Exercise while Traveling

How do you stay on track with exercise while traveling? Should you stick to your workouts or take a break when you're on vacation? Is it better for your health to keep up the workouts, or should we all just learn to relax already? These are very common questions I get asked as a health coach and on the podcast. 

As always, there's no one correct answer, but let's explore the topic a little to see if we can help arrive at our own best conclusion (This is usually the case, by the way; there's no one correct answer for anything, whether we're talking about relationships, nutrition, exercise, raising kids, you name it. Best to avoid following black-or-white advice and instead do your best to really understand topic as it relates to you, before coming to your own conclusion. But I digress).

A couple questions you may want to consider when you think about your approach to exercise while traveling:

  • How long will I be gone for?
  • What is the purpose of this trip (Is it vacation, a work trip, a routine trip to visit family, etc)
  • Will I have relatively easy access to a gym or some form of exercise that I enjoy?
  • What are my current goals (ie, am I training for something specific, recovering from an injury, managing stress, losing fat, etc).
  • Do I WANT to work out while traveling?
  • What will optimize my enjoyment of my trip: maintaining a workout schedule, loosening up but still working out a few times, or taking a break entirely?

The answers to these questions should help clarify some things for you; and with more clarity in mind, here are some of my general thoughts on exercising while traveling.

  1. Daily movement, especially outside, is a great idea regardless of the nature of your trip. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you avoid any physical expression whatsover! Perhaps especially if you're on a stressful trip, or work travel, making an effort to get outside and go for walks is a great idea. On our recent trip to Pacific Beach, San Diego, we got an AirBnB about a 10 minute walk from the beach, rather than directly on it - this was for a few reasons, but one of them being we walked more to get to our meals, to the beach, and just for fun. We all ended up getting more daily steps on our vacation than we do in normal life, and this was by design.

  2. Plan ahead. If keeping a regular gym or running or walking schedule is important to you, do your research ahead of time - scout out a local gym and look into drop-in rates; map out some walking/running/hiking-friendly routes near you. Do this before you go so you're not stressed about it once you get there.

  3. Consider the cost (not just the benefit) of sticking to your plan. Will your regular workout schedule interfere with your vacation? If so, it's probably worth making some temporary amendments. I know we've all had times when our workouts or how we look are the most important things in our lives, but generally, I think we'd all rather look back on our vacations and think about the times we spent with loved ones or the fun we had, not the hours spent in a gym. Part of the reason we work out is for resilience and adaptability, after all, and if you fall apart emotionally when you miss a workout or two, that's something worth exploring.

  4. Make your workouts more fun! I'm a big fan of seeking out outdoor adult playgrounds (you know, the ones with lots of pull-up bars and other contraptions), doing bodyweight workouts on the beach, and even a short run or two, because I don't wanna waste my time in a new place or a sunny location being in a dark gym inside somewhere. I've also been known to check out cool or fun new gyms where ever I'm traveling; that can be part of the cultural experience too, if you're a gym rat :)

  5. Be efficient. If you do want/need to get your gym workouts in, don't waste your time - put your phone down, minimize rest between movements, and make your workouts and quick and effective.

  6. Focus on maintenance, not growth (during your trip). None of us want to look or feel worse after a vacation, or "lose our gains" but unless you're really going hard on the debauchery, that probably won't happen. Focus on the fundamentals: staying hydrated, eating protein, avoiding too much booze or food that will make you feel like crap, and get a couple workouts in, and you should be able to slip back into your routine easily when you return home. It's not rocket science; it's moderation and consistency, which sometimes seems even harder!

I hope this gives you some food for thought, and helps you make the best decision for you while traveling. In my experience, most of us do well somewhere in the middle of the extremes: we still try to work out, move, and eat well, but we'll generally relax the rules a bit while we travel, and that's usually ok. Just remember: most of us work out to ENHANCE our life and our health, and if what you're doing is detracting from either, it's time to re-evalute. 

Have any questions or thoughts about this? Let me know. Want to get the best training program ever created? Sign up for Muscle Science for Women.

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