“I won’t have access to a gym or my normal equipment while I’m traveling, so I won’t be able to work out until I’m back.”
My response was:
“Of course you can!”
- I created the 12 Minute Athlete blog and fitness app back in 2014, and since then, I’ve become somewhat known around the internet for simple, effective workouts you can do using your own bodyweight or limited equipment.
- I built my own strength and athleticism over the years mainly through bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and one-legged squats, using very few added weights or fancy equipment.
- Time and time again, I’ve witnessed the power of short, minimal (or no equipment) workouts to build and maintain fitness in myself and my clients and readers.
I went on to explain to my client that while her workouts might not look the same as they do when she’s at her home gym, there’s still so much she can do while she’s traveling. She left our exchange feeling more confident about her ability to keep up with her workouts and continue all the progress she’s made over the past few months.
Approaching health fitness in this way requires what psychologists call psychological flexibility, or our ability to adapt to different situations.
Any time you begin a new habit, whether it’s working out at the same time every day, meditating every morning, or journaling before you go to bed each night, you eventually become confident in your ability to maintain that habit as long as you’re in your normal environment. What’s more challenging is continuing your habit when you’re traveling or thrown out of your usual routine.
Yet if your goal is long-term health and fitness, it’s important you learn to adapt to new or unpredictable situations, including travel, holidays, and unexpected life events. Otherwise, you’ll have to start over every time you get thrown off track.
The good news is that this is easier than you might think. It requires a shift in your mindset around your workouts, how much time you spend exercising, and what’s good enough.
Here are the three mindset shifts that will help you keep up with your workouts over the holidays — or whenever life throws something unexpected at you.
Keep your workouts simple
The number one thing I see getting in the way of people keeping up with their exercise habits when their normal routine gets thrown out the window is that they overcomplicate their workouts. But fitness doesn’t have to be so complicated.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to fitness is that simple = best.
Bodyweight-based workouts are much more effective than most people think to build strength, conditioning, and overall fitness. They’re also generally easier on your body in the long-term and put you at less risk for possible injuries.
If you think you can’t get strong or fit using your own bodyweight, just take a look at gymnasts. They have some of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any athletes and train mostly using their own bodyweight.
In fact, the main reason I add equipment to my clients’ programs isn’t that you need equipment to get strong and fit — it’s simply because most people like some variety.
Even if you do use equipment, you really don’t need much. A few simple pieces of workout equipment like a pull-up bar, a medicine ball, and a kettlebell or dumbbell or two are all you need for incredibly effective full-body workouts.
If you’re traveling, you can easily squeeze a jump rope and a resistance band or two in the bottom of your suitcase (this is all I bring with me when I travel).
Also: get creative! Use what’s around you. Park benches are perfect substitutes for plyo boxes, and kids don’t usually mind if you bust out a few pull-ups at the playground while they’re playing on the monkey bars around you. And if you’re at home or in a tiny hotel room, you can literally fill a backpack with some heavy books and use that for an added challenge.
The trick when you’re away from your normal workout space is to look for all that you can do, rather than focus only on what you can’t do.
Keep your workouts short
So many people I talk to think they have to be exercising for forty-five minutes to an hour for it to count as a good workout.
This is the number one belief I try and help people unlearn when they’re traveling or even just trying to create a fitness habit in the first place.
Your workouts really don’t have to be much more than ten or twenty minutes to be effective. And the more intense your workout is, the shorter it can be (one of the many reasons I’m a fan of HIIT workouts).
Shifting your mindset around your workouts from something that has to take an hour or more of your day to something you can knock out in half an hour or less is a game-changer for keeping up with your workouts during travel or other busy times in your life.
Also, remember that every little bit of movement counts. If you’re really busy, try adding in mini-workouts throughout the day — things like doing a few sets of bodyweight squats and push-ups in between work sessions, taking two-minute flexibility breaks, or taking the stairs whenever possible.
Remember that something is always better than nothing
When it comes to health and fitness, too many people have an all-or-nothing approach.
Often, this shows up in the form of flipping from complete diet restriction to binge eating. From total inactivity to killing yourself at the gym. From feeling excited and motivated to crush your goals to feeling like it’s not even worth trying.
All-or-nothing thinking means that you perceive anything less than “perfect” as a failure.
I used to fall into this trap, too. Early in my fitness journey, if I ate one less-than-healthy meal, I’d consider my whole week’s nutrition plan a wash. If I missed two days of workouts, I’d determine I’d failed at my attempt to get in shape and give up altogether.
But living a healthy and fit lifestyle isn’t so black-and-white. It’s a sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re traveling for the holidays or any time when life is especially busy. Something is always better than nothing.
A 10-minute walk after dinner is still something. Five minutes of stretching is better than none at all. And a few sets of bodyweight squats and push-ups while waiting for your flight may not be what you planned for the day, but it will still get you closer to your goals than skipping your workout altogether.
Any movement you can fit in while traveling or other busy times in your life will help reinforce the lifelong exercise habit you want to create or maintain.
Let go of “perfect” and aim for consistency instead.
Two travel-friendly workout examples
Wondering what this looks like in reality? Here are two workouts to try if you’re traveling over the holidays.
Each should take you no more than fifteen or twenty minutes to complete. Make sure to warm up properly beforehand.
Workout 1: Circuit workout
Directions: Complete three or four rounds, resting as little as possible in between reps and sets. Your goal should be to keep your heart rate up while challenging yourself to do the most difficult version of the exercise you can do.
15 bodyweight squats (or add a heavy backpack)
10 backwards lunges per side (backpack is optional)
10 bent over resistance band rows
10 superman raises
Workout 2: HIIT workout
Directions: You’ll need to set an interval timer for 18 rounds of 10 second and 30-second intervals. You’ll rest on the 10-second intervals, then work as hard as you can on the 30-second intervals. You’ll end up going through each exercise three times.
1. High knee sprints
2. Push-ups to toucher touches
3. Jump lunges
4. Squat step-ups
5. Mountain climbers
6. Bicycle crunches
Always feel free to modify any exercise to adjust to your current fitness level. Work hard, get it done, then enjoy the rest of your day!
Yes, You Can Keep Up With Your Workouts Over the Holidays
You absolutely can keep up with your workouts over the holidays, whether you’re traveling or just have a busy few weeks ahead.
All it takes is a few shifts in your mindset and a willingness to be more flexible with your workouts and what you think of as exercise.
Even if you do miss a workout or two, learn to trust yourself enough to know you’ll get right back to it once life is a little less chaotic.