Everything I Use to Work Out While Traveling

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No days off. Photo: Lambert/Getty Images

For some reason, I signed myself up for a marathon-length trail run in the Swiss Alps later this year. I’m not quite ready for it, so I need to get myself in significantly better shape over the next few months. As usual, however, I also have a lot of travel scheduled in the coming months, and as anyone who exercises regularly will tell you, traveling is a great way to absolutely ruin your fitness regimen.

To stay fit while traveling (and without a gym), I pack a few choice pieces of travel exercise equipment in my luggage alongside my laptop, toothbrush, and clothes. It allows me to do both strength training and get in some cardiovascular exercise without taking up a ton of space — a lot of it makes great desk workout equipment, too. With these compact, portable fitness tools, there’s no excuse for skipping a workout. (Sorry!)

CUXUS 11 pcs Resistance Band Set
$18, Amazon

For building muscle, my preferred exercises use free weights, but my pair of 50-pound dumbbells outweighs my entire set of resistance bands by about 97 pounds, so it’s just not practical to travel with them. While not quite as satisfying as actual weights, when used properly the CUXUS Resistance Bands can afford me a great anaerobic workout, targeting biceps, delts, quads, and more. You just have to figure out the right band combinations to approximate your standard weights (the blue and black bands paired together create about 50 pounds of resistance, for example). As you can use these bands simply by looping them under your own feet, the set really does allow you to complete strength-training exercises anywhere.

Survival & Cross Jump Rope
$10, Amazon

I don’t like jumping rope very much. But I do like getting regular cardio exercise. When I can’t get in a run due to travel, weather, or a simple lack of free time, I often settle for this classic high-energy activity because while it’s not much fun, that means it’s working. The low-price, high-quality Survival & Cross jump rope lets you adjust the cord length to your ideal size, and you can whip that thing around at top speed thanks to the steel ball bearings built into each handle. There’s no delay or maximum speed with this thing, so even you actual jump-rope aficionados will like using it.

NSD Power Essential Spinner Gyroscopic Wrist and Forearm Exerciser
$20, Amazon

When my friend and former college roommate first showed me his NSD Spinner, I was skeptical. When he kept talking about it almost every time we hung out, I was like, “Okay, got it; you like the thing.” When he got me one as a birthday gift later that year, I figured I might as well try to learn how to use the damn thing.

And now ten years on, I’m glad I did. Because weird as it looks when in action, and a bit frustrating as it is to master its use, this baseball-size gyroscopic spinner gives you a great arm workout, and it can travel anywhere. Once you have the sphere’s inner gyroscope in motion (spinning in two different, opposite directions, in fact), you need to complete rapid, controlled circular hand motions to keep the thing spinning. In so doing, you engage the muscles all the way from your fingers to your shoulders. And the faster you move your hand and arm, the more effort it takes to keep it stable and spinning, and the better the workout.

TRX Home 2
$160, TRX

You really can get a full body workout using a few straps of superstrength woven nylon. The metal hooks connect to a door anchor (basically a thick pad with another fabric loop that you tuck behind a closed door), which allows you to do chest presses and declined push-ups right in the doorway. Most hotel doors will accommodate the ropes just fine, though the door to my home office made some groaning noises that gave me pause. With practice, the TRX Suspension Trainer has allowed me to use my own body weight to target and develop basically every major muscle group.

IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper
From $20, Amazon

I always have a set of these in my car and even my desk drawer. Repeatedly squeezing a couple of metal dowels attached to one another by a spring might not sound like much fun, but it’s a great way to build up the muscles in your hand and forearm, all of which are critical for other workout activities (holding weight or doing pull-ups, for example), not to mention everyday activities. If you’re going for so-called vanity muscles, defined forearms will help the rest of your body look more fit — they also tend to be exposed more than other parts of your body.

Columbia Sportswear Montrail Variant X.S.R. Shoes
From $100, Amazon

I love these shoes. They were specifically designed for runs that feature both paved surfaces and trails, and thanks to their moderate tread pattern and serious cushioning and support, they perform well (or rather let you perform well) on all different kinds of surfaces. Look, if I were headed out for a ten-mile mountain scramble, I’d probably use shoes with a more aggressive tread, and for road-only runs, I’d choose lighter shoes, but when traveling, I always split the difference and bring these versatile, comfortable trail- and road-ready sneakers.

HyperGo After Sports Wipes, Full Body Wipes, 20 Count
$13, Amazon

Back when I worked at an agency in Los Angeles, my days were often ten hours long, not to mention the 45-minute-plus commute both ways. To try to fit exercise in, a friend and I would get in a daily lunchtime run and calisthenics session, but because there was no shower at work, I’d have to give myself a good wipe-down afterward. With a 12-inch-by-12-inch HyperGo After Sports Wipe, you can clean yourself off in no time, removing sweat, dirt, and various other odors. Using two is often advisable. And when you’re traveling and not sure if you’ll have access to a post-workout shower, they are worth their weight in gold. In fact, you’ll probably want to use them after a long-haul flight, even without the workout.

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Everything I Use to Work Out While Traveling