Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for Staying Fit on the Road

Schedule some 'fun' fitness to stay in shape as you travel
I spend a lot of time on this blog discussing my favorite foods and indulgences but, until now, I've been virtually silent about another passion of mine - fitness and exercise.  Life is about balance and it's important to me that my dedication to exercise and fitness is equal to my love of delicious baked goods and chocolate (well, nothing is exactly equal to Cadburys, but I try!).  As a food and travel blogger, a certain amount of indulgence comes with the territory, but that doesn't mean that I completely throw caution to the wind and eat with abandon. When I'm home, my workouts are usually as regular as clockwork, but staying fit during our weeks on the road has been a challenge. Between unpredictable schedules and many more meals at restaurants, I've have had to get creative to keep the workouts frequent and challenging.

Check-in and Check out the Gym: When you're shopping around for a place to sleep, pick a hotel with fitness facilities and you'll be much more likely to stick to your regularly scheduled workouts.  Sure, these rooms may not have all the comforts of your home gym, but hotel fitness facilities are improving as major chains respond to patrons' requests; the Hilton Hotel even offers 'health-fit rooms' which boast in-room exercise equipment! If 'Hilton' isn't a word your budget can accommodate, check out La Quinta Inns and Suites, our usual hotel of choice since most locations have fitness centers and they have a great rewards program (and hot waffles for breakfast - it''s all about balance, right?).

Get Geared Up: Make your workout clothes, running shoes, iPod, and heart rate monitor the first things that go into your bag when you're packing for a trip. If you have space, toss in a few workout DVDs and a jump rope for some of the most portable workouts anywhere.  If you have the gear on hand, you'll be less likely to spend time changing channels in your hotel room. Don't have room for running shoes in your carry-on? Visit the hotel pool or limber up with yoga or pilates, all you'll need is a hotel towel.

Find Your Feet: One of the best ways to explore new surroundings is to the hit road on your own two feet. You'll experience a lot more local flavor and catch more interesting details, thanks to the slower pace, than you would if you took a bus or hailed a cab. On my recent visit to Las Vegas, I walked everywhere - sometimes as many as 15 miles a day! While this is a little extreme, pedestrian exploration will also save you money. It may not be sweat-inducing aerobic exercise, but a few miles a days adds up to a significant calorie burn and will keep your legs looking toned and feeling energized.

Resistance Isn't Futile: Resistance bands should be a luggage staple for anyone who wants to stay in shape on the road.  These elasticized bands are light-weight, easy to pack and take the place of heavy, bulky hand weights and dumbbells. They can be purchased for a variety of resistances, making them suitable for all strength and fitness levels. My set, from Gold's Gym, includes foam handles and three clip-on bands at different resistance levels which can be swapped or combined to allow for a full range of total-body exercises. For exercise ideas and some sample workouts, visit SparkPeople.com.

Have a Ball: Another indispensable item for on-the-road fitness is the inflatable exercise ball, also called a Swiss Ball or Physio Ball. You've probably seen these at the gym - they look like giant beach balls and can be used for abdominal, upper body and lower body exercises. Use the ball to add challenge to your crunches and push-ups or, with the aid of a sturdy wall, to perfect your form on lunges and squats. Engage your muscles while you sit by substituting the inflated ball for a sofa or desk chair. Deflated, the ball is a cinch to pack.

Short Circuit: Circuit training combines the benefits of cardiovascular exercise with those obtained through weight training - and the best part is that you don't need anything to build an effective circuit except for a few feet of space and your own body weight. Combine push-ups, lunges, dips, squats and crunches with short cardio intervals (think jogging in place or jumping jacks) to get a full-body workout. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and take time warm up and cool down adequately.

Plan to Perspire: Rent a bike in the city, take a run in the park or plan a hike out in nature - one of the best ways to be sure you get a good workout is to schedule it during your 'down' time. Sweating it out in a hotel gym or doing push-ups in your room will get the job done, but it's not very inspiring. Make your exercise enjoyable by combining it with your favorite leisure activities. There are few locations that don't offer something to keep you active and entertained.

There's An App For That: If you're a traveling techie, there's a wealth of health and fitness apps to keep you accountable on the go. From calorie counters to run trackers, there's something to suit every need - and many are free!

Snack Smart: Of course, it was eventually going to come back around to eating. There's some truth to the saying that "you can't out-train a bad diet" and, sadly, vacations and business trips are not exempt from this rule. No-one wants to miss out on local specialties or personal favorites, so it comes down to 'mindful eating.' This phrase is bandied about a lot in the health and fitness world, but it basically means being aware of what you're eating and the motivations behind your food choices. Bring smart snacks (beef jerky, rice cakes, string cheese, fruit, veggies), plan your indulgences, and you can have your cake and your waistline too!

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