Monday 14 July 2014

Effective Training Solutions for When You Travel

Got big travel plans this summer? What does that do for your training? For many people the summer months are horrible for training. Vacations and long weekend get-a-ways mean lost training time and moving away from instead of towards their training goals. But this does not have to be the case for you. With a little discipline and some careful planning and packing, you can have fantastic training sessions, continue to make great progress and look your best during and after your vacation.
With adjustable dumbbells and a bag of training gear, I'm ready to go!

To Train or Not to Train?
When it comes to travel and training, you have 3 options:

Option 1: Take a layoff
If you are an experienced trainee, a week off with some relaxation can be a wonderful break and can leave you refreshed and stronger when you get back. For others, a layoff can interrupt a productive training cycle and lead to detraining and unwanted fat gain. Personally, I only take layoffs when I truly need a short break from training – not to make travel more convenient. 

Option 2: Planned over-reaching
The idea with this advanced option is that prior to your vacation, you deliberately over-train a bit. Then, you recover, getting stronger and gain muscle while you enjoy relaxing on the beach. Sounds too good to be true? In many cases it can be. The training leading up to your vacation will be absolutely brutal and you will feel awful. Also, as your body gets run down, you will be at a great risk of injury and illness. As a result, you could spend your vacation hobbling around from an injury or sick and stuck in the waiting room of some questionable remote medical clinic. While this idea has been proposed as the ideal solution for travel and training, because of these risks, I do not recommend it. If you still choose to try it – be careful.

Option 3: Train on your travels
Personally, I prefer option 3. While training is somewhat part of my job, I really do enjoy it and feel better physically and mentally when I train – especially when traveling. With travel comes a lot of sitting and I need a hard training session or I feel restless and have trouble sleeping. Travel also brings various stresses and hassles and I find that the psychological benefits of training helpful for dealing with these.

Training options while traveling

1. Hotel fitness centers
Most hotels are equipped with a “fitness center”. However, 99.9% of them are not what anyone doing athletic-based training would call adequate. Even if your hotel has a gym, plan on it being a bad one and have very low expectations. 

Note: recently we stayed at a hotel that had your typical hotel treadmill closet. However, they also had a free drop-in membership to a local gym for their guests (I found this out after I had hauled up my dumbbells in and trained I the hotel room – I felt a little funny walking by the front desk staff carrying a heavy pair of adjustable dumbbells, but I just smiled and tried unsuccessfully to look normal). Now I know to always ask a hotel if they have this local gym deal.

2. Local gyms
Local gyms can be your best possibility to have a decent training session. Again, do not expect too much as most gyms are not designed with high-performance training in mind. The biggest drawback to this option is that the drop in fee for most gyms is quite high (they want members, not drop-ins). However, it never hurts to ask if they offer a lower drop-in rate for out-of-town folks or see if your hotel can swing a deal. Do a Google search for gyms in the area before you leave so you know your options.

3. Bring your own equipment
When I travel, I like to bring some of my own equipment. This way I can plan a decent training session in based on what I know I will have.

Here is what I brought for my last trip:
I found this spot in the door frame of the
basement at Grandma's house to do
ring work from. Note the use of the
old towels to protect the ring straps.
  • Training log: never leave home without it! Always log your training!!!
  • Gymnastic rings: these are one of the best training tools for travel as they are light weight, take up very little space and can be attached to a huge variety of strong, overhead objects. Also if you are doing air travel and cannot bring some of the other items mentioned below (e.g. dumbbells), some bands along with the rings can give you a lot of training options.
  • 2 old towels: I use these to help protect the ring straps if they are hung on a rough surface
  • Adjustable dumbbells: I bring a pair of handles with the following plates: 8x10lbs, 4x5lbs, 4x2.5lbs and 4x1.25lbs. This gives me weight ranges from 5-62.5lbs per hand. 
  • 1 long adjustable handle: do not ask me where to get this – I got a pair of these long handles years ago at a local store and have never seen them since. This extra handle allows me to combine the weights I already have to make a single heavy dumbbell over 100lbs.
  • Dip belt: perfect for weighted ring dips and pull-ups
  • Skipping rope: great as part of a warm-up or for conditioning in small space
  • 1 Foot PVC pipe: cheap, light, portable and so much more hard-core than a foam roller. This is great for rolling out all the muscles that get locked up when you are sitting for prolonged periods.
  • Lacrosse ball: great for getting spots harder to reach with the “foam” roller.
  • Golf ball: great for rolling the bottom of your foot
  • Wrist straps: normally I’m not a fan of these for performance training, but I bring them in case I find a gym knowing that most gyms do not allow chalk – a tragic shame
  • Note: if I had a doorway chin-up bar, I would have brought this as well.
My Travel Training Items
My Travel Training Plan
To give you some ideas, here is what I did the week we traveled:

For another sample routine involving dumbbell-only training, click HERE.

Monday: home (heavy lower body)
We were home still so I did my regular training: 
1) Deadlifts: 3x3
2) Front squats: 5x5 
3) Farmer’s walks: 3 sets of 30 yards

Note: if you are going to be away a full week, try to get to a gym for at least one session so you can get some big barbell work in. For example:
1) Squat variation
2) Upper body press (e.g. bench press, standing press or incline)
3) Deadlift

Then, you can do body weight and dumbbell stuff (like I did below) the rest of the week.

Tuesday: hotel room (heavy upper body)
Set and reps were about 5 sets of 5
1) Standing dumbbell press 
2) Bent-over dumbbell row (elbows out)
3a) 1-arm push-up from knees
3b) 1-arm dumbbell row supinated grip
4) Dumbbell curls: 3x10-12

Thursday: Grandma’s basement
1) Single leg squats: 3x5-8
2) High-rep goblet squats with the big dumbbell: 2 sets
3) Single leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift: 3x8
4) Dumbbell swings: 3x10
5) Single leg hopping (for calves): 3x15

Friday: Grandma’s basement
Did about 3x8 for most exercises.
1a) Standing dumbbell press
1b) Ring pull-ups
2a) Ring inverted rows
2b) Ring dips
3a) Dumbbell curls
3b) Push-ups

Suggestion: outdoor sprints if you have a safe, appropriate place to do so would be a great, simple addition to this. You can also do hill sprints if you can find a good hill.

With less stress and more sleep, traveling can be a wonderful time to train. I hope you can use this information to spark some ideas on how you can have some fantastic training sessions this summer – even if you are far from home. Happy travels and happy training!

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