Is it possible to travel and maintain a level of fitness?
There are ways to stay on track with your fitness routine when you go on vacation or a business trip.
But your own mind-set is the key. Before you leave home, you must decide that you will stick with an exercise plan even if it's not as convenient as your usual routine.
Before you go, come up with a specific plan, and you'll improve your chances of sticking with it.
If you're lucky enough to be staying in a hotel with a great gym, or traveling to a place with beautiful hiking trails (and the weather holds), you've got it made. But if you set your mind to it, you can find options anywhere. Here are some ideas:
1. Walk, walk, walk. If you are on holiday, walking should be no problem. In fact, if you're in a place where the natives walk a lot, you'll probably see that people are noticeably thinner than they are in Florida's car culture.
If you are on a business trip and the meetings are within walking distance, wear comfortable shoes and walk to the meeting spot. If that's impossible, walk during coffee breaks (Bonus: It will keep you away from the pastries.) Better yet, climb some stairs. Stairs increase calorie burn and really get the blood circulating, which will keep you a lot more alert than coffee could.
2. Rather than sitting still, look for unobtrusive ways to fidget. Shift positions often, and if possible, stand at the back of the room. Standing burns calories, and moving around is especially important if you're prone to muscle stiffness.
3. Never stay in your seat during breaks. Take a quick walk, climb some more stairs and find a place to stretch. Here are several easy stretches, some of which you can even do in planes, trains and automobiles:
• Shoulder rolls (to reduce neck tension). Slowly shrug shoulders up and around, both forward and backward. Then tilt head forward, chin to chest, until you feel the stretch in the back of your neck. Hold 20 seconds.
• Seated forward bends (to stretch hamstrings and reduce low back tightness). Sitting on the edge of a sturdy (nonrolling) chair with legs extended and feet flexed (toes pointed up), reach both arms forward toward knees and reach farther down legs if possible until you feel the stretch. Hold 20 to 30 seconds. No bouncing, please.
• Standing quad stretches (loosens hip flexors). Holding on to the wall or the back of chair, bend left leg as if trying to touch heel to buttock, grabbing the foot with left hand. Hold 20 seconds, then switch legs.
4. Build a portable strength-training routine. It's tough to make major fitness gains without serious weight training. But you can maintain your fitness level while traveling. Using your own body weight, you can get a surprisingly effective workout. Try these moves:
• Push-ups. Not only do they get your heart rate up, they are the single best upper body workout. Do them on your toes, on your knees, or start by pushing against the wall until you're strong enough to hit the floor.
• Crunches. Lie on the floor or even the bed with knees bent. Support head in hands (but don't pull or you'll strain your neck), raising upper torso off floor. Keep your lower back in contact with the floor almost as if you could touch your bellybutton to your spine.
• Bench squat (strengthens thigh muscles). Stand facing away from chair with feet hip-width apart. Lower yourself to a seated position (without using arms), barely touching the chair, then stand up again. Repeat 20 times.
Diana L. Palmer is a certified personal trainer in St. Petersburg. Contact her at dianafit@ knology.net