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No gym? No problem! HC’s Travel-Sized Workout Tips

Don’t forget to pack those tennis shoes and a sports bra before heading on vacation! Don’t think you’ll have time for a workout? Visiting relatives in the middle of nowhere? Simply don’t see how time for exercise with a jam-packed schedule of monuments to see, museums to pursue, and places to be? Even though you may not have easy access to a gym or your usual workout equipment, there are still tons of resources for collegiettes looking to stay fit and stick with their routines, even while you’re vacationing and on the go. Her Campus has you covered with easy, hassle-free ways to work out while still enjoying your trip.

DO let sightseeing and exploring double as your workout.
Incorporate your location into your workout. Danai Kadzere, a junior at Harvard College suggests, “If you’re out exploring and having fun, chances are that you’re getting in enough movement, whether it’s walking, swimming in the ocean, or dancing the night away.”

If you’re exploring the Rockies in Colorado, skip the treadmill for a day and take a hike on the real thing instead. Exploring a new city with friends or family? Go on a biking or walking tour to explore your destination and get your heart pumping and calories burning all at once. Lucky enough to be on a gorgeous beach for the summer? Try some simple yoga in the sand, no mat required! (If you really prefer to have something underneath you, or the pose requires it, use a towel as a substitute.)

DON’T stress if you miss your workout.
You spent the time and money to get to your destination for a reason, so enjoy it! If you’re really upset about missing your gym time at some point in the week, think about making cuts elsewhere. Skip the soda or dessert at dinner, or set some other fitness-related goal you can achieve later in the day.

Danai explains her workout vs. vacation philosophy. “I just enjoy it!” she says about her approach to travel. “Stress isn’t healthy and stressing out about not working out or eating rich foods isn’t either. Relaxing will do a lot more for your health than being super ‘healthy’ will and you deserve it.”

DO use any and all downtime.
Sitting in the car or on the plane en route to your destination can be a great sneaky way to work out. Check out some simple exercises like the ones suggested by Simply Fitness that target things like your abs or butt muscles AND are easy to do on the go. Even something simple like squeezing a tennis ball while seated on a plane or in a car, or seated leg exercises can make a difference. Check out a ton of easy-to-do exercises here for some ideas to get you started.

If you’ll be standing in line to board a plane, get through security, see attractions or find yourself waiting around for other people you’re traveling with to get ready, use the downtime to sneak in a quick workout. Try doing some basic calf raises, a few easy stretches, tense and relax your muscles, or some of the moves suggested for car or plane travel. The Livestrong Foundation has some great ideas for easy, sneaky ways to kill time spent waiting in lines or on other travelers.

DON’T let your vacation be an excuse to get lazy.
Lisa Van Ahn, a Minneapolis-based internationally ranked fighter, athlete, and personal trainer in Minneapolis, knows just what to say to clients to keep them motivated, even during low-stress periods of time like a vacation. She says simply being in a smaller space than usual is no reason to totally ditch any hopes of getting a workout in. “You can rock it out in a 6×6 space with no equipment other than your beautiful body, a pair of tennys, and a 15 minute chunk of time,” she explains. “Using your body weight for strength training, plyometrics for cardiovascular endurance, and high intensity intervals with minimal rest you can get a kick your butt workout wherever your are ‘kicking’ it.”

Van Ahn suggested any of the following simple exercises that can be done virtually anywhere:

  • 40 push ups
  • 40 squats
  • 40 mountain climbers
  • 40 tricep dips
  • 40 jump squats
  • 40 bicycle abs
  • 40 side lunges
  • 40 double crunches

If you’re really looking to challenge yourself, Van Ahn recommends repeating any of the above moves again for 30, 20, and 10 reps.
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DO make use of what you’ve got.
Sometimes you just need that extra prop to really get a satisfying workout in. Get creative and use what’s in your hotel room! Items like water bottles filled with sand, entertainment or hotel info guides, and room furniture can all be incorporated into a modified version of whatever routine you usually follow.

Pop Sugar has created a quick, easy-to-follow video that shows you five easy exercises that use items found in most hotel rooms like a chair, bed, towel, and phonebook. Check out their video for inspiration on easy ways to work almost every part of your body!

Don’t forget about your smartphone or laptop either. Many trainers like Van Ahn have all sorts of videos and resources uploaded to their sites or their personal YouTube channels. You can also check boards on Pinterest for ideas of easy exercises to replicate. There’s also an entire category of exercise apps just begging to be downloaded to help you stay fit on the go. Programs like M-Train, iMapMyFitness, and iTreadmill provide great workout suggestions and help you track your progress. Most platforms also support a series of free apps that target a specific part of your body and give you a daily series of 5-10 minutes worth of exercises to work on whatever it was you selected. Finally, don’t forget to check out streaming video services like Netflix for all kinds of workout vids, from salsa to Pilates to basic cardio that can be used as substitutes for a fitness class.

DON’T let your workout get in the way of other people’s vacation time.
Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or alone, always be considerate of other people’s schedules and plans. Just like you make compromises when deciding where to go or what to see during a trip, you might have to make compromises regarding your workout plans as well. A great way to avoid making others wait around for you to finish your routine is to work out early in the morning, or later in the evening.

Getting up early just to go work out may not be a top priority, but morning workouts aren’t as bad as they sound. “If you’re somewhere beachy, getting up early and going for a run by the water is fantastic,” shares Heather Rinder, a recent graduate of Syracuse University. “I always hate when my alarm goes off at 7am, but when you have the beach to yourself and can get in a workout, it’s so worth it. I did this on spring break this year and was back by the time all my other friends were just starting to wake up.”

Another easy way to get a workout in while letting other people enjoy the vacation as well? Simply be an active participant! Go everywhere and anywhere you can to explore your destination and get the most out of your trip. It just may have some hidden benefits as well, especially if you’re smart about how you get there. HC editorial intern and UNC student Michelle Lewis explains, “When I’m on vacation I try to walk everywhere instead of driving or using public transit. It seems simple, but an entire day of walking can really be a workout in itself! On my spring break last semester I walked everywhere (I was studying abroad so it was basically all sightseeing) and after a week I was actually sore.”

DO stick to the basics.
Even if you’re used to a more complex routine or a more varied weight circuit pattern for your workout, don’t be afraid to revert back to the basics while on vacation. Channel your old elementary school gym days and spend some time every morning or evening doing simple exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, wall sits, or sit-ups wherever you may be. These exercises are easy, but effective! For a quick dose of daily cardio, do some “ski jumps”: lay a long, skinny item on the floor, or fixate on an imaginary point or line on the floor and jump from side to side over the object or point as quickly as possible for 1-2 minutes, repeating as much as your fitness level allows.

Andrea Eilertson, owner of SaFire Training, suggests any of the following basic moves to ramp up your workout:

  • Planks: Hold your body in a straight line for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Perform twice.
  • Squats with jabs: Perform a squat sitting down so your knees do not go past your toes as you are sitting jab twice right in front of your body. Perform 2-3 sets and 15 reps.
  • Mountain Climbers: Hold yourself in a high plank, hips are even, drive your knees into your chest as if you are running. Perform: 2-3 sets for 30 seconds.
  • Burpees: Start in crouched ball position (a) Jump feet back to high plank (b) than jump feet back to ball position (c) and than stand up position (d).

Whether it’s a run on the beach or a 15-minute routine in a hotel room, the key to a good workout while traveling is to keep it simple, be flexible about when and where you exercise, and to make the trip itself a priority first. Enjoy your workout in a new setting, but enjoy the experience of traveling even more!

What are your tips for staying fit on vacation? Leave a comment!

Sydney is a junior double majoring in Media and Cultural Studies and Political Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., a short trip away from Minneapolis, her hometown. When Sydney is not producing content for a variety of platforms, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, reading, and indulging in a smoothie or tea from Caribou Coffee, the MN-based version of Starbucks.
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