In the years before I was a teacher, anytime I took a trip or traveled for work, It was a great excuse not to exercise. Who wants to pack sneakers and workout clothes when you may or may not use them? It was just easier to say: “Hey I am on vacation! Working out can wait until I get back to real life”. However, now that I work as a fitness instructor, I feel lousy if I am away from some sort of workout for more than a couple of days. Most hotels have gyms, some even have small running tracks, while some others offer discounts to guests at local fitness facilities, but they can be crowded, or dirty or the equipment can be old and not functioning. There is a solution though. Create your own travel gym. Its easy, lightweight and you definitely don’t need sneakers. The best is that you can do these exercises in your pj’s! And if you feel queasy about lying on a hotel carpet, use a bath towel as your mat.
Next to the foam roller, this is one of the essential props I own. Not only can you work your entire body effectively, it folds up into a tiny little square no larger than a folded pair of socks. There are at least 20 exercises I can think of off the top of my head. I will list a few basic yet effective ones below.
-Tie a medium weight band fairly taut around your ankles and do side stepping across the room for a great outer thigh workout.
-Tie the band around the upper outer thighs and do side lying leg-work for your outer glutes.
-Step into a lunge position and put the band under the ball of your front standing foot. Grab the tails of the band in each hand to perform bicep curls and tricep extensions. This works the arms and the legs at the same time.
-Place the band behind the upper back and hold it in with your elbows bent into your ribcage and the band taut. Extend the arms straight out to the sides on your exhale and bend the elbows back into your sides on an inhale for upper back/shoulder work.
Small ball (with straw to inflate)
The small 9″ stability ball is another amazing prop to travel with. When deflated it weighs next to nothing and is as thick as a folded t-shirt. They come with a little plastic straw to inflate them. Don’t inflate the ball completely. You want it to have a little give. Again there are too many exercises to list here, but I will mention a few.
-Place the ball under the area between your tailbone and lower back (the sacrum). Take the legs up to the ceiling in a vertical position. Keep the pelvis flat on the ball and arms flat on the floor (for balance and some isometric back and arm work) and then lower the legs about 5 inches on an inhale and then use the exhale and abs to lift the legs back up to their vertical position.
-Place the ball on the floor and lay upon it with the ball between the shoulder blades. Keep the feet flat on the floor with the knees bent. The feet should be about a foot away from your glutes. Put your hands behind your head to support the neck. Using your inhale arc back over the ball and then exhale as you lift the torso up back to your starting position. You can also add a small twist to the left and right to work the oblique muscles and you can add small pulses at the end of each set to work the abs even more. *Just be careful not to arch your lower back, which should remain still during the exercise.
-Place the ball under the soles of the feet as you lay on your back with knees bent. Keep the legs squeezing together as you articulate your spine and hips up toward the ceiling on your exhale into a pelvic bridge. Inhale to hold the position and then exhale as you roll the spine back down to the floor. This can be really intense work on the glutes and hamstrings so beware of this as your legs could cramp. You can make this one even more intense by adding the following variations:
-Lift one foot off the ball at a time to challenge your balance and intensity of the hamstring work
-Pull the ball toward and then away from your bottom
-Keep the hips elevated as you open and close the knees making sure to squeeze the knees together each time.
-Place the ball between your palms with the palms facing each other and the elbows bent out to the sides. Use your chest and shoulder muscles to do little squeezes on the ball.
I could go on and on with the numerous things you can do with both of these props. Sets of ten repetitions are all you need to do for these effective exercises. A simple web search is also helpful if you are looking for demonstration videos.
Be mindful though. Just because these props look innocent, as with any exercise equipment, there is a risk of injury if you do not perform the moves properly. I would suggest you keep the moves as simple as possible. Hurting oneself while traveling is never fun.
There are no excuses not to get in at least a little bit of exercise in while traveling. Twenty minutes is all you need!