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Stay Fit Without Going to the Gym - Tips from Business Travelers

man on skateboard

Like to stay in shape, but don't want to go to the gym? Or can't get to one?

Me, too! As a health and wellness speaker, I work with organizations to recharge their people for improved performance, productivity, and profitability. And, pre-covid, I spent a lot of time on the road presenting programs all over North America and abroad.

In preparing for the third edition of my book, How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road, I asked nearly 70 business travelers for their health tips on managing stress, getting a good night's sleep, eating healthy, travel fitness, and more.

Here are just some travel fitness tips from the executives who said they stay fit without going to the gym. Even if you don't travel, you'll likely find some tips that work for you, too. 

Travel Fitness Tips: Get Outside and Play

The kids at the skate parks in South America call Jesse Rogers “Tio” – not because he’s their uncle, but as an affectionate nickname for "old man."

Rogers, International Account Manager at ACON Laboratories, is in his 40's. And, South America is his territory. Jesse quickly bored of running on the treadmill so he started booking hotels near a skate park and taking his skateboard, helmet, and pads with him on his travels. “I try to eat a quick, light lunch so I have time to skate for 20-30 minutes.”

Do you like to socialize while drinking alcohol, but know you really should be working out? Well, now you can do both! Hash House Harriers (abbreviated to HHH, H3, or referred to simply as Hashing) is an international group of non-competitive running, social and drinking clubs.

According to this Hash House Harriers website, there are 1954 hash groups registered in the world directory, located in 1273 cities in 185 countries. "The Hash House Harriers is a more social version of Hare and Hounds, where you join the pack of hounds (runners) to chase down the trail set by the hare or hares (other runners), then gather together for a bit of social activity known as the On In or Down Down with refreshment, humor, song and the occasional feast."

I first heard about HHH more than 20 years ago when I started traveling for my business. This woman shared how she was working in Hong Kong and ran with a HHH group every week - running places she never would go by herself - and loving every minute.

Discover the "Other" Gyms at the Hotel or Nearby

When most people think travel fitness, they think of the gym. Though they often miss a great workout place right there in the hotel - the stairs.

“I am not a fan of running in strange cities, so instead I purposely book hotels over ten stories tall so I can run the stairs,” said Jim Lennart, Associate Director, National Accounts at Allergan Medical.  “It’s safe, private, not dependent on the weather and a great workout. I do 10 flights 10 times.  I run up and walk down each time.”

Another fun place to workout - right there in the hotel - is the pool.

“I try to book a hotel with a pool. It’s easier to pack a bathing suit than workout clothes and sneakers,” says Jaime Schwartz Cohen MS,RD; SVP, Director of Nutrition at Ketchum Public Relations.

Angel May, Senior Manager Corporate Communications at Mars Petcare, likes staying at Marriott Courtyards for the same reason – to do an indoor pool workout consisting of aerobics and laps.

Travel Fitness Tip: Be Intentional 

Many business travelers feel that there's little time for a workout when they're on the road. But, several of the travelers I interviewed said that workouts can be incorporated into the work day.

David Baudendistel told me, “Intentionality is important for self-care.” He works at Deloitte, helping leaders and learners thrive with disruption. “I walk every chance I get. This includes taking public transportation, walking meetings, and walking calls.”

Exercise isn't just for keeping you in shape. People who exercise on a regular basis also tend to get a better night's sleep.

Cheryl Hendricks said exercise also helps her to manage stress. As the Director, Strategic Account Management & Program Execution at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association she travels a great deal. “I’ll wear my walking shoes on the plane – even if I’m wearing a suit. Then, in transit and at my destination I’ll get in a lot of brisk walking, including taking the stairs instead of the elevator.”

Travel Fitness Tip: Pack Your Running Shoes

Karen Jones (CMO at Ryder Systems, Inc.) has a simple strategy for staying fit on the road – take your jogging shoes and clothes wherever you go. “With this minimum, you can walk or run anywhere and you get to see the local fare while doing it.”

Based on his stories, Dieter Vermeulen, Senior Manager SAP Solutions, SAP COE at Novelis, is a bit more adventurous on his runs.

“On a recent trip to Switzerland, a colleague suggested a run. He said it was only 5km, so was sure I could manage even after my busy week at work. This was the hardest 5km I had ever run – steep hills, gravel roads on the edge of the mountain – not one meter of flat surface. Such a beautiful environment with the Swiss cows, but a challenge for my legs and knees. Now I always ask about more than distance when someone asks me to go running.”

Don’t Stay at the Host Hotel

When I'm attending a conference I often book the hotel early so I can get a room at the host hotel. So, I was surprised when two of the business travelers told me that they do the exact opposite! 

"When I go to conferences, I almost never stay at the host hotel. Booking a hotel farther away prompts me to walk more. Plus, I don’t get lured into as many late-night dinners," said Jeff Mathers, Senior Director, Global Software Engineering at Johnson & Johnson.

Mike Grammar, Managing Director - Commercial Excellence, Nestlé Purina North America, agrees. He told me, "I frequently travel to our Nestlé Headquarters in Switzerland and I choose to stay at a hotel one to two miles from the office. Instead of taking the bus or cab through the Village of Vevey, I walk. Not only does walking clear my mind before and after a long work day, it allows me to get some needed exercise and a chance to enjoy some terrific scenery."

Travel Fitness Tip: Workout in the Hotel Room

And, lastly, to stay fit without going to the gym, you can workout right in your hotel room. There's no wait for equipment, no worries about broken equipment, and no one else to see you sweat. There are really so many options of what to do. Here are just some of the execs’ workout routines:

  • “When I’m out of town, I like to do the P90X workout that’s loaded on my laptop. You can get a good high impact 30-minute workout in a small space – without any special equipment, or even shoes.” ~ Crystal A. Fitch, MBA, Sales Training and Development Manager, Lundbeck
  • “I use the J&J 7-minute workout app if I don't have time to get to the gym” ~ David Payne, Vice President Drilling & Completions at Chevron
  • “Based on how much time I have, I select one of the videos on my iPad that allow me to get a great workout in my hotel room. I really enjoy Shaun T’s dance videos.” ~ LaThesia R Hardy, PHR, Employee Relations Manager, CVS Caremark Corporation
  • “I am a big yoga fan (critical alignment method) after it helped me to relieve the pain of my spinal hernia, without surgery. So, even when traveling, I practice in my hotel room to stay flexible and agile.” ~ Jack De Graaf, Director EHS and Sustainability at Johnson & Johnson/Janssen

So, how will you workout, without going to the gym? Send me an email and let me know. 

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