How to Master the Travel Workout

A similar version of this article originally appeared as a guest post of mine in my dear friend Ellen's fantastic blog, Triple Peak Paleo. Make sure to check her site out too!

Exercising on a trip? There are many things I’d rather be doing…eating, sleeping, drinking…did I mention eating?

Why interrupt a perfectly good schedule of day-drinking while on vacation? And if you’re traveling for work, why would you ever want to add an extra event to your already jam packed day?

Before you can see the “how” my fit little grasshopper, you must first understand the “why”.

The Importance of Exercising While Traveling

Here’s the top four reasons to bust a move while on the move:

  • Energy. It’s currently 3 am my time and you want me to do WHAT?! Calm down cupcake. Believe it or not, getting a sweat in actually helps with jet lag and poor sleep EVEN if it means getting up earlier than planned.

Kim’s Bonus Tip: For an extra adrenaline boost, turn your post-workout shower to cold for the last 30 seconds or the time it takes you to say “holy shi$t” five times

  • Immunity. Traveling these days means exposing yourself to a gang of bandits out to stop you in your path, and I’m not just talking about the TSA. Germs. Exercise boosts your immune system and helps prevent the mild case of leprosy you might have contracted on your flight out.
  • Appetite. Exercise is a magical appetite suppressant. Go into a workout dreaming of a hot dog - come out craving kale. Hand to God. I swear, try it. Hey, put down that hot dog - that was meant to be a hypothetical.

So what’s the fourth, most important reason?

  • Control. Stress is really just about being out of control. TSA left you half naked and late to your gate? Your hotel room is practically cohabitating with the elevator? Exercise makes you the master of your day. Smack, take that day, you’re mine now.

So, you’re excited to have loads of energy and stay healthy, and you’re ready to own your day. What’s next? Shopping, duh.

What to Pack

Clothes & Shoes

I’m a lady of hygiene. Don’t get me wrong. But the key for working out on the road is to pack light. Get some quick drying gear and you can wear it at least twice, maybe thrice. If that makes you gag, a good washing in the hotel sink postworkout will get you right back to stink-ground-zero.

Tennis shoes can take up a lot of room amongst highly coveted real estate in your suitcase. Wear them on the plane. If you’re always late like me, this provides you with the added bonus of enabling you to sprint through the airport. (That counts as a workout, by the way.)

Make sure they’re versatile for both running and weight training or CrossFit. And make sure they’re neon. Just trust me on that one.

Gear & Technology

It’s tempting to get crafty here - if I bring my portable parallette bars and my inflatable weights, I can set up an entire circuit course in my hotel room! No! Don’t do it, Batman. This isn’t the time for a gear orgy.

Keep it simple. I recommend just bringing your jump rope. It’s easy to pack, and packs a punch. Plus you look cool walking through the lobby with it. Look at me, I’m fit! No hot dogs here!

Lastly, don’t forget the tunes, bro! Pack an armband and earbuds for your phone. I’d also recommend a dedicated playlist, like on Spotify. I think I’ve spent entire workouts hitting “next” to find that perfect workout song.


Don’t let hunger stop you. And no, that is not permission to grab a Snickers. If you’re working out first thing in the a.m., my suggestion would be to go on empty. But for afternoon workouts, I like to have healthy snacks nearby, like Quest bars or Lara Bar Bites. Also don’t forget your water bottle.

Packing List

To sum it up, here’s the packing list:

  • Quick drying:
    • Sports bra
    • Tank
    • Warm up jacket
    • Shorts or tights
    • Socks
  • Versatile tennis shoes
  • Earbuds
  • Armband
  • Jump rope
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks

So you’re motivated to move, you’ve unpacked your spandex, and you’re about to hit the pillow with high aspirations to hit the gym come a.m. Not so fast, sleepy head! Success is only 1% perspiration. The other 99% is…

Pre-Workout Preparation

The entire key to the traveling workout? Preparation.

Roll out of bed and can’t find your socks? → Choose to get back in bed.

Roll out of bed and into your socks which are conveniently already inside your shoes? → Off to the gym we go.

There’s two key components to preparation:

  1. Lay it all out there. Pretend like you’re building a nice little two-dimensional mini-me. Lay out your clothes, your hairband, your armband with your room key inside, earbuds, socks, shoes, jump rope, and even your underwear! Don’t forget the room key!
  2. Write your workout down before you go. Whether you take one of my workouts below or build your own, grab one of those crappy hotel pads and pen and write it out. Do it the night before for morning workouts. See those people at the gym walking on the treadmill looking lost? They didn’t have a plan. Don’t be those people. Make sure to check out the gym beforehand so you know what equipment is available.

Alrighty! We’re motivated, we’re decked out in head-to-toe neon, and we’re prepared and ready to go. Now what? We work out silly! It’s time to workout!

The Workouts

Now the sweaty fun begins. Each workout builds on the level of gym amenities bestowed upon your travels. Each contains modification suggestions for your skillsets and mobility. Each makes you look really really fantastic, especially while wearing neon.

Remember, these workouts aren’t about being super creative. They’re about choosing something that will get you in, out, and on with your day-drinking, I mean day.

The Desert Island

No gear? No problem.

5 Rounds for Time:

  • 10 push ups
  • 20 burpees
  • 30 sit ups
  • 40 squats


  • Substitute double unders or single unders for the 20 burpees if you have a jump rope.
  • If burpees are too difficult, substitute mountain climbers. If mountain climbers are too difficult, substitute a 20 second plank.
  • If doing it on sand, take your burpee to a plank position instead of flat on the ground and substitute a 30 second plank for the sit-ups. Want a challenge? Make the plank a minute.
  • Want a bigger challenge? Change the rep scheme from 10-20-30-40 to 25-30-35-40. Ouch.
  • Trying to look good in a bikini? Substitute jumping lunges for the burpees and/or change the squats to jumping squats.


  • Use a hotel towel for the sit ups if there’s only a hard floor. Even better, place the hotel towel on a treadmill and do the sit-ups on the treadmill for added padding.

Look Ma, I Found Weights!

Gym has dumbbells? Good. Don’t forget to pack your jump rope.

2 Rounds:

  • 20 jumping squats
  • 10 dumbbell strict presses

Immediately followed by:

4 rounds:

  • 10 push ups
  • 20 dumbbell lunges (dumbbells held at sides, like a suitcase carry, and walking vs in-place lunging if possible)
  • 60 single-turn jump ropes


  • Want a challenge? Turn the push ups into man-makers.
  • Instead of dumbbell strict presses, I did clean and jerks at 30 pounds.
  • Instead of 60 single turn jump ropes, substitute 30 double unders.
  • Ceiling too low for jump roping? (This has happened to me countless times in hotel and cruise boat gyms). Try the hallway. Be bold and don’t be scared by the staff giving you grumpy looks.
  • Forgot your jump rope? That’s a penalty, Private! 10 tuck jumps for you!

Hello Fancy Pants

Does your hotel gym look like an Equinox? Nice! If you can find a kettlebell try this one on for size:

Kettlebell Swing Progression

Kettlebell Swing Progression

5 Rounds for Time:

  • 10 goblet squats
  • 15 kettlebell swings
  • 15 v-ups
  • 10 push ups

Alrighty, let's sum up all this goodness ...

Sum Up

Here are the keys to working out on the road…

  • It makes our trip better: we’ll have more energy, more control, and not get sick.
  • Pack minimally: re-wearing workout clothes saves space in your suitcase and keeps people off of your gym equipment.
  • Plan the night before: write your workout down like a recipe before you hit the gym.
  • Keep it simple: there is no excuse, even if you’re stranded on a desert island. You don’t even need Wilson for this one.

So, next time you’re traveling, give one of these workouts a try. Maybe you’ll even come back from your trip fitter than you were before you left.

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