make your ugly faces, doing so without a plan can leave you feeling lost and wondering, “Where do I begin?”

Make sure you have a plan no matter where you train. Winging it is ok on occasion but long-term progress cannot be made when “Winging It” has been the name of your workout for the last 12 months. Make sure you read all the way to the end. I am going to give you a sample travel workout. 

Get some bands. Whether you train at a gym or in your hotel room, bands are essential. Some gyms have them but the often “walk away” so the gyms become reluctant to leave them out.

Get something like these. Search for resistance bands or strength bands.

Get something like these. Search for resistance bands or strength bands.

Bands fit nicely into a bag when going to the gym (they also travel well too) and can give you tons of options for exercises if you do most of your training at home.

Here is a way to add a band to bridges. Bridges are a great exercise but can be challenging to progress.

Anchor the band under your feet and pull the band around the thighs. Try to get it as high up on the thighs as you can (closer to your hips). Set the lumbar spine position and brace the abs before doing the exercise and focus on this piece throughout.

Be consistent. Be, be consistent.

Maintaining any consistency when you travel will be challenging. This does not give you a free pass to skip workouts and completely abandon your nutrition.

It means you have to have a plan that is moldable and can fit wherever you end up.

Most hotel gyms were clearly an afterthought when they were created. 

Employee 1: “We already have 37 closets, what do we do with this last one?”

Employee 2: [shrugs shoulders]

E1: “I read about this thing where you like lift weights up and down and get sweaty. Maybe we should put something like that in here.”

E2: [shrugs shoulders]

E1: “Kewl.”

Do you know why I like you Harry? Cause you're a regular guy!

Do you know why I like you Harry? Cause you're a regular guy!

Don’t leave you workout goals up to these two. Go into these situations with your plan and your bands. 

Bands let you perform any exercise you would or could perform with a big pulley system at a gym. Even a crappy hotel gym will have at least one heavy piece of equipment you can tie your band on so there is no excuse not to have at least one.

Grab the band with both hands and take a couple of steps back. The further back you go, the more tension you will be pulling against. Squeeze the shoulder blades to initiate the movement. Do not over row. When the shoulder blades stop moving, stop pulling.
Grab a piece of the band in each hand and bring the arms to shoulder-height. This is your beginning and ending position. Squeeze the shoulder blades and pull the arms down. Keep squeezing the shoulder blades throughout the motion until both arms are alongside your body.

Motion is lotion.

Traveling often involves a lot of sitting and static positions. Lack of movement is a surefire way to make you feel old an achy. 

Sitting on an airplane, in a car, taxi or van followed by a bunch of meetings in a solid way to make your back and hips feel tight and sore. 

Repeat this often with no countermeasures and you are playing with fire, scarecrow.

One of the best things to do is just to get moving. Do not start stretching and forcing the body to extreme ends of range of motion. Just move.  

I encourage my clients to use their dynamic warm-up whenever the body feels like it is cranky and stiff. There are limitless ways to perform dynamic warm-ups. The idea is to do some easy movements to get the body moving. 

Once you are warmed up, the band pullover is a great exercise for strengthening the upper body, stretching the upper back and shoulders and get some good core work in.

And if you are already crushing some quality pushups on the floor and want to make pushups new again, throw a band behind your back and pushups are back to being hard again.

Place your entire hand in the band. Do not let in cut through next to your thumb. This will lead to thicker bands torquing the wrist, which hurts, but it makes your pushup weaker too.

Make sure the band is securely under your feet. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Make sure the bands stay outside of your knees. Keep the low back pressed towards the floor and brace the abs. Reach overhead as far as you can without arching the low back.

Do not stretch first thing in the morning.

 I usually do not have a problem sleeping. Once my head touches down on the bed (I don’t use a pillow when I lay on my back) I am usually out in minutes.

Sometimes sleeping in a hotel makes me wake up feeling like I was on the wrong end of a mob-style bat beatdown.

Great movie.

Great movie.

I often wonder if sleeping in the parking lot would have been the better option. 

In many cases, how we sleep can contribute to waking up feeling like 10 miles of bad road. It doesn’t mean anything is pathologically wrong, it just means things are achy and need to be moved.

For the love, do not get up and start going into full range of motion stretches right out of bed. Are you some sort of sadist?

The discs in the spine tend to swell at night which is why we are a little taller first thing in the am. However, this puts the spine, discs and all the muscles in an already stretched position. Do not get up and start moving your body through full range of motion stretches and bending your spine all over the place.

Chances are, this is not what your body needs. At least not first thing in the morning. Just get up and move around a little bit. Move slowly and comfortably through all range of motion to start. Do not force anything.  

Once you get up and get moving, the compression on the discs from being upright will cause them to lose some of that swelling. Then you can get funky.

Step on the band with both feet and bring the bands outside of the arms and rest it on your shoulder. The set up allows the band to be easily supported but keeps the band from interfering with the movement. Set feet at a comfortable distance apart. Experiment to see what feels best.
Step on the band with both feet and bring the band up and over your head, resting it on the upper back/shoulder area. The set up allows the band to be easily supported but keeps the band from interfering with the movement. Set feet at a comfortable distance apart.
Step on one band and bring it across your body to the opposite shoulder. Repeat for the other foot. The bands should form and 'X' across the front of your body Set feet at a comfortable distance apart. Experiment to see what feels best. Some people prefer wider and others more narrow.

If you are wondering how to get the bands into the proper position, no worries. I have got you covered.

No sandbagging your travel workouts.

If you take this casual, winging it attitude on the road it is only going to get uglier. It is hard enough to train when traveling when you actually have a plan.

There is some weird psychological thing that happens when you have a detailed plan versus not having one. I do not know how to explain it but knowing what you are doing ahead of time leads to better consistency, accountability and results. 

You do not waste time staring off into space thinking about what to do.

You get in, get warmed up, put the work in and get on with the day. Doesn’t that sound better than you blankly staring off like the three-eyed raven?

What am I going to do today?

What am I going to do today?

Band RDLs are a great way to light up the hamstrings when there is minimal equipment available to you.

Step on the band and set up with the band inside your arms. Keep the upper back tight and slightly bend your knees. After that initial knee bend, the knees SHOULD NOT bend anymore during the motion. Doing so makes it more of a squat or deadlift motion.

Sample Travel Workout

As promised, here is a sample workout that you could do on the road. All you need is a band, a small amount of space and some old fashioned heavy metal music.

Quick dynamic warm-up

A1 Band bridges 3x12-15

A2 Band pullovers 3x12-15

A3 Supine glute stretch 3x20-30s each leg (this also serves as your rest)

B1 Band RDLs 3x10-12

B2 1-1-2 band bent-over row 3x8-10

B3 ½ kneeling HS stretch 3x20-30s each side

C1 Bandwalks 3x12 each way

C2 Pushup position shoulder taps 3x10-12 on each arm

C3 Spiderman 3x5 rotations on each side

This workout should take no more than 45 minutes. Now, after a long day, the idea of exercises sounds about as much fun as riding a bike with no seat. I get that.

So how do you get around talking yourself out of the workout? Just commit to doing one thing. Something is better than nothing.

Just start with the warm-up which will help shake off any rust and does a great job managing some minor achiness.

Commit to one group of exercises (the A’s above) or even just one exercise like the band bridges.

Do not overthink it and dread the whole workout. Just start doing something. In most cases, starting gives you the kick in the butt you need and you end up getting in a good, full workout. 

Even if you only end up doing one thing, it was better than doing nothing. 

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