I’m the classic stop-and-start gym bunny. I start a new fitness regime, going to the gym as often as I can and doing really well, then suddenly, I have to go on a trip either for work (usually) or for a holiday. My regime immediately falls apart, I eat everything on my plate with the excuse that I’m travelling and all these meals are ‘exotic’ so they are okay. Mind you, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding stopped being exotic after I started studying in the UK – which was a rather long time ago.
As a result, my body weight and my fitness levels wax and wane, and I keep telling myself that I can’t help it because of my hectic travel schedule. I never work out often enough to get the endorphins going because I’m never home long enough.
This simply joins the ever-growing list of excuses I put up to not exercise, especially when I’m on work travel. “I don’t have my gym shoes” is a common one, or “oops, forgot my gym clothes”. These only stop you from going to the hotel gym where you need to be properly dressed. They should not stop you from exercising in your hotel room, assuming you’re not sharing it with anyone.
“I can’t get up early enough before my meeting starts” is another favourite. This is another of those if-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way things. There is no rule to say that you have to work out only in the morning. It is fine to exercise after your meeting or even at lunchtime. “The machines in the gym are different” is one of my more pathetic ones, as well as the convenient ‘reasoning’ of not knowing what weights to use because I’m so dependent on my trainer. There is usually someone to help you, if you ask.
Ultimately, most excuses are pretty lame. So after a particularly shocking weigh-in where I logged on more poundage than I thought I had, I decided to rid myself of every possible excuse I have ever given and exercise a little discipline when it comes to staying fit while travelling.
Here are my current fitness hacks:
#1: Walk the talk
Nowadays, I don’t stay in hotels as much but more at Airbnb accommodations, which means I don’t have as much access to gyms. So I go for walks instead. Fast walks, not strolls. It’s also best to find a park or beach where there are no shops, otherwise there is always the temptation to window shop, which burns no calories but risks holes in your pocket instead.
#2: Pack it in
Always pack your gym shoes along, and at least one pair of gym clothes. So you don’t have that excuse anymore. And no, your shoes won’t take up space in your bag if you wear them onto the plane.
#3: Asana anywhere
If you do yoga at home, what’s to stop you from doing it in your hotel room? (Okay, every yoga freak I know always faithfully practices in their hotel rooms. Occasionally, they can even be persuaded to teach you some poses.)
#4: Find the right blend
A friend of mine who travels constantly and is very fit told me about the Fitness Blender YouTube series of workouts. These are conducted by a couple of fitness trainers and there are over 400 videos, ranging from 30-minute low impact beginner workouts to much longer high-intensity interval training. Their instructions are very clear, they demonstrate everything and do it along with you.
The whole workout is timed along with warm-ups and cool-downs. In the later ones, they even tell you approximately how many calories you burn – great for those of you who are keeping count. Of course, this depends on whether you can access YouTube or not, but really, who can’t these days? (unless you’re visiting China, Pakistan, Iran and several other countries that have blocked the site).
#5: Do like Christy Chung
If I don’t have access to the Net and don’t have much time, I usually turn to Tabata. This is an intense 4-minute workout which involves doing something energetic like jumping jacks or God forbid, burpees, for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds, another energetic exercise for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest, 20 seconds exercise, 10 seconds rest and so on for four minutes. This adds up to a total of eight exercises of 20 seconds each, with eight 10-second breaks in between.
It is very tough but burns lots of calories so it can up your fitness level pretty fast. As you get fitter, you can add another round of Tabata after a minute’s rest or make the exercise bits longer, say, for 30 seconds. If you think this is too difficult despite the fact that it takes so little time, let me tell you I met the beautiful actress Christy Chung once and she does four rounds of Tabata every day – that should inspire you!
So there you go, my five hacks on how to keep fit while you’re on the go. I have to admit that I wrote this as much to persuade myself as anyone else. But if it makes you keep up your workout, then it might do the same for me. And boy, do I need it.