The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes lots of festivities, fun, and food.
What usually isn't commensurate with the holidays is staying on track with your workouts, in large part due to many of us traveling to be with family and friends. Outside the confines of our comfortable gym, we slack on our workouts.
Not this year.
To help you stay fit while traveling, we’ve assembled a list of tips and tricks, including a list of exercises you can perform no matter where you are.
Let’s get started!
Very few if any hotels (save the resorts in Las Vegas) have what any seasoned gym rat would qualify as a halfway “decent” gym.
What that means is that whatever hotel gym you find yourself in is likely to have (at best) a rack of dumbbells that tops out at 50 lbs., a treadmill, and an adjustable bench.
While you might scoff at the notion of not having an extensive array of cables, machines, and power racks, trust us, you can still have a workout that will tax your muscles and have you sweating buckets by the end.
When limited in your weight selection, some of our favorite exercises while traveling are unilateral exercises and bodyweight exercises.
The benefit of unilateral exercises (especially when it comes to training legs) is that one side of your body has to do all of the lifting. This essentially makes lighter weights “feel” heavier, or another way of saying it is that you can get “more from less.”
Unilateral exercises also require greater core activation, improve balance, and help shore up any muscle imbalances that may exist between the left and right sides of your body.
Bodyweight exercises are great for strength training while traveling as you learn how to move your body through space. If you think that your body weight isn't enough to build muscle and strength, you're mistaken.
There are virtually endless progressions and variations of bodyweight exercises to fit individuals of any strength or skill level.
For instance, if regular push-ups are too easy, you can try performing push-ups with a pause at the bottom or using the 1.5-rep technique. You can also progress to more difficult variations like decline push-ups (feet elevated on the bed, hands on the floor) or wall-supported handstand push-ups.
If you want to up the ante further, you can try super-setting unilateral exercises with bodyweight exercises (for instance 1-arm dumbbell press super-setted with push-ups), to inflict even greater amounts of mechanical tension and metabolic stress (two drivers of muscle growth) on your muscles than you would be able to just perform straight sets.
If you don't want to exercise in the hotel in which you are staying, you can always call around to the nearby gyms and see if you can get a guest pass for the day. Most gyms offer guest passes for a reasonable price; some are even FREE!
Now, let's assume that the place you're staying doesn't have a gym in it, and there are no nearby commercial gyms to train.
You can still get a great workout in your very own hotel room using nothing but your body weight, the bed, and/or chair.
Here’s one of our favorite hotel room workouts when we’re pressed for time and short on equipment:
- Bulgarian Split Squats: 10-15 / leg
- Decline Push-Ups: 15-20 reps
- Inverted Rows (using the desk in your hotel room): 10-15 reps
- Reverse Crunches: 15-20 reps
How to Perform the Hotel Room Workout
Set a clock for 25 or 30 minutes.
Perform the exercises listed in circuit-fashion, moving from one exercise to the next with little to no rest between exercises.
At the end of the round, rest 1-2 minutes and repeat for as many rounds as possible until the timer goes off.
Meal Prepping for Vacation and Traveling
Just because you're vacationing doesn't mean that you have entirely to abandon your healthy eating plan. However, at the same time, if you're cooking on vacation, you're likely doing it in someone's kitchen. You may not be familiar with the kitchen layout or what spices, seasonings, pots, and pans they may or may not have.
As a result, meal prepping while on vacation or traveling could take considerably more time.
We say this not to dissuade you from cooking your food while traveling, but it is something to keep in mind.
Short of boxing up all of your various kitchen paraphernalia, a few things you can do to make meal prepping a bit easier:
- Contact the owner of the place you're staying (assuming you're using a home sharing website) and inquire about what kind of kitchen equipment is on-site
- With that knowledge, you'll know what sort of equipment you need to pack (such as a tea kettle or coffee pot) as well as which seasonings and spices need to be packed and if you need to bring any containers to store leftovers while you're staying abroad.
- When you reach your destination, do a survey of the kitchen to become familiarized with the layout and to double-check what you were told would be there actually is.
- Once your recon mission is complete, make a list of foodstuffs you need to buy at the store and proceed with your usual meal prep.
Also, realize that vacation is a time to relax, so don't feel completely stressed out if you aren't able to meal prep like you usually would and end up eating out a bit more than you typically do. It's called a vacation for a reason.
Ordering Healthy When At Restaurants
Skip the Bread and Chip Basket(s)
Many restaurants will place a basket of warm bread or crunchy tortilla chips down the moment you are seated. While delicious, these foods do little to fill you up, but will almost guarantee that you overeat.
If you want one piece, that’s fine, and no harm will be done. But more often than not, the bread isn’t all that fresh tasting, making it not worth the calories you’ll get for it.
Beware “Crunchy” Foods
When you see “crunchy” on a menu, it almost always means “fried.”
When foods are fried, they’re coated in white flour and given a bath in bubbling oil. While this may make your food taste delicious, it also seriously jacks up the carb, fat, and calorie content of the food.
If you’re trying to keep your waist in check this holiday season, make sure to limit your intake of fried or crunchy foods when dining out and opt for foods that are baked, grilled, broiled, or steamed.
Do Your Research
Most major restaurant chains provide nutrition information for their meals, or at the very least, they list the calorie "payload" of each food on the menu.
As the saying goes, “knowledge is power” and with the knowledge of how many calories a particular food contains, you’ll know which option to pick to stay within your calorie needs or structure the rest of your day’s eating so that you can get whatever you want to eat when you dine out.
Most waiters and waitresses are willing to oblige, so long as you ask nicely, and your requests aren’t too taxing. As such, don't be afraid to customize ("tweak") your order when dining at a restaurant. Ask for the salad dressing or sauce to be put on the side, ask for fried options to be grilled or baked instead, and see if you can swap the side of fries or chips for a side salad or vegetable of the day.
These small adjustments will save you hundreds of calories (literally) on your meal.
Staying fit while traveling does require some extra planning, preparation, and effort on your part, but it's not impossible to keep on track with your diet and fitness program.
You need to do a bit of leg work and then be willing to adapt based on your situation and surroundings.
Use the tips and tricks listed above to stay fit while traveling this holiday season and bring in the new year with your best body ever!