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2 Bodyweight Workouts You Can Do When Life Gets Busy

Summer break, holidays, travel... this one's for you!

Whether it’s summer break or the holiday season, certain times of the year bring more travel, or at the very least take us out of our everyday routines with outings, celebrations, and out of town guests — and for many of us who are parents, a lot more time with the kiddos on break from school.

To make room for so much fun stuff, something’s gotta give. That something is quite often our training, which seems to slip to the bottom of the list without much of a fight.

No matter the circumstances, I think most of us can agree that it’s hard to get to the gym consistently when we get pulled out of our daily routine. Making adjustments so that you can continue training while traveling or under less-than-ideal conditions can be very helpful in the long term. It not only allows you to maintain your fitness, it can also improve your state of mind during times of greater stress.

I believe in the power of movement as form of self care — even a little bit can go a long way when you’re short on time and your attention is inevitably elsewhere.

I want to share some training options with you for those times when life gives you an extra dose of “busy.” Using just your body, you can train practically anywhere, any time. Plus, if you’re traveling and want to pack some equipment for added variety, I’ll also share three of my favorite training tools that will barely take up space in your bag.

Bodyweight Training — The Anywhere Gym

Bodyweight training is my first choice on the road because I can do it almost anywhere, and it addresses most goals. Whether you are looking to maintain your conditioning or work strength, you can get a lot out of bodyweight training. Check out these two workouts and use the list of bodyweight exercises below if you’d like some ideas for exercise substitutions:

Bodyweight Workout #1

Push-up /Jumping Jacks
Squat /Jumping Jacks
Flutter Kick/Jumping Jacks
Alternating Lunge /Jumping Jacks
Plank / Jumping Jacks

You can perform this workout for time or for reps. You can also progress it over time, if you’re traveling for a few weeks. The following are two ways you can complete this workout.

For time:

Set a timer for the amount of time you want to work out (try 15 to 20 minutes), and then set out to complete as many rounds of this circuit as possible within that time. You could perform the exercises as intervals. For example, try a 30:30 interval. Perform push-ups for 15 seconds, jumping jacks for 15 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then move on to the next exercise combo. Follow the same work-to-rest pattern for each of the exercises in the circuit until you complete the circuit. Take a rest until you feel ready to go again (or rest one to two minutes), then start over. Keep repeating the circuit until the clock runs out.

You could also perform a specific number of reps, for example: 10 push-ups and 20 jumping jacks, rest 30 seconds and move on to the next exercise. Continue until you complete the circuit. Take a rest until you feel ready to go again (or rest one to two minutes), then start over.

For reps:

Instead of setting a timer, you can complete this circuit for a specific number of rounds, for example, five rounds. You can use the interval pattern or work with specific repetitions as noted above. The only difference is that you won’t be bound by a timer, you’ll just work until you complete the desired number of rounds.

To progress this workout, you can change the work-to-rest ratio to rest for less time, work longer, or a combination or both. You could also increase repetitions, or increase the number of rounds completed within the same amount of time. Remember, at the end of each circuit take a longer rest, then repeat the circuit for the desired number of rounds or until your total workout time is up.

Bodyweight Workout #2

Mountain Climber x 50
Squat x 10
Mountain Climber x 50
Push-up x 10
Rest and repeat

You can complete this workout by performing as many rounds as possible within the desired total workout time, or for a specific number rounds, as described for Workout #1 above.

Bodyweight Exercises
Each of the following exercises can be done in with different progressions to increase or decrease the difficulty level to meet your current abilities and training needs.

Flutter Kick
Hollow Rocker (pictured)
Mountain Climber
Glute Bridge
Jumping Jacks
Star Jump
Donkey Kick

By no means is this an exhaustive list. It could really go on forever, but the key is to pick a few that you enjoy and write out some workouts to ensure that you have a plan. The less you need to think about the workout the better!

Travel-Friendly Training Tools

I’m a big fan of bodyweight training, but I recognize that some training tools can enhance a minimalist workout. If you prefer to use some equipment, my three favorites won’t take up much space in your suitcase:

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are my first choice because they take up the least amount of space. You can perform quite a lot of exercises with these bands, like side-step squats, abductor leg raises, and knee-banded hip thrust, just to name a few.

Jump Rope

Like resistance bands, a jump rope takes up minimal space to pack and minimal space to use. You can jump rope for reps or time, and use it for a stand-alone workout, or as part of a circuit above (for example, in place of jumping jacks).

Small Ab Wheel

While the ab wheel will take up a bit more space than the bands or jump rope, it is still pretty minimal, especially if it’s one that can be easily taken apart for travel.

Give the circuit below a try using these three items:

Minimal Equipment Workout

  1. Banded Squat x 10 (place the band just above your knees, then perform your squats)
    b. Ab Wheel Roll-Outs x 10
    c. Jump Rope x 100 jumps

As stated earlier for the bodyweight workout examples, you can run through this circuit for a desired number of sets or for as many rounds as possible within a desired time limit.

Tips for maintaining your fitness during busy seasons and while traveling

  1. Set aside five minutes a day to meditate or simply to breathe. Just a little bit of focused breathing can help you combat the negative mental and physical effects of stress. If a daily practice sounds overwhelming, strive for doing it at least three times a week, and build from there.
  2. Rest! Speaking of stress, your body does not recognize a difference between stressors. If you are under a lot of stress, your workout (or stressing over not getting to the gym!) could be adding to that. Sometimes less is more, and during busy times you will gain more benefit from taking a rest day.
  3. Allow yourself some grace. Rather than beating yourself up for pushing your needs to the bottom of the list because of time constraints, give yourself a mindset shift. If you know the weeks ahead will be stressful, plan for it ahead of time. Pencil in a deload week in your programming or simply show yourself a bit of grace by planning shorter training sessions so that you can keep the momentum going without asking your body to give more than it can during this time.
  4. As much as you reasonably can, plan your holiday or travel meals, placing emphasis on meals and portion sizes that help you feel comfortable and energized before or after times when your meal choices may be more limited (such as family gatherings or restaurant outings). Choosing to enjoy special meals with family and friends can actually help you stay closer to your normal routine overall. Adopting a moderate approach rather than complete restriction is another way to give yourself some grace.
  5. Write out one or two go-to workouts. Having them planned and written can help you maintain better focus when so much else is demanding some of your time and attention.

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About The Author: Karen Smith

Karen Smith is a highly-respected trainer and coach specializing in kettlebell and bodyweight strength training. She is a StrongFirst SFG Master Instructor and Chief Bodyweight Instructor. Karen travels the world instructing and certifying individuals through StrongFirst, and works with clients online and in person. Learn more about Karen on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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