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Traveling and Training

One of the most frequent questions I get from people I coach is how they should approach training when they are traveling, either for business or a family vacation.  It’s finally dawned on me after all this time that this might be a great topic for a post in The Catch.

All of us, at one time or another, are faced with travel while we’re engaged in a training program.  Travel generally takes us out of a training environment that we’ve fashioned over time to best meet our needs and usually presents a host of logistical challenges that make training more difficult.  Often, it takes us away from the water, totally preventing us from doing any paddling at all.  Other times, lack of water isn’t the problem; it’s access to a board as we’re unable to bring our own.  And sometimes it is simply a question of time, as the travel itself or the commitments we have at our travel destination make training of any type extremely difficult.

Dealing with these types of disruptions to our training can be disconcerting, to say the least, and, for many, can be very stressful.  So, let’s take a look at training and the effect short-term interruptions have on it.  Let’s also look at strategies we can employ to minimize the effect of travel on our training.

Missed workouts – the reality

The most important thing to understand for those that are forced to miss training time due to travel is that a few missed workouts is not going to ruin your training.  If you’re a dedicated trainer that rarely misses workouts, missing a few workouts while on the road is going to have a negligible to zero effect on your performance over the long term.

If you’ve developed a high level of fitness through consistent training, it takes a considerably longer period of time than just a few days of missed training for your fitness to deteriorate.  You should easily be able to miss a week or two of your training program without any serious impact on your fitness or performance over the longer term.  You may need a few days to get your body back into the swing of training again after such a break, but within a week you should be as good as ever.  Simply put, you should easily be able to maintain your fitness through a week or two of travel.

While missing training removes the stimulus that promotes fitness improvements, missing this stimulus for short periods of time does not result in loss of fitness.  In fact, brief periods of rest from the usual rigors of training can often result in the work you do on your return to training being higher quality than the work you were doing before your break.  As the quality of the training you do has a huge impact on what you get out of it, a break like this can actually be beneficial.

The key, of course, is not to make a habit of missing work.  Obviously, there’s a difference between occasionally missing a few training days and regularly missing them.  If your travel has you regularly missing training then it’s a little more serious.

I rarely miss workouts, but I'm traveling this week and am worried about missing training

If your travel is occasional and you’re otherwise really consistent with your training, don’t worry about missing some training days for travel or having to do some type of work that isn’t on the program.

Most frequently when traveling, it’s paddling that we have to miss.  We’re often able to replace paddling with other land-based activities, but we just can’t get on the water.  Obviously, we’d rather be paddling than doing some alternative land-based work, but this scenario shouldn’t be a cause for worry.

If you’ve got time to do the workouts on the program, just do them in a land-based activity instead of on the water.  Your fitness won’t be affected negatively at all.  You’ll miss time on your board that is necessary to consolidate skills and technique, but in terms of fitness, you should be able to train your energy systems exactly as you would have on the water.

The best, and easiest, land-based activity you can do is running.  It’s easy to pack a pair of running shoes and some running clothes in your travel bag and you can do it pretty well anywhere.  If you’re not able to run, finding a suitable land-based activity can be a little harder.  You’ll likely have to do a little research before you leave on your trip to find out where you can access some cardio equipment.  Perhaps your hotel has a gym with some equipment, like an elliptical or a treadmill.  Maybe you need to find a gym near your hotel.   Many cities have bicycle rentals, either in local bike shops or at rental stations on the streets.  If the weather is good, you can hop on a bike and go for a ride, doing the paddling workout that you’re missing in the process.  This may not be ideal, but it’s better than nothing and the reality is that from the perspective of your energy systems your body really doesn’t care what activity you’re doing.

Strength work can be done in many ways while you’re traveling as well.  Again, you can source out a hotel with a gym.  These hotel gyms are rarely as well equipped as your local gym at home, but they have enough equipment for you to get some kind of useful workout.  Alternatively, you can source out a local gym which will be much better equipped.  Here you should be able to do pretty much everything that you’d be able to do at home.

If you’re traveling to a location where a gym of any sort is unavailable, you can always do body weights in your hotel room.  Here you need to be a little more creative and the work you end up doing will look considerably different than what might have been on your program.  However, once again, this type of work is better than nothing.  There’s a host of core exercises, plyometric leg work, and variations of push ups that you should be able to do to get a good workout.

While all of this work is not necessarily what is on the training program, it is more than enough to help you continue to build fitness and strength over the few days that you’re away from your normal training routine.

But my business trip has me really busy and stressed; I just can’t find time to train

If this is the case and you rarely miss workouts, I’m inclined to suggest not to worry about training and just try to find a little time each day to get your heart rate elevated slightly and use some muscle.  This doesn’t have to be “training” in the traditional sense.  Walking to dinner instead of taking a cab or an Uber or taking the stairs in the hotel rather than the elevator can be enough.  If you’re under a lot of stress from your travel in the first place, the last thing you need to do is pile on more stress by worrying about missed training or by trying to find time and a location to do your training.  You’re far better off just going with the flow, making healthy decisions around food choices and alcohol consumption, and trying to get enough sleep each day than you are running yourself ragged trying to find the time or a place to do a workout.

Remember, if you’re someone who rarely misses training, missing training on a relatively short trip is not going to hurt you.  Just ride it out and return home healthy.  You can quickly get caught back up with your training then, without any negative long-term impact on your fitness.

I miss a lot of workouts and now am missing more on this trip

 If you’re someone who misses a lot of workouts normally, missing time for travel is a bit more serious.  Because you miss workouts more regularly, your margin for missing more work due to travel is a lot smaller.  Chances are, the work you’ve already missed has impacted your fitness or, at the very least, your ability to improve your fitness.  In this case, I think it is more important to try to do some type of training activity each day, or perhaps every other day, while you’re on the road.  Again, this will likely require a little planning before you leave for your trip as you’ll need to find a hotel with some cardio equipment and/or a gym or a local gym near the hotel.  In this case minimizing the impact of your travel on your training is more important.  Here’s a checklist of things to consider before you leave home:

  • Try to find a hotel with a gym or some exercise equipment
  • Try to find a gym near your hotel
  • Plan out an exercise routine you can do in your hotel room.This can include core exercises, plyometric exercises for your legs, and variations of push ups.
  • Consider investing is some easy to pack fitness equipment that you can take on the road with you.Things like stretch cords or bands and TRX straps are easy to pack and can allow you to do some strength work you’d otherwise be unable to do.
  • Plan some running routes that you can do, safely, from your hotel
  • If you can’t run and the weather is good, see if there are bike rentals near your hotel.

You don’t need to do all of the above but try to come up with some options that help you address both cardio and strength if possible.

If you’re someone who misses a lot of workouts to start with, travel isn’t going to help you catch up.  Your fitness is likely a little behind where it should be already.  It would be really helpful to do something while you’re away to keep from getting further behind.  It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do everything that is on the training program, but anything is better than nothing and more is better than less.  Plan ahead.  Don’t leave figuring out how you’re going to address your training till you arrive at your destination.

Traveling where you can paddle

 The first issue with paddling while traveling is a board.  If you’re driving on your trip it’s easy to take a board along, but you’ll want to make sure that it is on your car in the morning.  You’ll want to consider the neighbourhood the hotel is in, the hotel security in the parking lot, and have some way to lock your board on your racks.  Alternatively, if you have an inflatable, you can take it along and just leave it locked inside your car.

If you aren’t driving, you’ll need to consider lugging along an inflatable.  While inflatables are a lot easier to travel with than 14-foot race boards, they’re still a lot more hassle than just traveling with a carry on.  If you’re not up to the hassle or don’t own an inflatable, then you’ll need to find a board locally.  One option is to rent.  Again, you’ll need to do some homework before you leave, you’ll need to have a rental car than can carry a board and have some inflatable racks.  Even if you’re able to find a board, there’s a host of logistical problems you’ll have to deal with before getting the board in the water.

The best option is borrowing a board or, better still, arranging to meet someone who can bring you a board and go for a paddle with you.  There’s a pretty good selection of paddling networks on social media – The Paddle Monster Challenges comes to mind.  Posting before you travel, asking if there is anyone able to help you out at your destination, might get you on the water in a location that you’ve never paddled in before and make you a new friend as well.

One of the things l love to do is paddle in new locations.  There’s something to be said for paddling in new waters and seeing a place from that unique perspective you can only get on the water.   Consider that most travelers only see things from the land and you begin to realize that seeing things from the perspective of the water is a privilege that few get to experience.  And, of course, one of the best things about paddling is meeting others who share your passion for it.  I can honestly say that in all my years of paddling one of the things I appreciate the most is the friendships that I have made because of it. Paddlers tend to be a pretty giving bunch.  If you introduce yourself on social media, explain where you’ll be traveling to and ask if there is anyone who can help you out while you’re there, you just might find someone who’ll enjoy sharing their paddling waters with you.

Obviously, paddling takes more time than going for a run or doing some cardio on a piece of equipment in the hotel gym.  You’ve got to get to where the water is, get the board you’re using in the water and then do the work.  Finally, you’ve got to put your equipment away and travel back to the hotel.  It’s not unusual for a one-hour paddle to take double that amount of time.  It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do all the training on the program on the water when you are traveling, particularly if you’re on a business trip or a family trip with a jam-packed agenda.  However, getting out even once while you’re away is better than not getting out at all and can give you memories that can be priceless.  Going for a paddle in a new location can be the highlight of your trip.  It’s definitely worth it if you get a chance to do it, and so it is well worth looking into as you’re planning your trip.

Keep things in perspective

 Unless you’re a pro racer, it can be a constant struggle with all of life’s realities just to try to fit all your training in.  You’re going to miss workouts.  It’s a fact.  Just like you miss a workout to go to your daughter’s graduation, you’ll have to occasionally miss a few workouts for a business trip.  You really don’t have a choice in the matter.  Keeping that fact in perspective and accepting it can really take a lot of the stress out of a looming business trip.

The easiest way to deal with these missed sessions is to be organized in your day-to-day life and get into the habit of missing as few workouts as possible.  In this way, when you do have to miss a workout or two for travel, it is not as big a deal.

Remember, if you’re consistent with your training it takes far more than a missed workout or two to negatively impact your fitness.  Remembering this should make it easier to keep missed training for a business trip in perspective as well.

Lastly, remember why you paddle.  For most of us, paddling is not so much about racing as it is about fun, fitness and the health benefits associated with it.  If you can’t paddle for a few days because of travel, make sure at least that the choices you’re making while away are as healthy as possible.  At least in this way, your behaviour will be consistent with what paddling has become to you – a pathway to better health.  Though it can be more difficult than at home, try to eat healthy, limit alcohol consumption and get adequate sleep while traveling.  You’ll feel better and, when you get home, find that you more quickly get back into the routine of training and feel super fit because of it.

Happy travels and happy paddling!


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