How To Stay Strong On The Road
I’m thankful that my job doesn’t require much travel – in fact it requires it requires none except for when I voluntarily sign-up for a seminar, certification, or class. My wife was just recently in Vegas for work, something I don’t wish on anyone. She was there for a whole week! Three days in she felt the need to move around and do SOMETHING! Her schedule was packed and didn’t have a ton of time to head down to the hotel gym.
Regardless of whether you train with kettlebells, barbells, or use your own bodyweight, you can use the strategies I’ll share today for staying strong while on the road. However, don’t think you have to be on the traveling for these to be valuable. If you don’t have access to weights or a gym nearby, these strategies could be very helpful in filling the gaps between training sessions at the gym. If you do have access to some weights, consider it icing on the cake.
Grease The Groove
Grease the groove, or GTG, is a term used to refer to a style of training that really isn’t much of a style at all – if I were to describe it lightly. Think of it as periodically checking in with your body. Do a rep here, do another one there, maybe another one later, and another one again later yet. Over the course of the day you might have accumulated 10 reps of say, pistol squats or handstand pushups.
Powerlifters back in the days used this type of training frequently. In fact a in the book The Purposeful Primative, Marty Gallagher shares stories of lifters who would periodically walk up to their squat rack throughout the day and perform singles with 600-800 pounds! If you have the equipment handy, GTG is perhaps the best way to get seriously strong without even trying. This was evident just recently in the TSC I competed in, GTG took my pull-ups from 10 to 17.
But in the case today you don’t have the equipment handy, so what do you do?
Well, pistol squats, push-ups, handstand hold/handstand push-ups, and hollow holds come to mind.
If you can perform pistol squats than you have it easy. Start off the day with a few reps, maybe another set around lunchtime, and another set in the afternoon. If you want to be creative and add load, grab your suitcase. If you’re unable to do freestanding pistol squats, pull up a chair and squat to the chair. If the chair is too high see about reaching your suitcase instead. Staying strong on the road requires you to think a little outside the box. The pistol is one of the better lower body strength exercises there is, fortunately for you it doesn’t require anything but your body.
If you’re someone whose a little more mobility deprived, then focusing on stretching your “tonic” muscles as Vladimir Janda so famously coined, can help you return from your trip in tip-top form. The tonic muscles would be those pesky pecs, biceps, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Luck for you there, are a few drills that hit all of the above.
The arm bar is perhaps my favorite catchall. While it would be better with a kettlebell, you can use an empty water bottle and crush the bottle with your grip as a pseudo kettlebell. The tension should trigger a light pack in the shoulder and enable you to do your best version of an arm bar without a bell.
A purely bodyweight option would be some bodyweight getups. The getup touches on everything you need to mobilize while away from the gym; shoulder mobility/stability, hip stability/mobility, and upper back mobility/stability. Perform a few reps in the morning and mid-day to keep yourself feeling fresh.
Of course constant practice of “fast n’ loose” is a great option as well. Never mind the funny looks you might get from people in public…
When traveling for work it’s easy to let the stress consume your mind. However I’ve also seen that when my clients travel for vacation, they often feel worried about being away from their training program and fear losing their results. If at all possible, try your best to unplug while you’re away. Understandably so, this is a bit more difficult when traveling for work, but when you’re on vacation you have no excuse!
Our minds are often times the common denominator between optimal performance and mental breakdown. Spending some time to unplug and create a sense of calmness to the mind can have surprising benefits to your physical appearance.
My recommendation; much like GTG, start off your day with 10 slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat in the afternoon and even again before bedtime – if you’re up for a full on meditation, even better. I love the app HeadSpace
It’s not uncommon for my clients to return from a vacation having actually improved while they were away. How you ask? Well, they’re no longer in a stressful environment – work, kids, commute, etc., etc. Stress is the absolute worst thing for your body and your goals. Unplugging while you’re away will go a long way in keeping your mind healthy and your stress levels low.
Bring Your Habits With You
Habit development is my preferred method of coaching nutrition. Habits take time to create and are therefore a little more of a slow play than your tradition “fad diets.” However, unlike fad diets, taking the time to develop habits will pay off down the road in a big way.
If you’ve already developed habits prior to heading out of town, make sure you do at least one of them before you start your day while on the road. Once you leave your hotel room the likelihood of you getting back to it later is slim to none.
Again, if you’re away on work this could be a bit more challenging but even more reason to wake up and do something first thing in the morning. If it’s something nutrition related, make sure you bring it with you when you or make sure you hit up the local grocery store if need be.
I’m not a huge fan of supplements but there are times when they come in handy. If you’re in a city that doesn’t have the best food options available, it might not be a bad idea to bring some travel packets of protein and greens with you. My wife and I have been known to purchase a tub of spinach to keep in our hotel refrigerator and periodically throw handfuls in our mouths anytime we can. A happy gut is a happy mind!
Travel will without a doubt prove to get in the way of your training some way or another. Even if you can’t do all of these, aim for the single-best one that you know will have the greatest impact on your results. Do what you can, don’t stress over the wrench thrown in your routine, and know that when you return you’ll be primed to crush it.