Simple Workouts to Stay Fit on the Road

Here is your ultimate step-by-step guide to fitness away from home

By Leanna Skarnulis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

When you're scrambling to get out of town, there's much to think about: Put work projects on the back burner, cancel the dog's standing appointment with the groomer, promise the kids you'll go to that must-see movie when you get back home.

It's no wonder that you've probably given little thought to how you'll work in your workout while you're away from home.

But with a little thought and planning, fitness on the road is easier than you might think. And, according to experts who spoke to WebMD, it can even be fun.

Packing for Fitness

With a couple of pieces of equipment stashed in your suitcase, it's easy to get in a workout without leaving your hotel room (or your host's guest room). Two basic items to pack are exercise tubes (those stretchy things that add resistance to your workout; available in sporting goods stores) and a jump rope. They weigh next to nothing and take almost no space in the suitcase.

Exercise tubes may look wimpy, but don't underestimate them, says Suzanne Schlosberg, author of Fitness for Travelers: The Ultimate Workout Guide for the Road.

"With thick enough tubing, even veteran weightlifters can get a challenging workout," she says. "You can buy a door attachment for the basic tubes and mimic the cable pulley exercises you do at the gym."

You can also buy portable dumbbells that you fill with water before using. But Schlosberg prefers the versatility of exercise tubes.

Jumping rope is a great aerobic exercise (just be sure to take it easy if you're a beginner). For a small space, like a hotel room, Schlosberg recommends a thin, plastic speed rope. It's lightweight and less likely to damage furniture than a heavy-duty rope. If you're headed for a warm climate, it's practically guaranteed that your hotel will have a swimming pool. Pack an inflatable ball, and your family (maybe even strangers) will want to join you in a pickup game of catch. To intensify your water workout, pack aquatic gloves, weights, and other accessories.

One last thing you might want to do before leaving town is to locate a gym near your destination. If you're a gym member, see if you can get free access to gyms in other cities. Also, many gyms issue day passes for a fee. The International Health, Racquet, and Sports Club Association (IHRSCA) web site has a health club locator that lists both IHRSCA members and nonmembers.

What to Do When Time Doesn't Fly

If your flight gets cancelled, why kill time in the airport when a 10- or 15-minute taxi ride may take you to a nearby gym? A list of U.S. and Canadian gyms can be found on the web site of Airport Gyms. Most gyms charge $10-$15. At many facilities that cater to travelers, you can rent or buy workout clothes and shoes.

A few airports offer exercise facilities right in the terminal. Pittsburgh International Airport runs a center in conjunction with Airport Fitness, and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport has a 24-hour fitness center complete with kickboxing and spinning classes.

Even a half-hour wait can be turned into an aerobic workout: Just walk briskly through the terminal.

Once you board the plane, you often scrunch into a seat and then sit so long you fear your muscles could atrophy. But that doesn't have to be the case.

JetBlue Airways and Crunch Fitness teamed up to create Airplane Yoga and Airplane Pilates cards, which illustrate activities you can do without leaving your seat. And of course, you can always stretch and take walks up and own the aisle.

Get Out of Your Exercise Rut

Once you arrive at your destination, look at it as a chance to get some variety in your workouts -- especially if you're an outdoor exerciser. A change of scenery can be just what you need to add life to your fitness regimen.

When print and broadcast journalist Stephanie Stephens travels, she likes to jog or ride a rental bike through residential neighborhoods. "I get a sense of the people, meet their pets, and enjoy the architecture," she says.

A resident of Laguna Niguel, Calif., and Cambridge, New Zealand, Stephens is committed to exercising wherever she is. She always takes workout clothes and jogging shoes on the road. Even on Thanksgiving, she'll do her workout -- first thing in the morning. "Then I'll be good to go and can eat whatever I want," she says.

Hotels Warm Up to Fitness

The hotel fitness center with one squeaky exercise bike and rickety treadmill are so yesterday. Well, maybe not. Depends on where you are.

"I was just in Alice Springs, the only town of any size in central Australia, and the only gym consisted of one marginally usable stationary bike, some prehistoric weight machines, and a single dumbbell," says Schlosberg. "It pays to have a repertoire of exercises so that when you come across a situation like this, you can still create a decent workout."