Traveling is a blast. Seeing faraway lands, making memories, going on adventures and experiencing brand new things. It’s something we could all use some more of. But a common question that comes up when we talk about traveling is this:
How do I workout while traveling?
After all, you worked your ass off to make those gains, and the last thing you want to do is see them melt away under the vacation sun on the white sandy beaches of Aruba.
So whether you’re living it up on vacation and experiencing all that life has to offer or traveling for business reasons, in this article, I’ll show you all my tips on how to workout while traveling so you don’t lose your gains (and even keep making them!).
1. Find a Gym in Advance
The first tip is to do your homework and find a gym in advance before you decide to travel. We’re not stuck in the Stone Ages. The world wide web is right there waiting for you, and unless you’re backpacking in the African jungle, most civilized places will have a gym in decent distance with standard workable equipment to get your gains on.
Determine where you’ll be staying and then research gyms nearby. If you’re traveling domestically and are member of a large commercial branched gym, check to see if there’s one in your area and if they’ll still take you in for being a member.
If not, then call up other local gyms. Let them know you’re just in town for a brief period and see if they’ll offer you a free guest pass or a reduced rate while you stay.
No matter what you do, ensure they have the equipment you need so you don’t show up surprised. Don’t be a diva, but a power rack and some dumbbells are a staple that’ll enable you to get your work done.
2. Get a Hotel with a Decent Workout Room
If tip #1 isn’t a viable option, then book your stay with a place that has a good gym of its own. Hotel gyms are notoriously bad and typically just contain a piece or two of dusty cardio equipment and a couple of rusty dumbbells, but you’d be surprised. There are lots of hotels who have stepped their game up and have several machines and a full rack of dumbbells without gashing you on the price points. After all, plenty of people who travel aren’t just vacationing and need access to a good gym to stay in shape.
In fact, if you do your due diligence, this may even be your best option. Sleep in, grab some coffee and continental breakfast, and head to the gym room to make some gains. Simple.
Research beforehand and scan the pictures of the hotel on their website. If it’s a nice setup, they’ll have photographs of their gym (from a business point of view, it’s a great selling point).
3. Lift Light
If your hotel does have a gym but the weights are too skimpy for your current level of training, then have no fear. Just train light. Research has demonstrated that light loads with sets even up to 25-35 reps are just as effective at building muscle as heavier loads with lower reps (1).
Granted, they’re also much more pump and burn inducing from the buildup of metabolites, but they do still work and if anything can give your joints a breather from your regular heavier lifts and potentially enhance growth of your Type I fibers.
4. Blood Flow Restriction
Packing your blood flow restriction (occlusion) wraps in your carry-on is a helluva lot easier to get through security than a duffel bag full of iron weight plates. Blood flow restriction training is a style of training whereby your occlude a muscle group by applying a cuff to the top of a limb and lift at only about 30% of your 1RM (!).
While it sounds fantastical, it has shown to be just as effective as heavier loading for muscle growth*. The wraps slow the veinous return of blood from the muscle, so metabolites accumulate that drive greater muscle activation despite the light load, leading to greater tension on the fibers. Increased cell swelling and other effects of metabolic stress are also proposed to drive the growth response we see from blood flow restriction training.
Simply apply the wraps to your limb and crank out your sets. The protocol most employed in research is as follows:
Set 1: 30 reps (to build up metabolites)
Set 2: 15 reps
Set 3: 15 reps
Set 4: 15 reps
Rest only 30-45 seconds between each set.
If nothing else, blood flow restriction is a great way to maintain size over short stints, and as an added bonus, it’s extremely time effective and perceptually requires less effort than traditional intensive loading, so you can knock your workout out fast and go about your day – with a skin-splitting pump, to boot. (For more on blood flow restriction training and how to implement it properly, check out my ultimate guide here.)
*Although I wouldn’t say it’s equal per se for making maximal gains, all things considered.
5. Chill and Let Chill
Lastly, the advice the dedicated gym-goer never wants to hear: Just chill out. If you’re going on a trip for just a few days, your muscle mass gains are not going to be compromised.
You may feel smaller from the lack of post-workout muscle swelling and less muscle glycogen, but gains in muscle size don’t up and vanish like that. Research has shown that losing appreciable size can take up to 3 weeks (2). And results are similar in the long term between untrained lifters who train continuously and those who take weeks off in between training (3,4).
Other research shows that muscle mass gains can be maintained even at 1/3rd of the volume it took to build it in the first place (5). So reduce your training or time your trip in conjunction with a deload or week off, and use your trip to focus on what really matters: Having a great time or taking care of business.
So there you have it: how to workout while traveling. As you can see, it just takes a little forethought and some smart training. Now go live it up.
- Schoenfeld BJ, Peterson MD, Ogborn D, Contreras B, Sonmez GT. Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):2954-63.
- Fisher J, Steele J, Smith D. Evidence-Based Resistance Training Recommendations for Muscular Hypertrophy. Medicina Sportiva. 2013. 17:217-235.
- Ogasawara R, Yasuda T, Ishii N, Abe T. Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):975-85.
- Ogasawara R, Yasuda T, Sakamaki M, Ozaki H, Abe T. Effects of periodic and continued resistance training on muscle CSA and strength in previously untrained men. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2011 Sep;31(5):399-404.
- Bickel CS, Cross JM, Bamman MM. Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptations in young and older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jul;43(7):1177-87.
Read More: 5 Pre-Workout Tips For Consistently Better Workouts
42 thoughts on “How To Work Out While Traveling”
You can do this anywhere.
Or you could just join the local training in the park.
September Park, Saigon, last week.
I was in a park in Saigon a couple months back. They had a bunch of exercise equipment there. I did my chinups and pull ups there.
Pullups and lunges called. They wanna know why you’re dissin’ ’em?
Finding/Having a local area to go for a run should be key
You can do them anywhere there is a wall and they are an effective exercise.
I really wish somebody could give me instruction on international travel because I really want to explore, but I have no wisdom on it. I have no idea about passports or expenses. I am used to just renting a car on the spot (after negotiating a price) in America and driving for the week I have the contract…from city to city, only stopping (aside from sightseeing/gas/food/showering) to sleep (in the trunk) as I start swerving from exhaustion.
I drove 7,400 miles in 7.5 days last summer (while still managing to visit all the famous sites of the upper plains/Pacific Northwest) when I actually kept track during one of these jaunts. I usually only spend like $500-700 total (including the rental) because I am very frugal with these things. So I am used to being intense.
But I don’t think I could do that in Europe or Asia because of congestion/expenses etc. So what am I looking at? I have never been to a hostel or know where to find one since hotels here are not very timely or sufficient with my funds. Is traveling overseas something you have to do far in advance? Will my credit card/cellphone not work? Do I have to convert my currency? Carry cash? Safety? Trains? Rental car?
I’m used to traveling with so little that I can roll it all in a few blankets that I leave in the car when I park (for free) somewhere and just walk, picking up jugs of water/pizza from gas stations.
I have been to almost every corner of America in the last two years on these little (all 48 states several times over) sojourns so I am ready to do the international thing that so many here talk about. Please, somebody help me out.
Hop on a plane to somewhere, get off, start walking around. Simple
Omg! Why didn’t I think of that?! I should probably ask Third World migrants for directions at 3AM too!
Well, you WOULD get a workout that way.
It’s like a Crossfit WOD!
You need about $1000 a month in the Philippines or Thailand. Just go there and ask a taxi driver for the cheapest clean hotel. They run like $10-$15 a night.
Europe is more expensive but you stay in hostels for $20 a bunk.
On a budget you don’t eat at American restaurants. You eat local food. It is cheap.
Beer is dirt cheap.
Hookers in Southeast Asia are cheap, about $30 a throw. Amsterdam hookers are $50 a throw, or used to be.
Every European city has hostels that run totally cheap.
There is no point in renting a car. Just take public transportation. In Asia this is pennies.
India is so cheap it is a joke. For $1000 you can have a grand old time and fuck the hottest hooker on earth and drink all day.
Goa is the place to go in go in India. But you can take the train everywhere.
Canada is really just the Midwest without blacks. It is safer but there is little to see and it is as expensive as the US.
I’d break it down like this-
Hookers-$50 a throw for a blowjob, $70 for a fuck
Booze-expensive, buy in supermarkets.
SOHO is the spot for prostitutes
Hostels run $20 a bed.
Take the “tube”
Booze-$1.00 for a beer
Drugs-don’t mess around with them, even a pot bust is expensive to get out of.
$30 for a hot Indian call girl. Most of them look like our Ambassador Nikki.
Booze-Dead drunk for $1.00
Drugs-pot is ridiculously cheap in India. So is heroin, but I don’t mess around with hard drugs.
I don’t really indulge on my trips (actually they aren’t even that fun) because it is so itinerant, as I just spend like 30 minutes in each major city. I’m just wondering how can I get to Ireland-Britain-Germany-France-Italy etc very quickly? I assume it’s some sort of bullet train, so I won’t be able to carry much luggage if that’s the case because there is no place to stow it if I get off somewhere and walk around. I’m used to traveling broadly yet methodically, if that makes sense.
You take the Euro to France and to Ireland from Holyhead you take the old ferry.
If there are any lurkers here who wonder why my comments are so radically intense…look no further than the negative thumbs down feedback I got from benign questions that had nothing to do with politics.
This is all the proof you need that NOBODY respects softness in men. They want the truth at all times or else they won’t forgive you for it, regardless of their feminine pleas.
So I’ll resume giving you shit-testers the full-intensity that you demand of me at all times.
Saigon, just get the bus from the airport to the city center, $1.
Air con room, $20, or backpacker ‘cubby’ $7.
Coffee and a chicken roll $1.50
Foreign travel is easy.
John, I may just take you up on the offer. I just quit my job, have about $10k in cash and lots of wanderlust. I am not used to flying or hotels though because I fear must stuff being stolen.
I would also have a difficult time not quoting every Vietnam war movie to these people.
The last thing you want to do in Vietnam is talk about the war.
Thailand is also a nice country and Philippines is cheap with long ties to the United States.
“QUOTING WAR MOVIES IN VIETNAM”
My Lord I’d forgotten how naive and foolhardy Americans are.
When you leave the United States as a very young man are forced to adapt overseas you are struck by how naive and dense Americans who have never left the United States truly are.
Wander around Vietnam quoting war movies…a country that still resents the United States.
Stay in suburbia WEIMAR and wag your flag and shoot off your sparklers on the Fourth of July. You really don’t belong overseas, especially on a budget where you cannot have a hotel security guard or tour guide protect you all the time.
Americans are so silly and senseless. It is no wonder that ghetto blacks and Jews and Mexicans stomp on suburban Anglo Saxons like Godzilla in every sense.
Vietnam and Philippines are very easy. PI everyone speaks English and you can stay for a month without a VISA, VN many people speak English, and I can stay 2 weeks without a VISA. Thailand there are less English speakers, but you can stay 1 month without a VISA. If you don’t have a VISA you need to show a airline ticket out.
So I should buy round-trip since that will be my de facto passport? I would rather buy one-way and just fuck around until I get all the exoticism out of my system.
Get a flight from the US to Vietnam, also but a ticket from Vietnam to Manila ($70), then you can either visit the Philippines, or chuck the ticket. It’s what most of my pals do. Return to the US is expensive to waste, if you feel the urge to say on or visit other parts of SEA. Assume $750 will last you 2 weeks in a SEA country, it’ll probably cost you less. I rarely spend more including flights.
I wish there were a forum for this because I have so many concerns. I normally do so little planning on my cross-country road trips and just drive in a general direction, figuring it out as I go. So much can go wrong when you’re overseas without a car in a country where you look just like the invaders that conquered it a few generations earlier.
It sounds like you’re saying I have enough money to survive there for at least a month if I just buy a ticket to there and a ticket from there to Philippines (wouldn’t I need a return ticket from Philippines, if it is functioning as my passport?). From there I can do whatever I want and purchase a return flight back to USA whenever the prices fluctuate back to something affordable? (The prices fluctuate dramatically on my searches depending on the dates). So an open-ended stay would work great, if it’s inexpensive like you say.
I really don’t treat myself well at all (no lavish meals or tours) on trips because I am concerned first and foremost about broad deadlines and surviving. Everything else is secondary.
I assume my cellphone will not work? I just need the map to show up. I really don’t want to carry cash, so my credit card will work? Is this really something I can just dive right into without much planning like this? I almost always take road trips in between my gigs because they never give me time off and just replace me. So I’m worried about burning through these gigs and wasting time right now in between them deliberating like this.
Damn, Dodds. If I really go through with this, I will find you and buy you a sake.
You brought back memories with that Highland Coffee picture.
Saigon has some cheap, strong and delicious coffee.
Just don’t go there. It will cost you a lot more than you expect. America is big enough. Asia is a shithole despite what they tell you. Europe is totally feminized.
Asia is a shithole?
I’d live in Hong Kong before Detroit.
Staying in Midtown NY, I jogged to Central Park daily, found a kids park- did Chin ups and dips. Then 2 sets of 50 pushups, progressing to a set sets of Hand stand pushups.
Sprints in the park, a few yoga stretches and lost no strength that I could tell over 2 weeks of being there.
I make you for a Brit to be honest. Something about your syntax and your TV references to NFL cheerleaders and Central Park gives you away as an Englishman posing, for Lord knows what psychological reason, as an American.
In fact, you maybe the same Brit who posed as the USMC a few months back and got exposed by John Dodds and myself.
Let me ask you a question. What is the deep psychological need here to pretend to be an American?
I live in the Midwest Rust Belt and have my entire life, traveling and seeing most of the USA, vacationing all over the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico etc
That I use proper Kings English might fool you, but Im not British, aside from my English Puritan & Irish ancestors on part of my mothers side.
I dont pretend to be anything, because I am who I am. A Midwestern boy, x college D1 football player, and guy that got on pretty well with the ladies but seeing the destruction from our modern world and chiming in to offer my insight.
Why do YOU pretend to not be a Ju?
English Council House Kid watching the telly’s US reruns.
You never went to NYC in your life. Its as fantastic as your cheerleaders story.
You’re a Brit. Lower class one, too. Raised on Yank stereotypes.
It is easy to make you. Syntax and the cliches you toss around.
You’re not a very bright impostor either. Laying it on far too thick.
I think some foreigners stereotypes of Americans are fucking hilarious. If you’ve ever been inside a Costco you’d be shocked at our average mouth breathers. It’s flattering that people want to emulate anything about U.S. culture. Luckily I grew up in Colorado, and not one of the flyover states.
“found a kids park”, aye right mate? Did ye have to dodge a few lorries ’round there?
“Went round the bar but it was an Irish-American name and I thought the bloody yanks with their Irish roots might push me about so I found another”
“Went round the pub and order some bacon but the Shite was crispy as fuck and not the bloody shoe leather a bloody Englishman would order with his baked beans”
“I SAY OLD CHAP”
“My dad is a friend of Princess Diana and I live in a castle with lot’s of swans in the garden pond.”
“Please do not doubt that I am English, mate. I play cricket because it is cheerio oh”
I am slightly obese working-class Brit with bad teeth.
Although I am almost 30 I live in a semi-detached terrace house with my parents.
Pakistani males groomed my 13 year old cousin.
Black Jamaicans impregnated my sister.
A Polish immigrant turned me down for a job.
So I watch the “telly” all day and pick up on American stereotypes like everyone dress like “JR” on Dallas in a big fucking cowboy hat and lives in Texas.
Well said. Add some speed walking, excursions, outdoor gyms (if the weather allows it), and everyday calorie burning activities and you can do rather well. Don’t eat too much crap. Look for protein products like eggs, chicken, cheese and ham.
good news is that for most leisure trips, you’re gonna be on your feet all day and/or partying all night, so the calorie expenditure is gonna be high
great point on sticking to the lean proteins when on a trip. protein is very satiating. hit the salad bars and fill up on veggies before tackling big entrees too
intermittent fasting is another useful tool when traveling. you’re busy most the day anyways and can splurge more at night
hell, come to think of it maybe I’ll just write a follow up article
Get a TRX suspension trainer and find a park with trees or fences you can clip it to. Add a dozen short sprints for a finisher. Problem solved.
Only 2 words necessary – gymnastic rings
All I need to workout is a solid place to hang (rings if possible), and a nice hard flat floor (I love wood floors).
That’s it; that contains your pulling and your pushing exercises.
The degree is a matter of exercises and torque.
If you can do a handstand, planche, and front lever, then I have tremendous respect for you.
Good info. I always pack swim trucks so I can at least swim laps in the hotel pool in pinch.
The same moral police officer who earns $24,000 per year and says that he loves the Bill of Rights might be happy to torture if he was paid $100,000 a year.