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Everything I Use to Work Out While Traveling

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!)

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.

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.

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

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.