How To Stay In Shape When Traveling For Work

So you’re on the road for a week, or two – maybe even for a month. Your work hours are long, your gym is back at home along with your workout classes and normal running routes, and you’re staying in a dark, comfy hotel room. Have you tried waking up at 5:45 a.m. to work out when you’re in a pitch black hotel room?  A place normally representative of relaxing vacations? It is no easy feat, my friends.

But if you're a fitness fanatic who frequently finds themselves on the road for work, it's NOT impossible to fit workouts into your trip. And in fact, it could be a huge factor for stress relief and keeping some semblance of sanity and routine when life becomes very work-centric. 

Here's what 3 years of traveling for work have taught me about staying (somewhat) in shape on the road! 

Staying In Shape on the Road

Get It Done Early 

Whether you're typically an early morning workout person or not - when you're on the road, it's always best to get it done in the a.m. You're there for work, and things are going to come up throughout the day that may turn what was supposed to be an early shift into something much longer than intended. 

A group of coworkers may ask you to go out to dinner, and you can't say no. Your boss may give you an assignment that can't wait. And you might just be too damn tired at the end of the day. The excuses will only pile up as the day goes on - so set that alarm and get 'er done. That way, all of your focus can be on the job at hand. 

Tips for Working Out at Hotels

No Excuses 

There are going to be many, many reasons you can give yourself as to why you shouldn't work out. Even more excuses than you normally manage to come up with. While you're traveling for work there's a whole new slew of "why-nots." 

"The gym here sucks" 
"I'm going to be too tired at work if I get up now" 
"No one else works out on the road" 
"I shouldn't go for a run when I don't really know the area" 
"I can't take a class" 
"I don't have my bike" 
"I only have 20 minutes" 
"I don't want to run into co-workers" 

You need to dig deep and find a way to silence those voices in your head that are non-stop-naysayers. If you set an alarm for a morning workout, you need to dig your heels in, show some resolve, and just do the damn thing. Instead of giving voice to all those excuses in your head, I suggest: 

Remind Yourself Of Why You WANT To Workout

Remind yourself of all the reasons your alarm is going off at a somewhat ungodly hour. Don't' even let your mind go toward the excuses - immediately re-route those thoughts to remember why you set the alarm in the first place. 

Because Exercising Is YOU Time 

You're traveling for work and you're constantly surrounded by coworkers. But for those 45 blissful minutes in the hotel gym at 5:45 a.m. - you're only worried about YOU. 

Because Exercising Relieves Stress 

Work work work and no play is no good for your stress levels! Working out is a huge way to handle the stress of your job. 

Because Exercising Will Start The Day Off Right 

Starting your day with a healthy dose of endorphins ensures you won't be the grump who shows up miserable to work in the morning. 

Because It's What You Do 

When you're home you exercise, so why should things be any different when you're traveling? Traveling for work already throws many aspects of life out of wake - but it's in your power to keep exercise as a consistent part of your daily routine. Do it. 


Whatever your fitness goals may be - remind yourself of them in the morning. Maybe you're trying to achieve the elusive pull-up. Maybe you're training for your first triathlon - don't let a work trip derail your hard work and determination to achieve your goals. I trained for a marathon through multiple work trips - and while it wasn't fun to run 13.1 miles in a new city before a 12+ hour day, I was determined to run my first marathon. And I did! 

You'll Feel Better 

This is usually the first thing I tell myself. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. and trudging to the gym half asleep never feels good. But I am 100% guaranteed to feel better on the way back up to my room - and that feeling tends to stay with me throughout the day! Reminding myself of that fact is usually enough to get me up and out. 

*I cannot stress enough that one thing you should never use to try to get yourself to the gym are body-shaming thoughts like, "You ate out last night," or, "You're going to gain so much weight on this trip if you don't go." Trust me on this one, self-motivating reminders of why working out makes you FEEL good are 100X more effective. 

Workout Motivation

Manage Expectations 

Just because you're successful in getting yourself to the hotel gym, doesn't mean you're going to have a stellar workout. I've found that I need to manage my expectations while I'm on the road and can't expect to feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger after a workout in a gym with little more than dumbbells and an elliptical. You need to be okay with a decrease in: 

Length of Workout 

Realistically, you're going to hit the snooze button a few extra times when you're on a work trip. At least I know that I do. While I normally work out for around an hour at my home gym, I'm more than happy if I can get in a solid 30-45 minute workout on the road. 

Intensity of Workout 

Same here - my head is normally not as "in the game" for workouts when I'm on the road as they are in a group fitness class or workout in a place I'm familiar with and comfortable in. Not to mention the equipment available in a hotel gym can put a serious damper on intensity. That, paired with long hours, means I'm not dripping with sweat at the end of all my work-workouts. I usually try to get in one HIIT workout per week on the road where I am really kickin' my booty. 

Complexity of Workout

This goes back to the equipment and space that you have to work with. You're probably not going to be able to do a ton of complex exercises if all you have to work with are free weights and a treadmill. I prefer to see it as a challenge - what's the most interesting workout I can create with not a lot of options? It usually means lots of body weight exercises! (Hi, burpees - ugh). 

This is also where the Internet can come in reallllly handy. There are tons of "no equipment, small space" workouts available online. There are apartment workouts and hotel room workouts aplenty on Pinterest! Use them!

Working Out On The Road

Embrace the Space and Get Creative

That being said, some hotels have wonderful fitness facilities and you should take advantage of those when they're available! Don't just phone it in because you're in a hotel gym - use what is available to you. 

I've stayed in hotels with lap pools, tennis courts, bosu balls, spin bikes, classes, running groups, kettlebells. You just need to adapt to the tools you have available. 

Switch up the way your format your workouts - add in some tabata, choose 10 exercises and cycle through each for a minute before taking a :60 rest and repeating. There are so many different ways to assemble a challenging workout and none of them are entirely equipment dependent. 

One of my favorites is a deck of cards workout where you assign a different body weight exercise to each suit. As you go through the deck, you perform the exercise as many times as indicated by the card. There's even an app you can download so you don't need to bring 52 cards to the gym. But you could do that too, I guess! 

Working Out At Work

Keep It Fun 

The odds of you working out are already diminished. If you add to that plans for a workout that you don't love - you're setting yourself up for failure. If you love running and shoulder day, focus on those during your trip. If you really hate the stationary bike - keep that out of the mix. Crazy about planking? Give yourself something to look forward to and come up with a plank-filled workout! 

Do What You Can 

So you had to be in to work at 6:30 a.m. and there was no way you were waking up at 4:00 a.m. to workout. Don't write off the day entirely! Do your best to stay active in any way possible throughout the day. Walk as much as you can. Convince your coworkers to do some mid-day wall sits and planks! It might sound crazy, but I've done it! And I guarantee your coworkers are in the same boat and feeling pretty bad about their lack of exercise during the trip. They might be more willing than you'd think to lunge across the office or do some dips on their chairs. 

Find Someone To Hold You Accountable 

If you can find a co-worker who is just as committed to working out while traveling - that's a HUGE bonus. My friend and I try to plan our workouts together as much as we can - if we plan to meet at a certain time, you don't want to be the one that doesn't show up! 

If you're the lone crusader from your company hitting up the gym - have one of your fit-friends from home check in in the mornings. If they Snapchat you a picture of them lacing up their sneakers, it might be that extra oomph you need! 

Workout Like A Local 

Take advantage of your new location! One of my favorite things to do is visit a November Project workout if they have a tribe in the city I'm working from. I've gotten to attend workouts in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Toronto thanks to work travel. These workouts are a huge breath of fresh air because they double as social time away from work and remind me of home. 

There's also nothing saying you need to workout in the hotel gym all the time! See if there are any nearby fitness studios where you could sign up for a class. Bonus? Many places have first time student discounts - and since you're from out of town - chances are you haven't been there before! 

I've also signed up and run a road-race while traveling for work which was a great way to experience the local running scene. 

I also highly suggest looking up the running groups and running stores in the area to see if you can find other fitness-minded people to workout with in the area. Who knows, you might even make a lifelong friend! 

Working Out On Work Trips

Be Smart 

Always, always be smart. If you're exhausted, if you're feeling injured, if you've got an 18 hour shift ahead of you - reconsider your workout. Go for a walk instead, or take all the extra sleep you can get. Being on the road is stressful. Traveling isn't great for immune system. If you're body is telling you that it needs to take it easy for the remainder of the trip - listen to it! Your gym, your fitness classes, your running group will all be there waiting for you when you return!