These Travel Workouts Will Keep You in Shape on Your Next Road Trip
Written by Ali Wilkinson on March 2, 2021 in travel
Road trips transform cheat days into cheat weeks. Caged in between car walls, it’s already tough to do anything when you’re confined to a single, static position for who knows how long, much less stay on top of your exercise regimen. Cue tumbling toddlers in the backseat, and it’s going to be a long ride for your health and sanity. But it doesn’t have to be.
Determination isn’t just ordering fast food for your kids while you settle for trail mix. It’s also figuring out how to adapt to different environments — including minivans. So you can’t fit your go-to kettlebell in the suitcase, but you can fold your resistance band into the back pocket of your jeans. There’s space in your purse that a jump rope can fill. The world’s your gym, so take advantage of the nearest staircase during your travels! Check out this graphic for more travel workout ideas.
Between fast food stops and hours of sitting in a cramped space, road trips can wreak havoc on a healthy lifestyle. What’s more, all that time sitting can leave you with low back pain, muscle aches, and sore knees, which can throw a wrench in your fun road trip plans.
But a road trip doesn’t have to translate to weight gain and achy joints. You can enjoy the drive and end the road trip feeling fit and healthy. In this article, we’ll offer travel workout tips to help you stay (or get!) in shape and feel great on your epic road trip.
Workout Gear to Pack
You may not have room in your car for your stationary bike or kettlebell, but you can get a great workout without overfilling the car. Pack this easy-to-stow travel workout gear to keep moving while you travel.
- Running shoes
Flipflops may be appropriate for sitting in the car, but they won’t cut it when you need to get some steps in. Pack your favorite pair of running shoes and leave them accessible for a quick workout at a rest stop or park.
- Jump rope
Jumping rope burns an incredible number of calories, scorching more than 200 calories in 15 minutes. Jumping rope also helps improve coordination, bone density, and heart health. Plus, a jump rope is inexpensive and takes up little room in your car. Win-win-win!
- Resistance bands
Resistance bands are also inexpensive and versatile. With an easy-to-stow resistance band, you can stretch, tone, or even get a full-body workout. You can even squeeze in resistance band exercises while sitting in the car.
- Tennis ball
You don’t need to play tennis to get a great workout from a tennis ball. Check out the MELT Method to learn how to use a tennis ball to relieve muscle pain. And keep reading for in-car workouts you can do with a tennis ball and a little muscle power.
Make Time for Movement Breaks
Some health experts recommend stopping for 15 minutes every two hours for a movement break when driving for long periods. In addition to getting your blood flowing, these breaks are important to make sure you stay alert and focused at the wheel. These are great places to stop for fitness opportunities.
- Roadside rest stops
- Hiking trails and natural areas
A beautiful hiking trail can be a destination in and of itself! Use the “nearby” feature on your smartphone’s map to find natural areas or hiking trails.
- Parks and playgrounds
You don’t need the promise of mountain views or waterfalls to stop. A park is an excellent choice for a movement break with bonus points if it has a playground. Even without kids in tow, playgrounds are great “urban gyms” for weary travelers. Use the playground equipment to do dips, pullups, and incline pushups, among other strength-training exercises (Plus, swinging remains a fun exercise, no matter your age!).
- Grab a day pass at a local gym
If you miss the elliptical or standard gym equipment, search for drop-in gyms or gyms that allow you to purchase day passes. If you belong to a chain gym, such as 24 Hour Fitness or Equinox, you may have the option to go to other branches with an all-access membership. Also, many yoga, Pilates, and cycling studios allow people to buy drop-in passes.
Do These Anywhere Workouts
When you’re on the road, you may not be able to do your usual workout. For instance, you may be a swimmer with no pool or a cyclist with no room to bring your bike. Or maybe you swear by the elliptical, but you don’t have access to your favorite piece of gym equipment. While you won’t be able to do some workouts on the road, you can always do these road-trip-friendly fitness options.
- Running and walking
The only equipment you need to get a cardio workout is a good pair of shoes. Plus, running or walking is a fun way to explore a new city. If you’re staying in a hotel, grab a map of local attractions, or check out explore apps such as Urban Adventure Quest or Map My Run to plan your route and get a taste of local life while getting a good sweat.
- Yoga flows or stretches
Yoga is a fitness powerhouse that increases flexibility (key after hours of sitting), muscle strength, and cardiovascular and circulatory health, along with many other benefits. You can do it anywhere. Just roll out a towel and get your flow on. If you don’t know where to start, look for free videos to stream online. Chances are, you’ll find something perfect whether you’re a beginner or advanced yogi.
- Bodyweight intervals
You don’t need bulky hand weights to get an intense strength training workout. Use your body weight to get toned arms, legs, and abs. Try high-energy bursts of exercises such as squats, jumping jacks, or high knees. For more options, look for free streaming videos with bodyweight exercises.
In-Car Exercises for When You Can’t Take a Break
Maybe you’re stuck in traffic or have no safe place to pull over. You may not be able to raise your heart rate, but you can strengthen, tone, and stretch. Try these exercises if you’re in the passenger seat.
Stretch your chest, neck, or groin from the comfort of your seat. To stretch your chest, cross your arms over your chest and hug yourself, putting each hand on the opposite shoulder. Then move your hands off your shoulders, and try to touch your elbows together behind your back. To stretch your neck, bring your chin toward your chest, then toward either shoulder, holding the stretch for 10 seconds. You can deepen the stretch by adding gentle pressure to the top of your head with the palm of your hand. Finally, stretch your groin by crossing your ankle over your knee, and applying gentle pressure downward on the crossed leg, then switch sides.
- Work your inner thighs
All you need is a tennis ball to get a ThighMaster worthy workout on the go. Place a tennis ball between your knees and squeeze your knees together, holding for a few seconds between each squeeze. Start with two sets of 15, and work your way up to four sets. Forget your tennis ball? Do the workout without the ball, concentrating on squeezing your inner thigh muscles.
- Get Popeye arms
Don’t put that tennis ball away yet! You can strengthen your forearms en route with this simple exercise. Put a tennis ball in one hand and squeeze for one second, then release for one second, repeating a total of 15 times on each side. Aim for two sets on each side for svelte forearms.
- Tone those calves
You don’t even need a tennis ball for this one. Place your feet flat on the floor of the car and lift your heels 20 times per leg. Take a short break, and then repeat for one more set. This exercise is also great for long plane rides to help keep blood flowing.
- Flex your abs
You may not be able to do crunches in the car, but you can still tone your abs. Sit up tall, making a straight line from your seat to the top of your head. Suck in your stomach and then, focusing on your lower abs, engage those muscles. Hold your muscles engaged for at least 15 seconds and then release. Repeat two to four times.
Shake your leg, dance in your seat, twiddle your thumbs — the underrated fidget is a great way to keep things moving. Plus, fidgeting can reduce the risk of all causes of mortality associated with excessive sitting time. So forget what your teachers told you and fidget away!
Enjoy Your Trip!
Going on a road trip doesn’t have to mean the end of your fitness goals. With simple equipment, frequent short breaks, and a little motivation, you can keep yourself fit and healthy, no matter how long the drive.
Ali Wilkinson is a consultant for Say Insurance. She’s a lawyer and writer based in Portland, Oregon. She has been practicing law for over 15 years, working with clients across a wide range of specialties from accounting malpractice to victims’ rights.