Fit tips for intrepid travellers

This evening Carte Blanche Medical will air part two of their series on Deskercise (watch part one here). However, if your job entails spending more time in hotel rooms while travelling than sitting behind a desk, how do you fit in a little daily exercise? Keep reading and we'll show you how...

If exercise is part of your daily routine, what happens when you're away from home and have no access to a gym, or cannot exercise outside for safety reasons? There are still many ways to get your daily dose and keep fit while you're travelling.

Nicola Hayes, a biokineticist at the Sports Science Institute of SA (SSISA) says that, as long as you plan ahead and are realistic about what exercises are possible, it's easy to keep your fitness levels up when you're away from home.

Be well informed and prepared
"Find out as much as possible on the area you are travelling to and the hotel you will be staying in," she advises. "If there is no gym, find out if a swimming pool is available, or if there is access to a well-lit fire escape or some other staircase in the building. If tanning by the pool is the order of the day, you can jump in and do a few lengths, or wade through waist deep water every 20 minutes or so," she says.

And don't forget to pack your gym clothes and running shoes.

Exercises for the hotel room
"The easiest piece of apparatus to take with you is your own body weight," says Hayes. Then you'll have all you need to do the following exercises in your room.

Cardio exercises: ski-jumps, knee-highs, burpees, star-jumps and skating movements. You should aim to do a sort of interval training: five sets of 30 seconds of exercise, with 10 seconds rfor ecovery.

"Make sure the intensity is enough to raise your heart rate," Hayes adds.

Light cardio equipment: such as a skipping rope which easily fits into your suitcase, offers an effective workout. If the ceiling is so low you are unable to skip, try stepping forward and back over the rope, or place it in an S shape and go from left to right. Try to do 30 seconds of skipping with a 10-second break. Complete five sets of this in-between your strength and toning exercises to keep your heart rate up.

Be creative: the stairs in the building could also form part of the cardio section. Try running or walking five times up and down the stairs in-between strength and toning sets. Start by taking the stairs one step at a time and increase this to two steps for variety and great use of the gluteus muscles."

Strength/ toning: this aspect of your workout requires equipment such as your own body weight, water bottles and a stretch cord or theraband. This elastic "band" applies additional resistance for your whole body, and weighs very little. Again, be creative and make use of the furniture in your room, such as chairs and beds to sit on while exercising and doing triceps dips off a chair. Tummy and core exercises require only floor space.

Visual inspiration: if motivation is what you need, Hayes says you shouldn't forget how useful dancing and aerobic DVDs are to keep you sweating to music. Yoga books and DVDs can also stretch your body and relax your mind. These offer the added bonus of not taking up much room in your suitcase.

Don't forget the basics: stretching is vital for your workout, so aim to stretch before and after your session. The major muscles groups include your hamstrings, quads, calves, back, triceps and chest.

Keep hydrated: whether exercising, sightseeing, sitting in meetings or travelling, Hayes insists that it's vital to keep the fluids flowing to ensure you remain hydrated, whether you feel thirsty or not.

Useful exercises to try
Hayes compiled a few different exercises which can be used not only for the travelling fitness bunny, but also for those who want to exercise at home. These exercises are aimed at working out the different muscle groups.

"You can choose between seven and nine of the different exercises below and put them one after another to form a circuit, with a choice of cardio in between. Try to complete two sets of 12-15 repetitions and use water bottles and therabands for additional resistance," she says.

The one-arm row; shoulder press; aeroplanes; supermans; push-up plus; internal and external rotation and angel-wings.

Push-ups (off the floor, wall or sink); chest press; flies; punching with water bottles; diamond press off floor.

Arms and shoulders
Triceps dips off chair; triceps extensions; bicep curls; front and side raises; shoulder shrugs.

Legs and bum
Free-standing squats and wall squats; free-standing lunges; calf raises; side-lying leg lifts; ceiling kicks; clams; high step-upsstep-ups onto a chair.

Abs and core
Crunches; ankle-taps; ceiling touches; pelvic bridging; prone holds; abdominal twists; obliques or any normal abdominal exercises you know from gym or exercise classes.

Apply these to a circuit
Your circuit could then look something like this:

  • Triceps dips (2 x 15 reps)
  • Skipping (3 x 30 sec with 10 sec break)
  • Push-ups (2 x 15 reps)
  • Ski-jumps (3 x 30 sec)
  • Lunges (2 x 15 reps a leg)
  • Skipping (3 x 30 sec with 10 sec break)
  • Crunches (3 x 20 reps)
  • Burpees (3 x 5 burpees)
  • Calf raises (2 x 15 reps)
  • Skating movements (3 x 30 sec)

"Wherever in the world you find yourself, there is no excuse not to stay active; all you need is your body, some creativity and motivation. It’s also a good idea to consult a biokineticist or exercise specialist who can prescribe a more personalised routine for you," concludes Hayes.

Source: Nicola Hayes, Biokineticist, Sports Science Institute of SA, Health24

(Amy Henderson, Health24, updated July 2010)

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