There are a lot of things that can be real difficult when you’re on the road. The regional cuisine, the hotel bar martinis, the luxurious beds... Jeez, they all suck. But whether you’re out there for business or pleasure, the world is worth exploring and we aren’t the, “don’t do it if it’s not always easy” kinds of people. That said, one of our absolute least favorite things about traveling is keeping up with our fitness regimen.
When we’re out and about, we’re always trying to soak in the culture. That usually means soaking up some good regional booze and taking in some fine cuisine. With hotel gyms being limited and not guaranteed, taking charge of your fitness goals needs to be your priority. Luckily, instead of lunking a 25-pound kettle bell with you everywhere you go, there are plenty of easy, lightweight and compact pieces of workout equipment that’ll help you get your workout in on your downtime.
Here’s The hims Guide to Suitcase Fitness Essentials:
A good pair of trainers is both versatile and invaluable if you’re trying to stay fit while traveling. Not only can you use them as solid walking shoes while exploring the new scenery around you, but they’re also ideal for getting in that 5k-a-day New Year’s resolution you thought we’d let you forget about.
It’s always best to pack a couple different pairs of shoes in your bag, but taking your trainers along for the ride (even if you’re just slipping them on your feet for the plane ride out—sneakers are way more comfortable on an 8-hour flight, anyway) is a surefire way to both get the most out of your suitcase, and also guarantee you have no excuses to not get your cardio in.
Speaking of cardio, let’s say you’re heading to a place that’s exceptionally cold, rainy or possibly unsafe, or you just don’t see yourself having the time to get a morning run in. A jump rope is an excellent cardio substitute that people drastically undervalue as part of any dedicated fitness regimen.
You don’t need a significant amount of room to jump rope, which makes it ideal for tiny hotel rooms (or tiny hotel gyms), and believe it or not, you’ll get an excellent workout from it. Seriously.
A study from Arizona State University put a group of 92 men on a fitness routine. Half the men jogged for 30 minutes every day for six weeks. The other half jumped rope for 10 minutes every day. It concluded that you burn just as many calories in 10 minutes of jumping rope as you do in 30 minutes of jogging. You’ll improve cardiovascular efficiency and also burn a ton of calories, just by hopping over some rope.
When people think of full body workouts, they generally think of racks upon racks of free weights, lines of different machines dedicated to working every single muscle group, weight benches, etc. And while all that stuff is fun and does work, you can't bring any of it with you on the road.
Enter: Resistance bands.
Resistance bands work by using elasticity to simulate pound values. So, for instance, this set from Black Mountain Products includes bands that can simulate the same resistance of 2-4 pounds, 4-6 pounds, 10-2 pounds, etc., all the way up to 25-30 pounds. Those bands can be used with each other to create enough "weight" to produce up to 75 pounds of resistance.
When used properly, these bands can provide you with all the resistance you need to create a brutal full-body workout you can do from the comfort of your hotel room.
For some strange reason, people think that “yoga mats” should be used exclusively for yoga. Maybe if we just called them “exercise mats” or “rectangular foam body mat things” or something of the sort, people might feel better about it.
Anyway, yes, yoga is an excellent way to get a full body workout on the road. Yoga isn’t the “peace and love kumbaya drum circle” most people who’ve never done it think it is. If done properly, it’s an excellent way to put your body through the paces without needing weights, kettle bells, resistance bands or any of the other typical gym equipment.
Even if you’re anti-yoga for whatever reason (Seriously guys, we love bacon and bourbon, too, but y'all need to get it together!), you can still use a yoga mat for a bodyweight workout session. Bodyweight workouts are exactly what they sound like—rigorous full body workouts using (mostly) just your body weight. Push-ups, planks, crunches, burpees, etc. If that sounds laughable to you, go do 25 burpees and let us know how much you’re laughing after.
A good yoga mat is crucial to these types of workouts for two reasons: It’ll provide soft padding so you don’t hurt yourself on a hard floor, and it'll catch the sweat that pours out of you when you realize this stuff is a lot harder than it looks.
Quick pro-tip: Yoga mats might not fit in carry-on or even full luggage bags, but there are a ton of good travel-friendly mats out there. They’re usually thinner and more compact, and can usually be folded up and layered in with the rest of your clothes in your luggage, carry-on or backpack. The Voyager mat from Jade is an excellent example, but there are plenty out there. And if you're really looking to save space, yoga towels work well and pack tighter than any travel mat out there.
In an age where our gyms have a dedicated machine for literally every muscle group on our bodies, we sometimes forget that just a few short decades ago people were still sculpting beautiful physiques with nothing more than ingenuity and a couple free weights.
Push-ups are an excellent way to work your arms, shoulders, chest, back and core, and you need zero equipment to do them properly. The added bonus of push-up blocks is that they make push-ups more difficult by giving you an increased range of motion and helping you get more out of every single rep. If you can get something like this (although it’ll take up more space in your suitcase), it’ll help you work different muscle groups than a regular push-up. Of course, don’t be afraid to keep it simple and compact, which is probably your goal.
Suspension trainers, also known as “gravity straps,” were designed to fold up into very compact spaces for use in less-than-ideal fitness studios (I.e.: your hotel room). They use a mix of bodyweight training, resistance training and good ol' gravity to create intense full-body workouts that can be simple or difficult as you like.
For the most part, you just anchor it to the door of your hotel room and then work from there.
The best thing about them is they’re designed almost specifically for travel, meaning the whole point is to help you get the best possible full-body workout without the hassle of having to sort out a hotel gym, buying a guest pass to one nearby or even leaving your room. They’re a one-stop shop.
The undisputed king of suspension trainer systems is the TRX All In One, but there are several more affordable options out there. A suspension trainer probably isn’t your best “bang for your buck” option, but if money is no option, this is probably the best on-the-road workout you’re going to get in one piece of equipment.