How Can You Adapt Your Exercise Plans to Your Travel?

Lily Dong, SIRC

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 - 09:00


Be it for business or for pleasure, travelling often shakes up your normal schedule. Meals, sleep, and fitness routines change to accommodate meetings or activities. Travel doesn’t need to set you back from your fitness goals, though. There are several strategies you can use while on the road to help you stay in shape without your usual equipment or regimen.

Depending on your current physical activity routine, you may have to be flexible in the ways you fulfill your fitness needs while away. Long hours of sitting in the car, train, or plane, as well as disruptions to other aspects of your daily routine, such as meal times and jet lag, can be discouraging. These ideas could help you overcome the challenges that travelling presents:

Lack of Equipment or Limited by Hotel Gym Equipment
Gym-goers and strength training enthusiasts may feel limited without access to regular equipment, or if the hotel gym does not have heavy enough weights. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a lower weight, but complete more repetitions
  • Use a lower weight, but slow down the tempo of your lift
  • Do single leg variation of squats or deadlifts
  • Take advantage of tubing/resistance band exercises
  • Do a hotel room workout and use your luggage as weights
  • Bodyweight exercises
    • Tabata is a high-intensity interval format of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, repeated
      • You can choose pretty much any exercise: eg. burpees, plank hold, squat jumps, mountain climbers, pushups, shoulder press, etc.
  • Workout outside
  • Work on cardio and explore your surroundings by going for a brisk walk or run
    • Try hill runs or run the stairs of your hotel

In Transit
You can’t reasonably expect to be doing lunges or sit-ups in the aisle of the airplane or in the middle of a board meeting. And though you would have more space, few people are willing to spontaneously begin working out during a layover, either. For those situations, these strategies are better than nothing:

  • Try isometric exercises when confined to a seat – contracting muscles without actually moving. Hold for about 10 seconds while continuing to breathe normally.
    • Eg. Squeeze your glutes (bum) while drawing your bellybutton in
    • Eg. Contract your pecs (chest) by pressing the palms of your hands together as hard as you can
    • Eg. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back toward each other
  • Walk around the airport or train station during a layover
  • Walk to your departure gate instead of taking the shuttle

It’s very easy to forgo physical activity when on vacation or away for business. Sometimes it can be a good thing to take a break, but if you know ahead of time you want to commit to staying active, make a plan before you leave. It’ll take some creativity and some flexibility, but if you put in the effort, there is no reason you can’t keep up your fitness while travelling. 

Booker RE, Enright SD. Exercising while on the road. ACSM Fit Society Page. 2017; 19(2): 1-2.
Frederick V. Staying active by airport walking. ACSM Fit Society Page. 2017; 19(2): 2-3.
Brown S. Anywhere fitness. ACSM Fit Society Page. 2017; 19(2): 3-4.
Precel J. 4 Killer Workouts for While You’re on Holiday or Vacation. Breaking Muscle.


About the Author: Lily is a fourth-year student in the kinesiology program at Western University, currently interning with SIRC. With a background in synchronized swimming, she continues to be actively involved in the sport as a coach and varsity athlete.