Chapter 4 : Busy Traveler? You Can Fit Exercise into your Trips !

Hopping in and out of planes is exercise enough, you say. But that’s not the kind of exercise that will condition your heart, make your reflexes and joints more fluid, keep the sugar levels or keep you from swinging from one mood to another!

Nor is it the kind of exercise that will make you euphoric after a good cardiovascular session. You need to counteract the effects of jet lag, artificial air in pressurized aircraft cabins and sky fatigue. Suzanne Schlosberg says,

“Sometimes your travels help you recognize how humdrum your workout routine has become. At home, it’s easy to fall into a rut – to use the same weight machines in the same order, week after week, month after month, simply out of habit. But a trip may take the routine out of your routine. You may have no choice but to try new strength exercises or jog in the pool instead of swim laps. And you might find these new pursuits so enjoyable that you add them to your fitness repertoire at home.”

Common Obstacles

What are some of the reasons why travelers do not incorporate exercise while they’re on the road?

  • They’re stressed or too tired
  • They don’t feel comfortable about working out in unfamiliar surroundings
  • They don’t have access to a hotel gym

But if they made just a tiny effort to change this thinking, they’d be on the road to fitness sooner.

Engaging in exercise allows you to get out of that bubble of meetings, seminars and tours.

Walk when on the Road

When traveling, have a pair of good walking shoes (trainers preferably) so that you won’t feel so daunted about getting from one side of the airport to another.

Having the right pair of walking shoes will encourage you to walk up the stairs instead of take the escalator, to walk instead of taking the conveyor belt, and to transfer from one concourse to another on foot instead of taking the shuttle service.

You may not know it, but walking these long distances with your luggage in tow serves as a combination/weight lifting exercise!

Fitness while Flying

Once settled comfortably on the plane, make sure you time your stretching and walking periods. If it’s just an hour’s flight, walk around the plane once and do your stretching at the back of the plane; if it’s a three hour to five hour flight (east to west in the North American continent), try to get up from your seat and walk around at least once every hour, doing leg extensions and trunk/neck movements.

If you’re crossing the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, those killer flights need not kill you. Increase the frequency of your stretches and walking.

Airlines such as Japan Air Lines show videos of how travelers can incorporate flexibility movements while seated or standing. Take full advantage of these videos. The exercises may help you ward off fatigue and jet lag.

A note about DVT

In the last five years, there have been reports about flight passengers, especially in economy class, suffering from DVT – deep vein thrombosis.

The link between confining airplane seats and deaths from DVT (formation of deadly blood clots) has been established by the United Nations World Health Organization. It has nothing to do with gender, risk factors or genetics. Everyone is at risk in economy class! This should constitute compelling reason to integrate exercise while high in the sky.

To make exercise possible while traveling, schedule your flights so that when you get to your destination, you don’t rush through dinner and then go to sleep.

Try to arrive during the late afternoon/early evening, to give you time to shake off the fatigue from the trip, and have at least an hour to do exercises either in your hotel room or in the hotel gym.

Important “to do” things when traveling

  • Be fully rested before a trip – have the usual “to pack” items ready well in advance so you’re not scampering for them at the last minute, depleting your energy levels.
  • Time your sleep correctly – as soon as you board, get the local time of your destination and set your watch accordingly. If it’s already night time in your destination, wear blindfolds and ask for a pillow and try to catch a few winks.
  • Drink plenty of water – wine and cocktails will only dehydrate you further; note that humidity levels inside aircraft is below 10%, so water is your best bet.

If your job requires you to travel at least four times a month, ask your company’s travel department to book you in hotels with gyms or a swimming pool.

Make time out of your travel schedule to insert a workout into your grinding schedule.

Here’s a friendly suggestion: get up earlier in the morning and before or after breakfast, head over to the gym and do a brisk walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes, or do the rowing machine (great for the core muscles, back problem reliever) for 10 minutes.
This session is just to wake you up from your travel stupor. See if you can walk to your business appointment instead of taking a cab (that’s another 10 minutes).

At night before going to bed, go to the hotel gym again and lift weights for 10 minutes, to complete your workout for the day. This way you did your cardio and resistance training, two essential components of a fitness program.

Now, tell us, doesn’t a 10-20 minute session sound less intimidating than clocking 1.5 hours in the gym?

Working out with Friends

Another friendly suggestion: if you’re traveling in a group, ask a colleague if he or she would do a game of squash or tennis with you. The concierge can give you local addresses of sports or recreational centers in the vicinity.

When there’s no Gym!

If the hotel gym is crowded or “temporarily closed for maintenance,” you can still exercise – in the comfort of your room.

 Here are some exercises that you can perform:

  • Turn on the TV or sound system and jog in place; or look up the TV guide and see if some old Jane Fonda or Denise Austin shows are on. Get on with the beat
  • Jog in place or jump rope (great cardiovascular workout)
  • Conduct floor exercises (described below)

Floor exercise 1: the Cobra (or back extension). Lying on your stomach as though getting ready for push-ups, keep your hands on your side with palms facing down and fingers pointed forward. With your hands, push to lift your torso off the floor (ensure you’re lifting head, shoulders and chest only).

Keep pelvis on the floor and your head looking ahead. Hold and then release. Repeat 3 times. You should feel your spine lengthen. Joe Decker recommends not just pressing back with your hands, but also pushing your upper body up and forward.

Do not tilt your head back to look at the ceiling (many people make this mistake). This puts a strain on your neck.

Floor exercise 2:  Crunch (for lower abdominals). The lower abdominals are the weakest muscles in your torso because they are rarely worked, and they’re the first to sag after childbirth and after menopause.

This exercise will help: Lying flat on your back with your knees bent, cross your arms over your chest. Squeeze your buttocks, tighten your abdomen and push your lower back into the floor. Hold for 10-20 seconds, breathing normally. Relax, and then release. Repeat as often as you can, without overworking yourself.

Floor exercise 3: Hurdler’s Stretch. Bend the knee towards the front, and then tuck your lower leg in toward the opposite thigh. Stretch gently toward the straight leg. Do not bounce. This movement is like the ballet movement when an arm goes above the head gracefully, which stretches the sides of the trunk to increase flexibility.

If you pick up any exercise book, there will be a rich inventory of exercises you can perform while on the go. Pack this in your bag so you can refer to it for correct form and posture.


Yoga on the train? Yes! A news report was published in the Montreal Gazette recently saying how many overstressed Germans still hide behind their papers rather than exercise. We’re sure Americans and Canadians are no less guilty.

So these commuters are being taught yoga and relaxation techniques on their way to and from work. Instructors are now in what the German government calls “wellness trains” in southern Germany. This was an initiative taken by Deutsche Bahn – Germany’s state-owned railway. The organization decided to offer relaxation and yoga techniques to calm an anxious work force.

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