Work travel can disrupt our training programs by taking us out of our daily routines and forcing us to adapt to new constraints. Flights and packed on-the-ground schedules can contribute to incremental timing pressures, and the unpredictability of our accommodations can leave us without access to the equipment that we typically enjoy. Absent an action plan, these two factors can conspire against us and undermine our ability to remain consistent over time.
For me, this action plan takes the form of readily-available training options that obviate the need to devote additional time to planning or improvising my workouts. Over the years, I have come to rely on three go-to workouts that I can draw upon no matter what the timing or equipment constraints. This slate enables me to more quickly commit to a workout and empowers me to focus on the real priorities at hand: literally everything other than the gym.
As further detailed below, each workout can be completed within 20-30 minutes and requires little to no equipment, which makes them ideal for almost any accommodation. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation—with booked travel and without a training plan—save these workouts and refer to them the next time that you find yourself at the check-in desk.
Bare Basics: Cardio+Core on the Go
Estimated Time: 30 minutes
If the hotel gym is spartan in nature, then I optimize my use of the "bare basics"—the treadmill, yoga mat, and medicine ball—for an effective cardio workout.
This workout is built upon an extended treadmill session, which is made dynamic by a non-stop cycle of acceleration and deceleration. Mat and medicine ball exercises supplement the treadmill work and enable us to transition to less strenuous activities as we approach physical exhaustion. In theory, our maximum heart rate should decrease from the 85-90% range achieved on the treadmill to the 70-75% range when we wrap with the medicine ball.
Treadmill: Jog for 30 seconds /Sprint for 30 seconds /Recovery for 60 seconds (x10 rounds)
Mat: Mountain Climbers for 30 seconds/ Plank for 30 seconds (x5 rounds)
Medicine Ball: Wall Throw for 15 reps / Slams for 15 reps (x3 rounds)
The treadmill portion of this workout is relatively straightforward: each minute of work—jogging and sprinting—is followed by a minute of active recovery. That said, the timing of these transitions may need to be actively managed, depending on the equipment. Because overall responsiveness varies from treadmill to treadmill, I recommend using the 30-second jog to better manage the transition between the active recovery and the sprint. For example, if the treadmill takes a while to ramp up from a slower speed to a faster speed, then try to increase the speed from a jog to a sprint at the 15- or 20-second mark. If, however, the treadmill is quite responsive to changes, then stick with the suggested 30-second intervals. Whatever the case may be, be sure to complete ten rounds—which should be 1.5-2.0 miles of total distance—before moving on to the next two training blocks.
The mat work consists of two core exercises, mountain climbers and planks. When performing mountain climbers, place the emphasis on speed (i.e., number of reps) to keep the heart rate elevated. Planks should serve as the active recovery between sets. For intermediate and advanced trainees, consider shoulder tap planks or hand-to-forearm planks as a substitute to just the static hold. And remember, engage your glutes and keep a flat back throughout. Do not compromise form as the fatigue sets in.
The final block of this workout utilizes the medicine ball for two full-body movements. The first, the wall throw, should be done while standing relatively close to a sturdy wall. Set up the movement by standing with your feet shoulder with the part and holding the ball in front of your body. While holding the ball, squat and—on the way up—full extend your body and toss the ball upwards towards the wall. By getting closer to the wall, we can reduce the horizontal force of the ball and minimize the risk of wall damage. (Again, only do this on a wall that can support this impact!) After completing 15 repetitions, transition to ball slams. To prevent injury—especially if using a standard rubber medicine ball—consider placing a towel where the medicine ball will hit the ground. The towel should absorb the impact and reduce the height of the rebound. Repeat these two movements for three sets to wrap up the workout.
Matt works full-time in the media and technology space in New York City and is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. To learn more about his approach to health and fitness, follow him on Instagram @mattjoseph.fit