With the holiday season right around the corner, all the parties, family gatherings, and festive foods, you might be fretting thinking about how to keep the winter weight from adding up. Fear not! Working out while you’re traveling (or away from the gym) is the best way to offset a few extra sweets and calories. We’ve got over 8 different travel workout routines, and endless other ideas for you to choose from depending upon your fitness experience and the equipment available to you. Feel great this holiday season, and be the envy of every other guest at Thanksgiving dinner when they take a look at your full dinner plate!

Travel Workout Strategies to Keep Winter Weight Off
Travel Workout Success : Eat, Sleep, Workout this Holiday Season

High Reps for the Win!

If you’re an experienced lifter or a total workout novice, your fitness focus when you’re traveling should be on high-rep work. What does high-rep mean? The best plan for your travel workout is to do 12-15 reps of squat in a row for example. Now, don’t worry – when doing an exercise in a high rep range, we’re expecting for any weight added to be light and proportional to the amount of reps to be performed consecutively.

How many sets of each exercise is best?

I’d recommend no fewer than 3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise, and no more than 5 or 6 sets. Some unilateral exercises (i.e. overhead press/split squats) should be limited to 3 (or possibly 4) sets per arm/leg.

What if I don’t have any equipment?

That’s no problem at all – there are so many ways to exercise and improve your fitness without equipment. Don’t let ‘I don’t have equipment’ be an excuse to avoid working out while you’re traveling this holiday season.

Here are 5 of my favorite body weight exercises for your travel workouts that are sure to get you sweating and feeling great:

  • Squat
  • Romanian Dead Lift (RDL) & Single Leg RDL
  • Split Squat/Walking Lunge/Step Ups
  • Push Ups
  • Plank

Different Types of Workouts Based on Equipment Available

When you’re planning your travel workout or home workout (if you’re away from the gym this holiday season), the first thing you should figure out is what sort of space and equipment is going to be available for you to use. Typical hotel gyms will have a selection of light to medium weight dumbbell pairs (you can do SO MUCH with dumbbells!), cardio machines like treadmills, bikes, or ellipticals, and even an all-in-one cable machine. Or you might be staying at Uncle Jim’s house with very limited dumbbells in the garage. We’ve got workout strategies for all levels of available equipment detailed at the end of this article – don’t forget to save and print them off for easy access!

My recommendation for travel workouts is to make sure you’re training total body at nearly every workout (at least 2x per week, but 3x is better). Meaning that day’s training program will have exercises that work both upper and lower body throughout the entire workout. I’ll give an example of a total body workout versus a split body workout:

Total Body Workout | 4-6 Sets of Each Exercise

Squat x 12reps → lower body

Row x 12reps → upper body

RDL x 12reps → lower body

Push Ups x 10-12reps → upper body

Deadbugs x 10reps per leg → core/abs

Split Body Workout | 4-6 Sets of Each Exercise

Squat x 12reps → lower body

Squat Pause x10reps → lower body

RDL x 12reps → lower body

Single Leg Squat/Step Ups (3sets) x 12reps per leg → lower body

Plank x 30sec → core/abs

A split body workout may be the best option for you if you have a full gym available at home or to where you’ll be traveling to, especially if you’re an experienced lifter/ gym goer. However, you probably don’t want to be spending too much time at the gym instead of with family and friends this holiday season, so a full body workout strategy is the most time efficient way to still make your fitness a priority.

Circuit-Style Exercise Routines: Great for Your Cardio Health and Motivation

Circuit-style training, as well as HIIT (high intensity interval training) routines, are great travel workout options if you are :

  • Limited in time
  • Limited in equipment
  • Lacking in motivation

Time: You can get a fantastic workout in under 30 minutes – you’ll be sweating and feeling those endorphins kick in by the time you finish up your last round of the circuit.

Equipment: If you have no equipment or weights (dumbbells or kettlebells, etc.) to use, and body weight exercises for high reps don’t feel like much of a challenge, try stringing together 5 to 6 different exercises before you take a 2min rest. 

I’ll give you an example of a great body weight circuit:

  • Air Squat or Squat Jumps x 10reps
  • Mountain Climbers x 10reps (per leg)
  • Step Ups or Lunges x 10reps (per leg)
  • Push Ups  x 10reps
  • Single Leg Hip Bridges x 10reps (per leg)
  • Bear Crawl Shoulder Taps x 5 – 10reps (per arm)

Motivation: One of the biggest excuses for not making your health and fitness a priority while you’re traveling or during the holidays will likely be ‘I just don’t feel like exercising’. But that excuse is only going to push you further from your goals and make getting back into the gym after the holidays that much tougher. In the moment the hardest thing you’ll have to do is make the choice to get started, and a circuit is a fun and high-intensity way to get the exercise ball rolling. You’ll have plenty of variety, and like I mentioned above, you won’t need too much time or equipment to get a great workout.

What about a focused HIIT Cardio Plan?

Cardio is a great tool to not only burn more calories, but also to help your body recover from strength training. One of my favorite ways to fit cardio into my fitness routine, either in my home gym or in travel workouts, is through high-intensity interval training on a stationary bike, rowing machine, treadmill, or elliptical. Timed intervals of hard work (i.e. pedaling as hard/fast as possible) followed by timed recovery (i.e. slow pedaling but not stopped) for 6 rounds is ideal to burn the most calories and improve your cardiovascular endurance.

  • 30s hard → 60s recovery (x6 rounds) : beginner
  • 30s hard → 45s recovery (x6 rounds) : beginner/intermediate
  • 45s hard → 45s recovery (x6 rounds) : intermediate
  • 45s hard → 30s recovery (x6 rounds) : challenging

Positional and Tempo Variants to add to Basic Movements

If you’re starting to feel bored with your regular old air squat or goblet squat, dumbbell press, or split squats, I’ve got you covered! Try a few of these types of variations to jazz up your workout routines: Eccentrics, Tempo, Pauses, and Pulses.

  • Eccentric
    • Squat
    • Push Ups
    • DB Press
    • RDL
    • Bicep Curls
  • 1.5 Reps (Pulses)
    • Squat
    • Split Squat
  • Tempo
    • Squat
    • Push Ups
    • DB Press
    • Rows
  • Pause
    • Squat
    • Push Ups
    • Chest Press/Bench
    • Deadlift
    • Rows

In many of the variations above, you will notice quite a bit more core engagement and muscle activation. The eccentric, tempo, and pause variants will challenge your positional strength and bracing, whereas the pulses (1.5 reps) brings the ‘burn’ into your muscles that much quicker – you won’t want to add much weight to this challenging variation of your squat or split squat.

Eccentric or Tempo push ups are a great way to improve your performance of an already challenging exercise, especially if you are not confident executing 10 full reps consecutively on the floor (with good form of course!).

EMOM: Every Minute, On the Minute Training

If you’re limited to body weight or limited weight to add to your travel workout, another great way to kick up the intensity is to pick a few exercises like push ups, squats, deadlift, split squats. EMOM means you’re going to perform a set amount of reps (i.e. 3-8) every minute for 10-12 minutes continuously. The quicker you finish your reps, the more rest you get until the next minute clicks over on your timer.

You can either use a clock or your phone’s timer, or there is a convenient app to download to help make your workout go smoothly (believe me by the 5th minute you might get confused what round you’re one vs. how many are left to go…).

Dumbbells are the Most Versatile Equipment

You don’t believe me? Check out the list of basic exercises that can be added to your travel workouts with just a small selection of dumbbells:

  • Goblet Squat
  • Row
  • Flat DB Bench Press
  • Incline DB Press
  • Floor Press
  • RDL
  • Split Squat
  • Pullovers
  • Pec Fly
  • Reverse Fly
  • Bicep Curls
  • Triceps Extensions
  • Lateral Raise
  • Front Raise
  • Upright Row
  • Overhead Press (Shoulder Press)

All you need are a few dumbbells ranging from 8lbs to 25lbs for a good workout with any of these staple strength exercises. From this list you could apply positional or tempo variants, EMOM, Circuit/HIIT to create a great travel workout or two….or three!

Abdominal Training: A Travel Workout Staple!

Training your core is about WAY more than seeing a six-pack of abs – it’s a collective term for the musculature that’s responsible for so many of our daily movements in the gym and outside.

Fortunately, you don’t typically need a bunch of equipment to get a good core workout! Here are a few of my favorite ab exercises that are perfect for travel workouts:

  • Deadbugs
    • Normal – can vary legs (bent leg, straight leg, both legs together)
  • Plank
    • Elbow plank
      • More challenge?
        • Remove either a foot or arm from contacting ground
        • Plank Sliders: Sliders under your toes, or socks on hardwood floors
    • Side Planks
  • Hollow Holds
    • Boat Pose
    • V Ups
    • In & Outs
  • Bear Crawl Isometric Hold (like a plank but in Bear Crawl position)
    • More Challenge?
      • Shoulder Taps
      • Remove a foot and/or hand from contacting ground
  • Reverse Crunches
  • Psoas March
  • Hamstring Crunch
  • Wall Push

Pick 3-5 from the list above, and complete 3 sets of 10 per exercise – I promise your abs will be feeling it!

Nutrition: The #1 strategy to avoid holiday weight gain

While exercising and making your travel workouts a priority is important to come out of this holiday season feeling good about your physique, nutrition plays a major role. You cannot out-train a bad diet, but you can build a healthy lifestyle and mentality when it comes to nutrition.

Check out our article The 3 Nutrition Strategies for Surviving the Holidays for closer look at what our coaches and clients do to keep the holiday weight gain to a minimum all while still enjoying the time with family around the dinner table.

Holiday Season Recipe for Success?

Make fitness a priority by using our Travel Workout strategies and find a nutrition plan that allows you to enjoy the foods you love this time of year but won’t move you too far away from your goals.

If you’re still not confident in your ability to create a good travel workout on your own, email [email protected] and a coach will be in your corner to guide you this holiday season!


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