By January many of us will have gained a few pounds and wished we had packed our running and cycling gear to get us over the river and through the hills this holiday season.
If you’re one of the estimated 100 million Americans who will travel to visit family and friends the next couple of months, then you may want (need?) a few ways to squeeze in a couple workouts while you’re away from home. Regardless of whether you maintain a disciplined fitness routine or just want to stay ahead of the effects of giblet gravy, shortbread cookies, and Aunt Mary’s homemade mac and cheese, here are a few sneaky little exercises that you can do with little space and almost no equipment. They can be modified so that you can do them indoors or outside (substitute a sturdy tree for a wall, for example):
This exercise—also known as wall pushups—focuses on your upper body and can easily be performed on a plane or train as well as in a hotel room:
- Start by standing up facing a wall; hold your arms straight out in front of you (parallel to the floor), with wrists bent, palms facing the wall.
- Step forward until your palms are about 12-18 inches away from the wall. Place your feet about shoulder’s width apart.
- Tensing your abs and keeping your body straight (no arch in your back, no bend in your hips or knees), lean forward until your palms are flat against the wall.
- Keep your neck and body straight (imagine a floor pushup) and bend your arms at the elbows as far as you can go without breaking form. Breathe in deeply as you move forward. Don’t worry about how close your face comes to the wall.
- Straighten your arms again, exhaling slowly as you go. That’s one repetition (rep). Repeat as many times as you can, up to 15 reps. That’s one set.
- Rest 30 seconds to one minute between sets and complete up to three sets at one time, if you can. If not, you can break up your sessions into single sets, three times a day.
- If you want to make this exercise more difficult, this wikiHow video clip can show you ways to modify your position to get more resistance.
Looking for a simple yet challenging lower-body move that requires no equipment other than a wall or sturdy vertical surface? Try this one:
- Facing away from the wall, lean your shoulders against the wall with your hands against the wall behind you and your feet slightly in front of you.
- Slowly slide downward, with your back against the wall, and “walk” your feet away from you until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Shift your feet until your lower legs are perpendicular to the floor. (Note: If you feel too much strain in your knees, just slide upward until the stress is relieved.)
- Tighten your abs and glutes, place your hands on your hips, and “sit” against the wall for 20 to 60 seconds, depending on your fitness level. You may start to feel a little shaky but you’re doing fine. Just concentrate on breathing in and out deeply and slowly.
- Slowly slide up the wall to your original position. Until you’re comfortable performing this move, you may want to place a chair or bench underneath you to “catch” you if you need to slide down rather than up to finish this move.
- Want to check your position or learn ways to increase or decrease the intensity? Check out this wikiHow video for help.
Russian wha? No worries—it’s less complicated than it sounds. This is one of those moves with countless options. But we’re going to make this version easy, with no weights.
- Sit on the floor away from the wall and furniture. Bend your knees and place your heels on the floor. Lean back slightly, keeping your back and neck straight. Adjust your position until you feel a bit stretched out.
- If you can, adjust your back and legs so that you can raise your feet 2 to 6 inches and maintain balance while rocking slightly forward and backward.
- Ball one hand into a fist and cover it with your other hand. Hold your hands in front of you, about 8 inches away from your belly button.
- Keeping your abs tensed and your back and neck straight, slowly swing your hands and arms toward your right hip; go as far as you can without twisting at the waist. Move your hands back to center, then toward your left hip. If you have to, put your heels back on the floor.
- Rock your hands and arms slowly back to center. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps per set.
- Rest 30 seconds between sets, and perform up to three sets at one time if you can.
- To modify the Russian twist, hold a ball or weighted household object in your hands (anything from a small inflatable beach ball to rolls of coins or plastic bottles filled with water or sand will do). You can also raise your feet and/or straighten your arms. Whatever you do, though, be sure to protect your lower back. And don’t twist—that’s the old, less safe way to do this exercise!
Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves when traveling is soothe our minds and let our bodies rest. The process of tensing and relaxing all your muscles from head to toe can help relieve aches, lessen anxiety, and even help you sleep, especially if you have trouble snoozing in strange places.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Lie down on your back in a quiet, darkened space. (You can also sit in a chair if you prefer.) Make sure the room temperature is comfortable. Cover yourself with a blanket if you’d like. You can also close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose to the slow count of 5. Hold for the slow count of 5. Exhale fully through your mouth to the slow count of 5. This is the breathing exercise.
- Starting with your head, tense all the muscles in your face. Repeat the breathing exercise, releasing the muscles as you exhale.
- Move downward to the next set of muscles in your body—your neck. Tense all the muscles and repeat the breathing exercise.
- Move on to your shoulders, arms, hands, back, abdomen, glutes, legs, and feet. (You can also reverse this order and start at your feet.)
- If you opt to practice progressive muscle relaxation before bedtime, do it in bed and add this step at the end: With your eyes closed, imagine yourself lying on a beach or in a small boat, looking at a sunny sky. Keeping your muscles relaxed, inhale slowly to the count of 5 and exhale slowly to the count of 5. Let your mind relax and wander. If you find yourself thinking about something specific (tomorrow’s honey-do list maybe?), just keep breathing. If you’re still tense in areas, repeat the relaxation routine in those areas. The next thing you know, you’ll be waking to a lovely new day!
To keep yourself safe while working out:
- Always wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear with a good tread on the sole so you don’t slip
- Move within your comfort range
- Stay hydrated, especially if you’re flying (quick tip: consider buying collapsible water bottles to keep in the car or carry-on luggage)
We wish you and your family a joyful holiday season. If you haven’t already downloaded the Teladoc app, go ahead and do that now so that you can connect with our board-certified doctors 24/7 anywhere you are. With the app, you’re only a couple taps away from help with flu, sinus infections, skin irritations, tummy issues, and other non-emergency conditions. Safe travels!
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