10 Exercises For Holiday Travel & Recovery Tips

pull ups
John Barry
Sports Performance Specialist

Travel Plan

running stairsWhen people travel, one main thing comes to mind. Seated. Whether you travel by car, plane, train or horse, that extended period of time is spent sitting. By spending extended periods of time in a seated position, our muscles tend to tighten up.
The lack of active muscular contraction can lead to consequences as minor as muscle cramps, or as major as blood clots. Whenever an athlete that I train comes to me immediately after traveling, I can almost guarantee that their hips, spine and shoulder mobility will be limited. The best way to navigate this situation is preparation.
Before you head out on your trip, do some moderately light exercise the day of. It’s important to get your heart rate up without overexerting yourself. Heavy exercise may lead to muscle soreness, meaning a compromised sitting position while traveling.
My go-to exercises are normally mobility/flexibility exercises to reinforce proper posture and body mechanics.
This includes:
  1. Face Pulls
  2. Hip thrusts/bridges
  3. Dead bugs
  4. Planks
  5. Postural band pulls 
  6. Bodyweight squats
  7. Turkish Get-ups
  8. Split squats
  9. Lateral split squats
and anything to address specific postural distortions or imbalances you may have. This will help ensure that your ride is comfortable and won’t set you back in your training.
While in transit, it’s best to get up and move if and when possible. This may be difficult, but try to plan ahead to stand up, walk around and introduce blood flow to joints and limbs at least every hour or two. Doing this will keep your musculature from tightening up and decrease the chances of cramps, blood clots and other adverse reactions to prolonged sitting during travel.
When you reach your destination, even under the best circumstances, don’t be surprised if you still feel tight. Being in such a lax position for that long (and possibly under different air pressure if flying) is a tough thing for our active bodies to go through. Spend some extra time stretching out whether you’re going to exercise or just settle into your guest room/hotel room.
The order I would suggest is this. First attack those hips. Get on a single knee and stretch out your hip flexor. You may need to massage this muscle out before either by hand or foam rolling. But it’s most likely the guilty culprit if you’ve been sitting for a while.
From that position, we’re going to do the “worlds greatest stretch”. Place your hand on the ground (same one as the knee that’s down), then lift that same knee off ground and rotate body toward knee that is forward. Reach that hand toward the sky and rotate torso toward sky, while keeping forward knee pushed away from the body.
Repeat on another side, hold each stretch for approximately 30-60 seconds or until you feel loose. From here we can get into a frog stretch. Move into quadruped (hands and knees) and push legs apart slightly wider than hip width. Drop onto elbows and move hips backward, you should feel a heavy stretch on the inner thigh.
After stretching out our hips, let’s hit those shoulders.
Find a doorway and place both forearms on the door frame. Keep elbows just below shoulder height. Take a step forward, keep chest up and feel a stretch in front of shoulders and chest. This can be done on one arm at a time as well. I have found that this handful of stretches will help with the major tightness issues that arise from travel.
If you plan on training when you travel, repeat that moderately easy program on your first day at your destination. It’s better to give your body a full 24-36 hours to adjust (especially if jet lag is involved) to get back into a heavy training regimen. As far as what workouts to do during the holiday season, please refer back to my 3 Day Thanksgiving day plan. It’s a great place to start.

Additional Tips For Staying Healthy While Traveling

1. Take the Stairs

If you want to stay in shape while on the go, taking the stairs can make a huge difference. Stair climbing has been shown to not only improve fitness but also to decrease cholesterol levels and body fat (Borehams, Wallace & Nevill, 2000; Allison, Martin, MacInnis, Gurd & Gibala, 2016; Ilmarinen, Ilmarinen, Koskela, et al., 1979).

A 2017 study conducted on 31 sedentary women found a 7% increase in VO2max following 6 weeks of stair climbing training. This indicates that stair climbing is a good way to improve cardiorespiratory function (Allison, Baglole, Martin, Macinnis, Gurd & Gibala, 2017).

Not only does stair climbing burn calories (0.11kcal/step) but it also helps tone and strengthens the lower body (Teh & Aziz, 2002; Loy, Conley, Sacco, et al., 1994). A more recent study suggests that stair climbing can reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases – such as type 2 diabetes and obesity – by reducing peak postprandial glucose levels (Moore, Bartholomae, Ward, Johnson, & Kressler, 2018).

Related Article: 10 Exercises for Holiday Travel & Recovery Tips

2. Walk or Rent a Bikebike to work

Most major cities have plenty of tourist attractions within walking distance of each other. Instead of taking public transport or a taxi, consider walking to your destination instead; not only will this keep you active, but it is also a great way to explore a new city.

Make a rule: if the walk is less than 3 kilometres you have to walk. For farther distances, renting a bike for the day can be a good alternative. Bike rental services are now widely available in many cities and are also very cost effective.

Even better, rental services are often available via phone applications and websites — such as donkey republic app or bimbimbikes – saving you the trouble of tracking down a bike rental shop.

3. Make Use of Nearby Parks or Open Spaces

While exploring a new city, make note of the parks or trails around your accommodation. These can be valuable spaces for body weight workouts later in your week.

There are many bodyweight workouts for strength, endurance or mobility training available here on our website. If you’re traveling for a longer period, consider bringing resistance bands or even a jump rope with you.

These items do not take up very much room in your bag and can help bring a little bit more of a challenge to your workout. The fitness application “Strava” can also be a fun way to plan runs while on the road; this app allows you to see running trails near you as well as tracks your distance and calories burned.

4. Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training consists of bursts of maximum effort exercises followed by a shorter rest period, continued for several repetitions of different exercises (Shehata & Mahmoud, 2018). The idea behind this style of training is that by performing exercises at maximum intensity, glycogen stores will be depleted for a longer period of time which will induce an increase in metabolic rate for hours following the workout (Kravitz, 2014).

In short, this means that HIIT workouts burn more calories and increase post-exercise fat oxidation compared to the same duration of steady-state exercise (King, Broeder, Browder, Panton, 2002).

A recent study in which 24 individuals were assigned to follow either a high-intensity interval running, high-intensity circuit or steady state running program, found that the highest rate of fat oxidation was achieved in those who followed the high-intensity circuit training program.

They also noted that the individuals completing steady state training used more carbohydrates for energy whereas the group of individuals following the high-intensity circuit training program relied more heavily on fat stores for energy (Stenman, 2016). Many studies have found further benefits of HIIT including improvements in VO2max, reductions of subcutaneous fat and cholesterol levels (Jabbal & Baxter-Jones, 2017; Boutchers, 2011; O’Donovan, Owen, Birds, et al., 2005).

HIIT can be a good option while traveling because it can be done without equipment and takes a much shorter amount of time to get the same benefits as other aerobic workouts (Shiraev & Barclay, 2012). These workouts can be designed yourself or can be found on our website.

Related Article: What is a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout Anyway?

5. Eat Healthy


Most restaurants tend to serve large portion sizes and the general population does not know when they have eaten enough, therefore, when served larger portions, people eat more than

necessary (Steenhuis, Vermeer, 2009; Rolls, Morris & Roe, 2002; Cohen & Story, 2014).

Without being able to monitor exactly what is going into your meal and measuring portion sizes it is almost impossible to follow a strict diet while visiting new countries. But this does not mean you have to give up on your nutritional goals completely.

Set a limit of the number of times you eat out every week, this will not only reduce the chances of over-indulging at a restaurant but will also save you money that you can use to do more activities. Instead of eating at restaurants try finding a local grocery store and buying easy to prepare meals such as pasta or rice and vegetables. Grocery stores also often have prepared meals such as mashed potatoes or salad.

The second source of calories to watch are alcoholic beverages. In small quantities, alcohol can have a positive effect on health. However, alcohol has a lot of calories and can thus cause weight gain if consumed in excess (Sim, 2015).

A recent study conducted on high school students estimated that, among those who drank once a week, alcohol contributed to 5200 to 11440 calories per year (Kate, 2017). If you want to drink (as many of us do on vacation) try to stay away from sugary cocktails and ciders and stick to champagne or low-calorie liqueur such as vodka.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is simply a balance between energy consumption and energy expenditure: make sure you are doing enough activity to burn the number of calories you eat. Travelling can make this balance more difficult to maintain because exercise and healthy foods may not be as readily available as they are at home.

For this reason, people find themselves gaining weight during their travels, but this doesn’t have to be the case. With a little bit of effort and motivation, using these tips, and monitoring what you put into your body, you can relax and not have to worry about falling behind on your fitness.

You Might Like:

Ice hole polar plunge

The Science of Temperature Therapy

Temperature therapy (also known as “thermal therapy” or “thermotherapy”) involves the use of heat or cold to improve health and function. Interestingly, thermotherapy has been around for centuries, with ancient cultures regularly using hot springs,...
Women performing prehab before surgery

Improve Surgery Outcomes and Recovery With Prehab

Going into surgery is a scary prospect. I mean, the thought if someone cutting into to muscle and bone then sewing some stuff together sends shivers up my spine. And most would consider surgery like...
Female athlete waiting for the bus

Waiting for the Bus Exercises

John Barry I can make the argument that the least engaging portion of a training program are the corrective or mobility exercises. These are the stretches, myofascial release, and similar movements a coach, trainer, physical...
CrossFit athlete performing pull ups

Are Shoulder Injuries Common in CrossFit?

Over the last decade, CrossFit has become one of the most popular modes of exercise on the planet. And really, given the fact that it offers a way to build strength and power, increase endurance...
Person holding a rail and stretching on a bridge

Do We Really Need A Cool Down After Exercise?

Hunter Bennett I can picture it now. I finally manage to get to the end of a grueling training session, and I start preparing myself to settle down and do some light stretching, before immediately...
Runners running through a park

Exercise: The Ultimate Escape

Woman weightlifting with barbell

Why BMI Is Not an Accurate Measure of Health

Lateral lunges

Recruit The Glutes: Drills to Engage Glute and Lateral Line

Female athlete waiting for the bus

Waiting for the Bus Exercises

Woman doing at home workout with dog

The Most Basic, But Effective Home Gym

Woman running cold weather

Too Cold To Feel The Burn: Exercising In Cold Weather


Should I Let My Child Play Football?

Keep Weight Off While Traveling

5 Ways to Keep Weight Off While Traveling


Choosing The Right Coach

family running in the fall

3 Day Thanksgiving Workout Plan

Leave a Reply