Greetings from Las Vegas, Nevada!
Over the past six months, I have not missed a workout despite spending time in quite a few different places:
- Nashville, TN
- Dallas, TX
- Austin, TX
- Atlanta, GA
- Miami, FL
- A floating music festival
- San Diego, CA
- Maui, HI
- Las Vegas, NV (three times!)
- Portland, OR
Not only have I not missed a workout, but I’ve also managed to get in the best shape of my life over that time frame. We receive emails every day from people who have the same problem:
“Steve, when I’m at home I am great and can stay on track, but I travel a lot for work and it’s really easy to get thrown off, help?”
Although I’ve already written extensively about being healthy as a traveling nomad three years ago, I wanted to revisit this topic for the traveling working professional and share my experiences and thoughts about staying healthy on the road.
It is absolutely possible to make great progress while traveling; one of our best success stories ever, NF Rebel Joe, managed to lose 130 pounds in 10 months while traveling TWO weeks a month, every month.
If you happen to be a road warrior, or travel junkie, and/or spend more time in an airport than an office, I got you covered!
Get your head in the game
The challenge with getting fit on the road is often due to not having the right mental attitude before the trip even starts. It’s not due to a gym, or no options for healthy eating, but because your head is not in the game.
I stopped telling myself that missing workouts and eating like crap was inevitable, and instead decided that getting fit was inevitable, no matter my location.
So, before you even set foot on a plane, or before you get into your car, you need to level up your mental game:
1) Make a commitment to yourself. I knew I was going to be traveling like crazy for the past six months, and in the past I would always tell myself “I don’t have time to exercise.” However, over this recent stretch, I haven’t missed a single workout. How? By telling myself that I WOULD NOT MISS A WORKOUT!
I’ve had to work out very early in the morning, very late at night, or cram a workout in halfway through the day. I’ve worked out in gyms, parks, playgrounds, etc. Remember, “I don’t have time is a big fat lie.”
2) Make exercise the one constant in a trip full of uncertainty. As pointed out in this article, I’ve made exercise into my “Constant” (to borrow a term from Lost) – when my life gets crazy and I’m always in a new environment, exercise is the constant in my life that keeps me grounded.
3) Never miss two in a row. I realize we all have busy lives, and things happen, but I’ve added this rule to my life that has kept me on track despite a hectic lifestyle.
I had to apply this rule last week after having a bit too much fun at the World Domination Summit. I was exhausted, with no voice, and had very little time, but I knew that if I missed a day on my workout, suddenly skipping my workout the next day would be even easier.
So, when I’m traveling, I NEVER miss two workouts in a row.
If I was supposed to work out on Monday but due to travel had to skip it, I would work out on Sunday, and then again on Tuesday. If I have to eat an unhealthy meal, then my NEXT meal that same day suddenly becomes the most important meal of my life, and it has to be healthy.
When you get ready for a trip, you probably go through a checklist:
- Toiletries kit
- Socks, underwear, undershirts
- Laptop, iPad, Kindle
There’s one thing that might get left out: your plan of attack for getting fit!
I now travel everywhere with a set of olympic rings (purchased from my buddy Peter at FringeSport). I know that with those rings, as long as I can find a tree branch or swingset to hang them from, I can complete 99.9% of a workout that I would complete if I was at home.
I also make sure I have enough workout clothes with me, as all it takes is a simple “oops, out of workout shirts” to convince myself that I’m not ready to exercise. It’s a amazing what we can justify to ourselves to avoid something.
I put my workouts into my Google Calendar, with alerts set to remind me on the days and times I need to exercise. This one action probably adds 50% to my probability of actually exercising. Just as you would build a better batcave at home, you too can build a better batmobile (see what I did there?) that sets you up for success.
I do the best I can to plan ahead on my meals too. If I know I’m going to be spending all day in an airport, or on an 8-hour road trip, I see if there’s a way I can bring a healthy snack along with me so that I can tread water (and maintain momentum) until a healthier option presents itself.
I remind myself that ANYTHING is better than nothing. Last week, my schedule was so hectic that I only had thirty minutes to work out, so I dialed my workout back to just the essentials. I warmed up, did sets of heavy squats, then some romanian deadlifts, and got the hell out of there!
If you don’t have time to work out for an hour, do 30 minutes. If you don’t have time to run 5 miles, run 2 miles. If you only have time to do push ups in your hotel room, do push ups in your hotel room.
YES, planning ahead requires work. Planning ahead also puts you in a much better position to succeed.
Now that we’ve taken care of the mental aspect of travel, it’s time to dig into the logistics.
Locate your “gym”
Despite spending probably 50-60 days in hotels over the past six months, I probably used a hotel gym twice.
Because most hotel gyms are absolutely awful – they generally have a collection of treadmills, ellipticals, and non-function work-out machines (boooo machines!)
So I work out anywhere and everywhere else. You have a few key options when it comes to training on the road. I don’t care which one you pick, as long as you pick one:
1) Find an actual gym. A simple google search will reveal actual gyms in the area that you’re staying. I guarantee there is a 24-hour fitness, LA fitness, or local gym that will have the actual equipment you need (for me, it’s barbells for squats, deadlifts, and presses, and something to hang my rings from). Call them before you arrive and ask them how much a week’s membership is, if they allow deadlifts, and if they have any free trials.
This is the most expensive option, but if you have room in your budget and this is something you can spend extra money on, this is my favorite option – it’s a lot easier to stay on a routine when you can replicate your home workout situation.
2) Find a playground. While traveling the world, I would pull up google maps each time I got to a new town and looked for a green square on the map. I figured that as long as there was a park, there would be trees and hopefully a playground.
We’ve covered an extensive playground workout (which I used while living in Ecuador) that will give you a complete full body workout that can be done anywhere! Really, you just need something to hang from for your “pull” movements and everything else can be done with just your body weight. This is where my Olympic rings come in handy!
3) Use the hotel gym. While planning for my trips, if I can’t find a suitable gym or park in the area near to my hotel, I’ll contact the hotel or check out the hotel online and see pictures of their gym – if they have dumbbells then I know I can at least MacGyver myself a workout that still covers the essentials (build your own workout here). It’s not 100%, but you can get pretty darn close if you’re creative and plan properly!
4) Do a hotel room workout. So busy you can’t even leave your hotel room? Hotel gym sucks? No park or gym near you? Do a hotel room work out!
Here’s more info on how to complete a true workout without leaving your hotel room, in 20 minutes!
5) Do a gas station workout! Check my guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple about how to stay healthy on a roadtrip. Pull over and do a workout using the side of your car while filling up your gas tank:
Shhhh, did you hear that? It was all of your excuses for not exercising while traveling flying out the window! With ONE of the five options above, you literally have no reason why you cannot complete a workout while traveling.
Now, the REAL reason why exercising is so damn important isn’t just because it helps build muscle, make you stronger, and keep you healthier – it also helps ensure that the calories you consume are going towards building muscle and not getting stored as fat.
On top of that, how we eat is 80-90% of the battle, whether we’re trying to lose weight or if we’re looking to get bigger and stronger, and by exercising every day we always keep thinking healthy.
So let’s dig into road warrior nutrition!
Eat right, level up
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in our brains that tell us “I’m traveling, TIME TO EAT LIKE AN IDIOT!”
If we’re not careful, all of our months of hard work focused on making better eating decisions can grind to a screeching halt, not unlike getting hit with a red shell in Mario Kart (I see you Luigi!). When you take an entire week off from eating healthy while traveling, it makes getting back on track when you return infinitely harder.
So we need to tread water and stay on target while traveling with our diet so that we don’t lose all of that momentum.
Focus on these few goals while traveling: maximizing protein consumption, limiting liquid calories, eating vegetables, and never making two “mistakes” in a row.
Protein builds muscle, and it can also be incredibly filling. I make sure every meal has a protein source, and aim to eat as much of it as possible. This is much preferred to filling myself with empty calories like bread.
I limit liquid calories. I know I’m going to be drinking, so I am extra diligent with my meals so the alcohol doesn’t throw off my diet completely.
Vegetables are my friend. Like protein, I try to eat as many veggies as possible, knowing they’re full of nutrients and light on calories.
Remember that anything is better than nothing. We’re not compounding a mistake by making two. Saying “I ate like an ***hole for breakfast, so today is ruined” is a losing mentality. So, if we eat poorly for one meal, the next meal HAS to be healthy. No excuses.
Mentally you’re prepared to eat right, now let’s cover an actual game plan for doing so.
Road warriors unite
BOOM! Just like that, we’ve officially conquered every barrier between you and a healthy life on the road.
It really comes down to three key things:
1) Priorities – staying healthy and getting stronger can happen on the road, but it must be front and center in your mind. Making healthy eating decisions is a choice. Going to the gym is a choice. No more excuses.
2) Plan ahead - know where you’re going to work out, and when. Put your workout in your calendar.
3) Never miss two in a row - shit happens and life gets screwed up while traveling. Don’t let one mistake become two.
What are your biggest struggles while on the road?
Have you found a way to be happy and healthy while traveling?
Inquiring minds want to know! Leave a comment below and help out your fellow road warriors.
PS: Speaking of travel, next week I’m off to Amsterdam for 3 days and then Croatia for 10 days! This is my first international trip since going to Brazil for Carnival last year, and I’m so freaking excited. Time to cross a few things off the Epic Quest list
If you happen to live in/near Amsterdam or Split, leave a comment or hit me up on twitter at @SteveKamb so we can meet up!
photo source: Sonia Carolina: You can, Anne: Gym, Brave Heart: McDonalds, Robert: Highway, i k o: hitch-hiking, Joe Penniston: polynesian resort