Stay Fit While You Travel: 7 Workout Ideas

Raise your hand if you are addicted to the endorphins released during exercise – the runner’s high.  You can’t see it, but I just raised mine.  I always have a better trip, whether it be a vacation or for work, when I get moving.  More than a day of inactivity, and I will not be a happy camper.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about How to Eat Healthy While Traveling.  Since there’s more to health than the food you put in your mouth, I want to share with you my tried-and-true travel workouts as well as some options that you may not have considered.

Obviously, it’s healthier to weave activity into your tripIf you’re in an urban area, explore the city by walking – ground level is the best way to experience what the city truly has to offer and make your own discoveries.  I love ditching the car and renting a bike when I’m staying somewhere bike-friendly.

If I’m staying on a high floor (say floor 14) of a hotel, I’ll run up the stairs every time I go back to my room and avoid taking the elevator.  I’ve turned this into a workout before by alternating slow lunges up the stairs with quickly running up and down.

If you are in the country, go for long hikes, cayak, or use whatever other tools are available to you.  If you’re visiting family, get out and be active together instead of visiting on the couch, even if it’s just a walk.

Want to know my travel fitness routine?  I usually bring a stopwatch and The Female Body Breakthrough (FBB).  If the hotel gym is advanced enough (and it rarely is) to have a basic set of free weights, I will do a full body strength workout every other day, a mashup of the exercises I can do without a specific machine.

In between days, I use the high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts outlined in the FBB book.  Or I’ll adapt a no-equipment circuit style workout, similar to boot camp.  Other times, I’ve ripped out a workout article from a fitness magazine and brought that along to do.  I always stretch afterwards to keep my muscles from getting tight.

Travel Workout Ideas

  1. Do Bodyweight Exercises in Your Room

    All you need is yourself.  You don’t even need to bring shoes, though I recommend moveable clothing.  You can do these in the corner of your hotel room.

    Try this: work through the following sequence 3-4 times, 1 minute for each exercise.  Do as many reps as you can in that minute.  Rest for 15 seconds in between each exercise, and give yourself a full minute of recovery before starting the series again.

    Plank – hold for 1 minute.  Advanced: one-legged planks.  Cardio version: mountain climbers.
    Squats – mix it up with some slow ones and some bottom halves (where you stay low and only come up halfway).  Advanced: one-legged squats.  Cardio version: jump squats.
    Pushups – do 30 seconds of traditional pushups with wide hands (targets shoulders) and 30 seconds of tricep pushups (with your hands directly under your shoulders and elbows back).  Advanced: walking pushups – do a pushup, then walk your hands and feet one step to the side and do another.  Do this as many steps as you can in one direction, then return.
    Lunges – like with squats, add some slow and bottom halves.  Cardio version: dynamic lunges or lunge jumps.
    Tricep dips – off a chair or bedside table.  Advanced: one-legged.

    Here are some extra bodyweight workouts from and Men’s Health.  Or take it up a notch with these cardio-based bodyweight exercises.

  2. Do a Tabata Workout in Your Room

    Ever heard of tabata?  Basically, it’s a high-intensity interval workout where you perform a specific exercise at max exertion for 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds and repeat 8 times for a 4 minute round.  You tie a bunch of these rounds together with several different exercises to make a complete workout.

    Make it as long as you have time for – even if that’s only 2o minutes.  It’s a healthy compromise which keeps you active on vacation.  You can clear some space of your hotel room or find a private patch of ground outside.

    Warm up for a few minutes by jogging in place.  Then choose four or more exercises from the following list: jump rope in place, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, cross-country skiers, push-ups, squat jumps, dynamic lunges.  Any of the exercises from the links to Idea #1 could be fit into this format.  It just needs to get your heart rate up and make your sweat.

    Check out this printable tabata workout from FitSugar for another idea.

  3. Run Outdoors and Explore the Streets

    If you bring your running shoes and sports bra, you can get a workout in no matter where you are staying.  It’s also a great way to get to know the area.

    Some fancier hotels in larger cities rent you a pair of shoes and provide you with a map for a recommended run.  Check out their website or call ahead to find out if your hotel has these options.  Westin will even lend you a full workout outfit complete with sports bra for $5.

  4. Swim Laps in the Hotel Pool

    I’ll admit I’m not a swimmer.  But I know lots of people are – so utilize the hotel pool and do some laps.  Scope out the pool to determine when the least crowded time is for some serious swimming.  I’m guessing early in the morning or late at night are your best bets for avoiding toddlers in floaties.  Plus a swimsuit is so easy to pack!

  5. Use the Hotel Gym Cardio Machines

    Treadmill, stair stepper, and elliptical.  If a hotel gym has nothing else, they will almost always have one of these pieces of equipment.  Even if you rarely use them for your everyday workouts, they are pretty convenient.  With a small block of time and minimal thinking, you can jump on one and work up a quick sweat.  It’s pretty easy to mindlessly run on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

    Do intervals to get a better burn that lasts all day.  Run at full speed for 1 minute then back to a steady jog for 1 minute then repeat this several times.  Here is a 45 Minute Treadmill Interval Workout and a 30 Minute Treadmill Interval Workout for you to try.

  6. Use the Hotel Gym Free Weights

    Count yourself lucky if you’ve got ’em.  More likely, you have one of those all-in-one machines.  Those are designed for men, and I have yet to find one that I fit on properly.  Plus, free weights engage more of your muscles and work on your balance and coordination.  If you’re lucky enough to find some free weights and are familiar with using them, do a full-body strength routine every other day.  If I know there is going to be a gym with weights, I travel with The Female Body Breakthrough and do one of the routines in there.

  7. Attend Group Fitness Classes at a Local Gym

    I belong to 24 Hour Fitness, and I always look up locations near my hotel when I travel to a new city.  I still have yet to actually attend a class because I always get busy and it’s quicker to just work out in my room.  But, I always print out the group class schedule in advance, and one of these trips I’m going to make it to a yoga or weight lifting class!

Travel Fitness Tips

  • Exercise before you begin your travel day.

    Especially if you will be sitting for several hours.  Even if it’s 10 minutes of jumping jacks and mountain climbers, you will feel so much better being cooped up in the car.  Start your trip on a healthy note, and you’ll be more likely to keep thinking of it in those terms.  If I can, I try to attend my usual 5:30 am workout class as scheduled.

  • Get up and stretch for 5 minutes every couple of hours.

    Do jumping jacks, yoga stretches, anything.  Forget what the overweight couple in the trailer that pulled up next to you at the rest stop thinks!  They’re just jealous.

  • Do a workout when you arrive.

    I’m a hypocrite on this one because I never do this, but then I’m a morning exerciser.  Working out supposedly helps with jetlag, and it will actually help you relax after a long flight or drive.

  • Resume your routine when you return.

    This is so important because it’s easy to fall off the wagon when our routines have been thrown off.  Pick back up with your regular exercise schedule as soon as you return home, ideally the next day.

    And if you blew off all my advice and didn’t exercise during your trip, don’t beat yourself up about it.  I forgive you.  Just start up again when you return.

Now your turn.  How do you stay fit while traveling?  Leave it in the comments below.

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Hi! I’M ADRIA SOPHIA, Message Clarity Guide, TEDx Speaker, and host of the Quiet Messenger Podcast. I lead cozy Messenger Masterminds where I help introverted women leaders & sensitive souls tap into the message that moves them then clearly & courageously share it so they can call in their people…and their next level of impact.

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