Forcing you to hurry up and wait and often surrender your typical schedule and diet, travel may be the perfect workout killer.
Add the absence of a gym and your chances of staying in shape get even slimmer. But even on those “wasted” arrival and departure days you can keep fit by taking some simple steps—-quite literally in some cases.
Hit the water bottle.
Looking feverishly for the coffee kiosk once you reach the airport may be your normal behavior, but watch your beverage intake over the course of your trip. “You'll drink coffee when you wouldn't ordinarily or you'll drink stronger coffee than usual, or more soda, tea, and alcohol. It takes discipline, but water is the way to go,” says frequent business traveler Ken Walker, who hosts a blog at AllBusiness.com. Upping your levels of coffee, soda, and alcohol while traveling may also induce your feet and hands to swell, says nutritionist and personal trainer Geri Leone, who recommends carrying water or a sports drink recommended by your doctor.
Drink more water and you might also eat less. “Sometimes we’re just thirsty and not as hungry as we think we are,” Leone says, who advises drinking a glass of water before each meal as well as hydrating in flight and snacking on high fiber, iron-rich foods like raisins or apples in lieu of salty treats. Personal trainer and fitness specialist Joseph Meagher concurs that extra water intake will help curb your appetite, and, once in flight, will encourage regular struts to the lavatory that will elevate your heart rate and help prevent the fatigue that comes from sitting for a long time.
Don’t just stand there.
Turn the inevitable waits in line into an opportunity. “Simply standing on one foot for 30 seconds can pose a real challenge for the general population,” Meagher suggests, but if you prevail, try a variation: Standing on one leg, lean forward and extend and straighten your non-standing leg backwards. Then, if you’re not too self-conscious, lean your torso forward until it’s almost parallel with the floor, keeping the rear leg extended, ice skater-like. This exercise will work your legs and core - the major muscles of the stomach and lower back.
Got a wall handy? Standing 2-3 feet from it, both arms against the wall, fingers spread, slowly descend and bend your elbows so that your chest is about six inches from the wall. This exercise will target the upper chest, shoulders, and abs, Meagher says. As you descend toward the wall, tighten your abs so that your shoulders, hips, and feet are all in a straight line. As a variation, stand on your toes to work different parts of your chest.
Don’t just sit there, either.
If you’re stranded in a seat, Leone suggests a couple circulation-enhancing crunches: Sitting upright, squeeze your bellybutton inward while lifting your right knee towards your chest. Extend your leg as much as possible, flexing your foot slightly forward and crunching it, toes toward the heel. Return to the beginning and repeat with the left leg. This crunch may help keep your blood flowing, Leone says, and will potentially decrease swelling at the ankle joint, knee joint, and at the hips. And even if the considerate flier in front of you has his seat racked back into your lap, there’s always room to work your calves: With your feet flat on floor, raise one heel (or both) towards the ceiling while rolling onto the ball of your foot, reverse by lowering the heel, and repeat.
With all those chairs bolted to the airport floor you might find it hard to resist tricep dips, Meagher suggests. Sitting on the edge of a chair, your feet flat in front of you, place your arms on each side of your hips, shoulder width apart, and grab the edge of your seat palms down. Push yourself up so your arms are fully extended. Bend your elbows and descend back to the edge of your seat, then rise back up. Do small reps, keeping your abs tight, back perpendicular to the floor, and all pressure on your triceps.
Shoulder more weight.
If you can lay your hands on objects of equal weight – hotel phone books, this may be your comeback opportunity — Meagher suggests shoulder exercises that will strengthen different parts of your deltoids. For lateral raises, stand with your hips feet width apart, holding an object in each hand, and slowly lift your arms, elbows slightly bent. Raise your arms until they’re at shoulder level, and then bring them back down. For front raises, hold the objects with your palms rotated inward and slowly lift your arms in front of your shoulders, keeping your abs tight, and bring your arms back down.
Protect your core.
Leone and Meagher agree that strengthening and protecting the core muscles is key, whether you’re on the road or at home. Complementing alternating sets of push-ups for the upper body and squats for the lower body, Meagher suggests a core-strengthening exercise called a plank. Lie face down, get into a push-up position, and prop yourself up on your elbows, forearms directly under your shoulders. Lift yourself off the ground so that your weight is on your elbows, forearms, and feet. Tighten your abs and freeze so that you’re maintaining a plank-like position with only your elbows and feet on the ground, keeping your hips slightly raised. If you feel any lower back pain, raise your hips slightly.
Take a few more steps.
As a frequent traveler, Walker says he stopped relying on having a good gym in his hotel a long time ago. “I concentrate on regular push-ups and sit-ups, but the biggest change in my routine is booking a hotel that’s at least a mile from the place where I’m scheduled to work. Fast-walking through a city is a great way to get 45 minutes of good cardio under my belt in a day.”
If the idea of a long airport layover or flight delay is unacceptable to your inner gym rat, AirportGyms.com shows the day-pass pricing and locations of gyms that might be at or near your airport. And Walker notes that his hometown airport in Minneapolis/St. Paul has an indoor walking trail “that's almost a mile long if you follow the little red squares. Walking a mile while pulling a suitcase burns calories and you can do it without having to change into some gym clothes.”