When it comes to staying on track with workouts, any trainer will tell you that having a plan is key. That’s probably why traveling throws a wrench in the most dedicated fitness regimen. “Traveling forces you to adjust your routine and schedule and often can be the biggest reason exercisers fall off the bandwagon,” explains Nicolette Amarillas, CHEK Practitioner and a certified personal trainer at DIAKADI in San Francisco, California.
If you have upcoming travel, it pays to think ahead. “It’s helpful to create a routine and schedule prior to leaving for your travel,” Amarillas says. “Just like you calendar meetings and dinner reservations, schedule your workouts.” Be realistic about how often you’ll actually be able to work out. “Many times we anticipate having more time or we don’t account for jet lag, so keep it simple. Do something in your hotel room or close to where you’re staying,” she suggests.
While you’re not going to lug a set of weights with you, here are five pieces of fitness equipment that are light and easy to pack — even if you’re going carry-on only.
These bands, are the holy grail of travel fitness equipment since they weigh virtually nothing and provide a challenging resistance-training workout. “When you don’t have weights at your disposal, these are so easy to add to what would otherwise be a bodyweight exercise,” Amarillas says. They come in a variety of thicknesses so they work well for all levels, and if you pick up a variety pack, you’ll be well-equipped for lots of different exercises.
She recommends using them for squats by placing the band around your ankles or just above your knees to target your glutes. Use a heavier band for more resistance, and add a jump at the top of your squat to make it even tougher. For a core and upper-body move, Amarillas suggests hand planks. “Put the band around your wrists, and one side at a time, gently and slowly pull out one arm laterally while squeezing your shoulder blades and using your core to prevent your pelvis from moving.” Targeted upper-body work is also possible, including tricep extensions, biceps curls and chest flys with a lighter band.
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2. JUMP ROPE
No treadmill at your hotel? No problem. “I love doing interval training with a jump rope to help me burn serious calories in a short amount of time,” says Katie Dunlop, CPT and founder of Love Sweat Fitness. “Beginners can do 30 seconds of full-intensity fast jumping, then lower-intensity jogging with the rope for 60 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this circuit 10–15 times.” For more advanced exercisers, simply switch between 30 seconds of fast jumping and 30 seconds of slower jumping 10–15 times. “You can find jump ropes with varying weights, which will add resistance and help you burn even more calories,” she adds. Mix in some bodyweight exercises before or after, and you’ll have a complete workout.
“These are favorite because of how light and flat they are, making them ideal to travel with,” Amarillas says. The exercises you can do with these are pretty much endless — from mountain climbers to curtsey lunges.
Amarillas recommends a slider reverse lunge or lateral lunge for a quick lower-body hit. “Put the moving leg on the slider and slide the leg back or laterally, depending on which lunge you are doing. Add in a pulse or a hold at the bottom of the lunge for added difficulty.” For a glute- and hamstring-targeting move, try the slider hip extension. “Start laying down with legs extended on the floor and place your heels on one slider each. Begin by lifting the pelvis off the floor squeezing the glutes, as you lift, slide your feet toward your glutes by bending your knees. Then extend the knees to lower back down to the floor.” Want to make it harder? Try with just one leg instead of two.
Pro tip: If you forget to pack sliders, you can use paper plates or even paper towels (on a hardwood or similar floor) instead.
If you usually use a foam roller but don’t want to lug one around, give a lacrosse ball a try. “This tiny tool is invaluable for keeping joints mobile on the go, including ankles, shoulders, pecs, lats and hips,” explains Kristin Vallacher, personal trainer and programming director at The Phoenix Effect LA. “Simply place it into a given joint and work across the grain of the muscle for 90–120 seconds.” To mobilize your feet before a day packed with walking, for example, lightly roll your foot over the ball for two minutes per foot. It you have a kink or some muscle soreness in your upper back, stand up against a wall with the ball between your back and the wall and move around for two minutes per side. “Use as much or as little pressure as feels significant but not overly uncomfortable,” Vallacher advises.
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It’s true, a TRX system is a little bit bigger than some of the other items on this list, but Amarillas says the diversity of exercises it offers is worth the extra space. For your upper body and core, try a TRX row. “With your heels pressed into the ground, pull your body up toward the TRX anchor point, squeezing the shoulder blades together and pulling with the back. Make it more difficult by using a single arm,” she says. For a TRX Bulgarian split squat, put one foot in cradle and one foot on the ground. Reach the foot that’s in the cradle back as you bend the front knee, dropping your hips down to toward the floor into a lunge position. Then straighten and return to the start position. “Add in a jump for added difficulty,” she suggests.