With summer firmly on its way it’s easy enough to tell you to ditch the gym and start training outside using your bodyweight. After all, the sun is a powerful weight loss ally.
But that’s not because it encourages you to look good without your kit on; instead, research by The Endocrine Society found that people with low levels of vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) were more likely to be obese.
So there’s more to motivate you to train outdoors than simply getting a tan. Unfortunately, the trouble with calisthenic workouts is their very nature: you’re trying to lift your bodyweight in order to lose your bodyweight. This can be a tricky endeavor because you may not be strong enough yet to do sufficient reps to create a significant calorie burn.
So that’s why we got a selection of the world’s top experts who are well versed in the art of traveling and training to give you, in their own words, their strategies for a creating a winning physique when you’re away from your usual iron asylum.
Make a commitment to yourself
Firstly, you have to decide that you’ll find a way to train your body. This may sound simple, but it’s a huge part of being successful in your goals. Make the conscious choice to find a way. Don’t get to where you’re sleeping all day and missing a workout or two only to discover there isn’t a gym nearby. All that will happen is that you’ll say, ‘Ah, forget it,’ and all because you didn’t decide before hand to make it work. Failing to prepare, even mentally, is preparing to fail.
There isn’t always a gym available, or if you’re lucky enough to find equipment then chances are it won’t be enough weight or what you are used to.
Bodyweight is a huge tool. All that stuff you learned in school: push-ups, jumping jacks, bodyweight squats, lunges and sit-ups. Your bodyweight alone has the makings of a great workout. All you have to do is vary each exercise as much as possible.
So when you’re doing push-ups do a set with your hands close together, and then go really wide on the next set to focus on different muscle groups. For squats you can go with a wide stance then close; you can also do front and side lunges.
Almost all exercises have variables; something as simple as putting your hands above your head while squatting or lunging can turn up the intensity of a set.
Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton was one of the greatest athletes in American history, but he never trained in the gym with weights. He stayed in shape doing variations of push-ups and sit-ups.
Something you can always find, no matter where you are, is stairs, and they are great for on-the-road workouts. One of my favorite things to do with them is explosive training. It’s great for athletes and people who just want to be in shape.
I’ll find myself a set of stairs and charge up them as fast as I can, not saving any energy for the return journey. Once I hit the top, or the height I have decided was my finish line, I power down and slowly walk back to the bottom. No rush, no hurry, just recover.
Once I touch the bottom I immediately explode back up as fast as possible. I repeat this eight to 12 times. If that doesn’t wreck you then you’re not human. Stairs are also perfect to help you get different angles on push-ups: face up for decline and down for incline. Do the push-ups before you run, just in case you don’t have the energy afterwards.
Get your head in the game
Staying in shape on the road is basically about mental strength. The same mentality that it took at home to get up and go to the gym is needed while on your travels.
It’s definitely harder and you’ll have plenty of excuses for not getting it done, but when it’s time to look in the mirror and see if you’ve reached your goals, whatever that is, the excuses will be all you have.
It’s hard to take gear with you when you are deployed or traveling. Some places will have a gym while others won’t. However, there is some workout equipment you’ll be able to find anywhere:
1. Pull-up bar
2. 24-inch box
3. Water jug
4. Park bench
5. Old tire
Use these to create several resistance exercises incorporating the weight of the items or that of your body. If you want to be extra prepared then some of the best transportable training gear includes:
1. Jump rope
2. Medicine ball
3. Gymnast rings
4. Parallel bars made of PVC pipe
6. Resistance bands
7. Compression floss
Eating while away
Nutrition is the foundation of any training program. However, most of the times we’re away on deployment, we’re not exactly getting regular surf and turf.
Sometimes you can’t, or don’t, get the proper nutritional intake while traveling so you just do what you can. Focus on protein and fat prior to your workout, and carbohydrates and a smaller amount of protein post-workout. A lot of people rely solely on a protein shake following a workout, and neglect the importance of replacing their depleted glycogen (energy) that’s lost during a training session.
The way you replace that glycogen is with glucose. Translation: carbohydrates. I prefer Vitargo post workout because it’s quick absorbing, I can bring it with me to the gym and I don’t exactly feel like eating right after I work out. Having this powdered carbohydrate on hand buys me some time until I make it to my actual meal.
And always try to eat real foods, not food-like products. By that I mean try to choose the most nutrient-dense foods you can find, and don’t mistake a supplement for a meal replacement. You’re burning a lot of calories so don’t forget to feed the machine.
Making the time
Never let traveling be an excuse. There are almost always hotels with a gym. If not, there is usually a gym located nearby. Every day you’re at your destination, make it a priority to get up early and work out before you get on with the rest of your day.
Adapt your approach
You’ll typically have less time and equipment to work with because hotel gyms can be pretty limited with a few dumbbells and a treadmill. Therefore, brief and intense workouts are what’s needed. Even if you can only, say, train upper body for 20 minutes, that’s better than nothing.
Planning is key. Before you depart for your trip, call the hotel to find out what type of equipment they have in their gym, or where the nearest gym is, and if they offer guest passes. This way you can plan ahead by adjusting your training with your environment.
I recommend using the hotel stairs for cardio. Depending on the number of floors in your hotel, you can run up and down eight flights of stairs, climbing two stairs at a time, then do a few walking lunges down the hallway, as well as jumping and bodyweight squats.
If you don’t have extra resistance then simply keep the reps high, do plyometrics (see page 63) and move from one exercise to the next without stopping. Of course, you can always run outside, which is a great way to explore a new city.
It’s actually easier to keep my diet on track than it is to maintain my workout routine when I travel. Whenever I go away I always carry with me an electric skillet, a Bullet blender and Tupperware.
I may not be able to have six small meals a day when I travel, but I can at least have five, including a protein shake.
Again, it’s all about planning. Before I leave for my trip, I map out the closest grocery store and call the hotel to make sure there’ll be a fridge in my room.When I arrive at my destination, I’ll go grocery shopping. I look for fish, chicken and broccoli – the staples. Then I use the skillet to prepare my meals for the day.
When I don’t have time to cook, I’ll find a restaurant where I can get a grilled chicken salad or something else that’s ‘clean.’ Sometimes I take canned tuna with me. Find some kale, spinach or other veggies, and you can make a tuna salad in a pinch. If I’m in a hotel that offers a free breakfast, I’ll stick to boiled egg whites and oatmeal.
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