workout on the fly, or even while you’re flying!

While still in Texas, I ran in the Midnight Margarita Run with Chela of Medieval Moccasins.  It was a 5K through downtown Austin, complete with a margarita party after the race. It was a blast, made even more fun when we decided to run in style.  Reincarnation Outfitters and Medieval Moccasin style that is -decked out in  tutus, fairy wings, and knee high boots!  Chela’s boyfriend, Daniel, and his friend Fabian were our sideline cheerleaders and videographers.  Check out our end of race videos on the Medieval Moccasin Facebook page!

All that running got me thinking about staying active while on the road.  So this post is about fitting in a good exercise routine while traveling.  I know vacation can be a time of relaxation and leisure, but too many days of long sedentary flights, interesting foods, extra deserts and mid-day coffees can take a tole on our bodies and our morale.  Making time for a few simple stretches or a short workout will keep you fresh, happy, and ready for the next adventure.

Keep in mind, I’m NOT a personal trainer and I have no credentials or certificates in health that should make you believe a single word I say.  This is all based off of personal experience and tips I’ve picked up along the way.  Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, lets look at some good workouts to do while en route, and once you’ve arrived.

Work Out #1: Travel Stretches

So it is vacation time. Your bags are packed and you’re ready to hop in the car and hit the road, or maybe you’ve made it through security and the only thing between you and Bermuda is a seven hour flight.  While you might be looking forward to the journey, your back might not be so happy about the thought of being stuck in a seated position for the rest of the day.  Tuck yourself into an unobtrusive corner if you aren’t lucky enough to be flying through San Francisco International Airport, or other airports with rooms dedicated to yoga, stretching, or working out.  These stretches are good to do before boarding and after deplaning to loosen up.

1. Forward Bend: Stand with feet hip width apart, knees soft or slightly bent.  Bend at the waist and put your hands on the ground.  If you can’t reach the ground, bend your knees a bit more.  Sometimes this position is used with straight knees to stretch the hamstrings, but by bending the knees and touching the hands to the ground it transfers the stretch to the lower back.  For an extra stretch grab your elbows with the opposite hands and let your upper body hang.  The your own weight plus gravity will stretch out your lower back.   Hold for three breaths. Another variation is to stand with feet about two hip-widths apart.

2. Twist: Sit on the ground “Indian style” and don’t slouch.  Gently twist your whole back to the left, pivoting around your core, and following the twist with your eyes and head.  For stability and an extra stretch you can brace your right hand against your left knee and your left hand behind your back. Sit tall with each inhale and twist a little deeper with each exhale.  Hold for three breaths, and then repeat on the right.

3. Seated Cat/Cow: Cat/Cow is a yoga stretch done on the hands and knees.  In Cat you tuck your head and tail bone under and arch your back towards the sky.  In Cow you reverse the position, with head and tailbone skyward and putting a sway in your middle back.  Rotating between these two moves awakens and strengthens the spinal cord and all the muscles in your back.  But getting on your hands and knees in a crowded public place might be awkward, so the Seated Cat/Cow is another option.  Sit “Indian style” on the ground and rest your forearms on your knees.  Breathe out, hunch your shoulders, and curl your chin towards your chest. Slouch as much as you can!  Then breathe in, sit tall, push your chest out and up, and tilt your head backwards.  Move between these two positions, maintaining that breathing pattern, slowly at first and then increasing in speed until you are moving as quickly as you can.  This exercise warms up your back and spine and makes you aware of your posture.  Try to sit and stand taller afterwards.

4. Jumping Jacks: You might look silly, but after a long sit, jumping-jacks are the quickest way to get your blood pumping through all extremities at once.

5. Walk: Those moving walkways, escalators,  and luggage golf-carts are pretty tempting, I know, but try to be your own form of transportation between gates. Walk, take the stairs, and pull your own suitcase.  When you’ve just watched the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy between Seattle and Shanghai, the last thing you need to do is hitch a ride between gates B31 to A60.  Just like jumping-jacks, a brisk walk will get your blood flowing and perk you up.  Track yourself if you want to.  A stroll burns about 3 calories a minute, while a fast pace can burn almost 6.  Taking the stairs while carrying a piece of luggage can burn 7 calories per flight.  

Work Out #2: The Hidden Gems

Sometimes you can fit a work out into your vacation without making any changes at all.  Instead of changes make choices! Fit these activities in and around your busy schedule.

1. Walk: Sound familiar? Choose to walk around town rather than taking public transportation or a cab.  It is free, slow, and healthy. Slow? Yes! Slow! You’ll be amazed at how many wonderful treasures you stumble across when you take the time to walk between the main tourist hot spots.  Find the cafe that the locals love, peer down side streets and into local boutiques, admire the architecture, get a little lost trying to find a “shortcut” off the beaten path.

2. Bike: Many cities, especially in Europe and America, now have bike share programs.  Capital Bike Share in the D.C. area, Vélib’ in Paris, Bicing in Barcelona are just a few examples, but the list of participating cities is endless and growing.  Like walking, riding a bike gives travelers the chance to explore a city at their own pace.  And biking leisurely can burn 280 calories an hour, negating that mid-day coffee almost as quickly as you drank it!

3. Paddle: So you have a four day weekend and you’ve taken off for a white sandy island.  Your only goals are to get a tan your co-workers will envy, and drink icy drinks with little umbrellas on top. There is no reason you have to accomplish these goals while lying prone on your towel for the better part of the day! Ask around at your hotel or the docks, and find a boat rental.  Get a glass bottomed kayak, a paddle-boat, or a canoe. Don’t just stare at the waves, splash around in them! Salt water is great for your skin, but watch out for water reflections that boost the sun’s rays- your tan might turn on you.  Splashing around in the surf will burn 420 calories an hour, while boating can burn between 200 and 350 calories an hour.

4. Dance:  Are you more of a night time activities kind of person?  Take yourself out to a club or down to a concert.  Dancing burns over 300 calories an hour.

Work Out #3: 

This work out is for those who want to Work Out.  All you need are some good running shoes and an elastic resistance exercise band.

They usually come in different tensions so find one that is right for you and throw it in the bottom of your suitcase before you leave.  Like any good workout you’ll want to include some cardio and some strength training.

Cardio: Go for a jog or a brisk, purposeful walk in the neighborhood where you’re staying.  When running remember “KISS”. Not Kiss the 80’s band, and not that great French guy you met last weekend, but KISS: Keep it Short and Simple.  You don’t want to get lost, or bogged down by traffic lights and crosswalks.  Since you probably won’t be running with a cell phone or map, stay close to home and don’t make too many confusing turns.  Run as much as  you’re comfortable with.  For me 30 minutes is enough to keep me energized and on track.

Strength: Once back to the hotel, grab your elastic band and find a sturdy door- maybe the bathroom door or your room’s main door.  For some exercises you’ll be shutting one end of the elastic in it. I’m not going to go into too much instructional detail on these exercises, they are fairly self explanatory and if they aren’t- Google it! I like to do three sets of 10 – 15 reps for each exercise.

– Biceps: Stand on the center of the elastic band and take one handle in each hand.  Do bicep curls.

– Triceps: Stand on the center of the elastic band and take one handle in each hand. Do tricep curls.

– Chest Press: Loop center of elastic band around outside door handle and shut door.  With your back to the door, take one handle in each hand and press away from your body.

– Overhead Press: Stand on the center of the elastic band and take one handle in each hand. Press hands up over head.

–  Legs: Shut one end of the elastic band in the door.  Loop other end around left ankle.  Stand facing the door and kick left leg backwards, keeping leg straight.  Do this for each direction on each leg (ex: stand with door at right side, push leg to left; stand with back to door, push leg forward, etc).

If you do not want to bring a resistance band, simple calisthenic exercises are equally adequate: sit-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges work all the major body parts.  Remember, you aren’t training for the Iron Man, you are just trying to maintain some activity and keep up your energy while on vacation.

I hope this post has given you some active ideas for your next trip.  If you have more travel training tips I’d love to hear them!

Happy Trails,



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