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The Fit Five: Working Out on the Road

Expert advice on how to gain and maintain muscle and strength while traveling.

Traveling, whether for work or pleasure, can be stressful at times, especially if you've got yourself in a nice routine with working out and dieting. Your schedule is thrown off, you're in a new environment, and time isn't necessarily on your side. We've asked Sam Akinrinade, USAW-1, for some advice with some of the common questions we get from our on-the-go readers. 

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Q1: How late into the night is too late to lift weights?

“How late an individual works out depends on if it will affect his or her sleep afterward. Late workouts are not ideal since testosterone levels are higher during the day. However if a late workout is the only option, it is still better than no workout at all especially on a tight schedule. It’s never too late as long as sleep isn't interfered with, so figure out what works best for you with training and timing.”

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Q2: How much sleep should I be getting on training days for optimal muscle growth?

“A great goal to aim for is eight solid hours. For some, that is either not an option or hard to do, especially in a strange place like a hotel room, or when traveling between time zones. Try to keep similar pre-bedtime habits to prep your body for sleep, and try to keep artificial lighting from TVs, tablets, and phones to a minimum before bed. Consistent scientific evidence shows that healthy sleep optimizes muscle growth.”

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Q3: What essentials should I pack in my bag to make sure I can get a good workout in?

“A great, non-bulky gym bag these days should at least have a jump rope, a few quality and durable resistance bands with at least two appropriately challenging resistances to do upper- and lower-body movements, and one suspension training system (e.g., TRX) assuming you have a safe and sturdy place to hang it from in the gym or at a nearby park or tree. It’s always a good idea to bring your headphones too; music in most places is hit or miss.”

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Q4: What can I look for on hotel menus to make sure I don’t gain fat weight?

“Try to zero in on their higher-protein options, whether it be chicken, fish, steaks, etc. Don't be afraid to ask for things to be prepared with less butter, salt, and grease. Ask them if they can grill, bake, or steam your choices instead of frying them. Also ask to hold unnecessary options like white bread; switch them out with a vegetable or even fatty extras on the side. You'll be surprised at how accommodating kitchens can be.”  

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Q5: I’m at a conference and have limited time. If I have to choose between a warmup and a workout, which should I choose? Why?

“You don’t have to choose! You can still get a solid workout, as long as you dedicate yourself to be being more efficient with the time you have. Streamline your warmup, focusing on loosening up your tighter muscles and do at least a minute of jump rope or jumping jacks to get blood circulating and heart rate up. Time your rest periods to at most 90 seconds. Do more circuit-style workouts with compound (multi-joint) movements like chinups. Don’t neglect your abs either!”

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