Best Workouts While Traveling for Work

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I spent my late teens and early twenties going through a GQ phase. Besides reading the magazine, I tried to carry myself as a professional as much as possible, and I envisioned the days of being a successful and busy executive. You know the whole look: sleek hair, tailored suit, briefcase, and a cell phone that was glued to my ear (remember, this is the 90’s we’re talking about here). Imagine a modern day Gordon Gecko…without all the lying and fraud of course.

Fast forward to today and the opposite is true. I’m a homebody and I’ve worked with enough busy clients to know that constant travel just plain sucks the life out of you. I once worked with a client who traveled to L.A., Miami, New York City, and Philadelphia all in two months and all the poor guy saw were the blank walls of his hotel and conference rooms.

Traveling is a drain, and the science behind crossing time zones shows us that it affects our sleep, hormones, and even heart rate. However, you still get some energetic individuals who want to get a great workout in while keeping their ear to the grindstone. Maybe they want a workout to reduce the stress of travel. Or perhaps boredom. Maybe some are making great progress and want to keep the momentum going.

Whatever the case may be, I decided to compile a few simple workouts you can do in your hotel. If your hotel provides a treadmill, great. If not, we can still get some workouts in. Let’s get started.

The Hotel Room

You don’t need access to a state of the art training center to get in shape. Sometimes you need to work with what you have. Being confined to a hotel room forces you to simply perform the movements that you’ve been doing since birth. Squatting, lungning, pushing, and pulling are all movements that use a lot of muscle mass and will give you a great workout. No fancy thrills, just honest hard work.

The issue here is how to structure the workout so you’re not bored and sitting around between sets. Instead, organize the moves into what we call peripheral heart action. In this, we alternate a lower body move with an upper body move; so while one part of the body is doing work, the other is resting. For you, this means non-stop work and a fast-paced workout that can rev up that  metabolism while you’re sitting in yet another meeting the following day.

For example, try this:

Move Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1. Squat 3 12 4-0-1-1 30 seconds
A2. Push Up 3 15 4-2-1-1 30 seconds
B1. Split Squat 3 12/leg 3-0-1-1 30 seconds
B2. Close Grip Push Up 3 12 3-2-1-1 30 seconds
C1. Reverse Lunge 3 12/leg 2-0-1-1 30 seconds
C2. Lying Leg Raise 3 10 4-0-1-1 30 seconds


It doesn’t look like much, but it’s nasty. Simply alternate between A1 and A2 before moving on to the next two moves. The tempo is the hard part; a 4-2-1-1 tempo in the push up means you take 4 seconds to lower yourself, a 2 second pause at the bottom, and one second to push yourself back up.

The Fitness Center

Most hotels have a fitness center. You know, that room with an outdated weight machine and several dumbbells lying on the floor? Take the dumbbells and put them to get use: knock out a dumbbell complex. A complex requires that you perform 5 to 8 moves all in a row without stopping. Once again, it looks easy on paper but they’re brutal. Strength and conditioning coaches will use complexes for athletes who still have a little bit of body fat to lose right before a season. I talk about complexes in an article about workouts for stay at home moms.

Here is the workout from that article:

Movement Reps Tempo
Dumbbell Squat 15 2-1-1-1
Dumbbell Row 12 2-0-1-1
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 8 3-1-1-1
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 15 2-0-1-1
Dumbbell Curl 12 3-0-1-1


Go from move to move after completing the number of reps for each set. Rest 2 to 3 minutes and then knock out a couple more rounds for a workout that will make you question your sanity.

The Treadmill

Jogging on the treadmill is relatively useless, especially if you’re on a limited schedule and want to burn calories while meeting client after client. Performing conditioning sprints on a treadmill is the way to go. After warming up for several minutes, elevate the treadmill to a pretty steep grade. Simply run at a speed for 20 seconds, hop off the treadmill for 40 seconds and repeat 15 to 20 times. Elevating the grade on the treadmill gives you a nasty hill to have to run up and it’s also safer than jacking the speed up and risking injury by trying to get off the belt. Use the slope of the treadmill to make the workout difficult, not the speed.

The effect of running up the hill mimics a hard sprint workout done outside. It’s these sprints that will cause your body to release large amounts of growth hormone – a hormone that helps build muscle and burn fatty acids. In contrast, jogging on the treadmill will allow you to burn some calories, but your metabolism returns back to baseline shortly after the workout and this is clearly not something that you want.

These workouts look easy on paper, but I’ve had plenty of clients come back to me after trying them that were blown away by the difficulty. With that being said, just know that travel has its own rigors, so resist the urge to overdo it with your training. These workouts will help you keep your fitness level (or improve it) while traveling. Train hard enough and you’ll look sleeker than Michael Douglas in 1987.

Originally written: August 6, 2014

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