What you pack along will have a huge impact on whether you workout or how comfortable you are when you do. A friend of mine used to always have a just-in-case workout bag in his trunk “just in case a workout broke out,” he’d say. And that’s our travel fitness advice too. If you aren’t prepared, you won’t get your healthy fix in.
As a part of our everlasting advocacy of staying fit, we’ve already talked about how to wisely cut back and adapt to maintain fitness. Plus we have addressed planning ahead as a part of our travel fitness tips.
Now it’s time to pack your bag (hopefully not looking like our cover image above). The first bit of travel fitness advice we’ll offer is to never assume you will NOT be able to get in a workout of some kind, be that running, walking, hiking, lifting weights, cycling, swimming or whatever you choose. If you do get the opportunity, you will most certainly kick yourself (and that doesn’t count as exercise) if you don’t have the right apparel, gear and shoes with you – or something that will do.
Travel fitness advice: Think multifunctional, cross-over use
When it comes to apparel, a light fleece you may wear around town as a sweater may fit the bill for a hike or quick run if the weather is chillier than expected.
Some socks can be worn as day wear then turned into a running sock the next day before needing a wash – but be sure you try this first at home. We’ve packed socks we thought would be perfect for multiuse wear, only to find they take forever to hang dry once they get wet from sweat or after a wash. Our current favorites are by Darn Tough — the Ultra-Light Athletic Socks. Quick dry, no stink, durable, comfortable, merino wool and nylon blend.
Merino wool or wool blend tops, such as from Icebreaker or Smartwool, can often be worn as regular tops, then also for a workout before needing to be laundered. In fact, we have some of these types of tops that can literally be worn for numerous consecutive sweaty workouts before needing a wash – just hang dry after each workout. (Sssh, we’ve even gone a week without hitting the laundry!)
Shoes can multitask too and often must since they are typically some of the bulkier and heavier items in your luggage. Choose footwear that can pass as casual around-town wear and function for your workout fun. Combination walking and multi-sport shoes from Lowa, Asolo, Merrell, Salewa, The North Face or one of your favorite brands will work very well. New technical materials dry quickly and have odor-resistant properties too. Hike in them, bike in them, jog in them (most aren’t meant for serious running but will do in a pinch) and then wear them out to dinner.
Sometimes, packing along your running shoes is the only way to go. If they are new enough, you can often wear them for all but the most formal occasions (preferably not in glaring white or neon colors). However, we also always pack along an extra pair of light sandals or other lightweight shoes to change into if our running shoes just get too damp and funky.
Other ideas: Shorts can double as a swimsuit. Super lightweight cycle short liners can be worn UNDER your other shorts or pants.
Pack “blinkie lights” (Nite Ize has oodles of great ones) and reflectors (Nathan Sports has a great line of visibility gear) if you may end up on the streets before dawn or after sunset. They take no room in a carry-on or suitcase and add a degree of necessary safety in unknown areas. Making sure your apparel or fleece has reflective piping or is lighter colored too.
Travel fitness advice: business meetings and conferences
Keep a pair of walking/running shoes or a simple set of workout clothes in your briefcase or carry an extra bag (Sea to Summit, Pacsafe and Eagle Creek have super packable totes you can unfurl at your destination for additional carry space). You never know if you’ll be able to skip a meeting or lunch one day — and you will be more likely to if you plan for it.
Make sure you’ve packed gear that will do for indoors or outdoors, as well as the weather you’ll face. If you usually train inside realize you might need to head outdoors or if you are a devoted outdoor fitness enthusiast, know you might just have to get your workout done indoors. The HI Travel Tales team knows an indoor hotel workout room — or even our hotel room — can serve for a quick workout in time crunches.
Travel fitness advice: Pack for indoor workouts
Make sure you’ve updated your music playlist with up-tempo workout. An extra 15 minutes in your day can mean pushups, jumping jacks and even dancing (nobody is looking!) in your hotel room. Music has saved her life a time or two in a claustrophobic hotel fitness room too.
How about all those apps that guide you through workouts, from yoga to strength to stretching? Click on that for your indoor workout. But download and experiment prior to departure.
Don’t forget exercise tubing or resistance bands (Try gear from Spri, Fitterfirst or GoFit) for working your muscles. They squish into the tiniest, lightest bundles and unfurl into an entire weight-lifting gym – if you know what to do and how to use them. Use those and furniture in your room or benches and curbs you find in a city park, and you will have a workout at your fingertips.
How about taking a jump rope for a stationary aerobic workout?
Travel fitness advice: Prep for outdoor workouts
Yes, digital maps are great but sometimes a photocopy of a map tucked in a hand, belt or pocket can be a lot easier to glance at. Do a little research before you go and then print out and pack along your own paper maps since hotel maps are most often the epitome of useless – only showing main streets and restaurants. YOU want to be able to find your way through residential neighborhoods or know what the best way is to the local park or bike path!
Safety first: Always, always carry ID. If you are not in your hometown, make sure to also carry a note with the name of your hotel and an emergency contact.
Pack right, be creative, and you won’t come home from a holiday or business trip moaning about losing all your hard-won conditioning or falling off the workout wagon.