When I’m traveling, I frequently get this question; “How do you have the time to practice for 1-2 hours a day.” This question is usually accompanied with some stories around the reasons why that individual is unable to start exercising or moving due to some self imposed limitations. I understand where these ideas come into play for myself and others and travel has helped me better understand their perspective while also knowing that these are still, merely, self imposed. There is always a solution to this inability to move and here are some ways I have changed the narrative of my own story as I travel.
There is always time
As I write this, I am on a flight to Puerto Rico from Miami. My layover in Miami was 40 minutes long. What did I do during that time? I worked on progressions for the stalder press and got in 3 successful sets. I didn’t concern myself with shitty airport food or mindless entertainment, being slouched over in the chair, scrolling through social media like almost everyone else. I didn’t concern myself with the looks I might get for practicing where few will dare to expose themselves (This has taken several airport visits for me to get comfortable with practicing, and failing, when many are watching. ps. Headphones work great to put you in your own world ;). I went immediately to my gate, put my headphones in and got to work. I am not some especially disciplined individual either. I am not special. We all have this time throughout our days to practice a new skill or simply, move our bodies and articulate and explore old and new possibilities within the flesh.
If dedicating a portion of time from your day to practice, let’s say one hour, is a no go for you, perhaps this ‘Greasing the Groove‘ approach may work for you. I first heard of GTG from Pavel Tsatsouline when I was eighteen. The principle is simple; throughout the day, you accomplish a few reps, here and there for a skill you want to become better at. Let’s use the chin up as an example of a skill that can be worked with this approach. If you’re having trouble getting your second repetition, you will spend a few minutes throughout your day, multiple times per day, working on perfecting your first rep. If you feel as if you won’t be able to complete the second rep as well as you completed the first, you ignore the ego and end your set there. With this approach, you will find that avoiding muscle failure by attempting that second rep will allow you to create a neural connection between positive outcomes and your chin ups. We can view this as training the nervous system instead of simply training the muscular system. This approach allowed me to get to sets of 5 faster than my friends who consistently trained to failure. I was rarely sore and felt strong after each session. I highly recommend this approach for anyone, especially beginners. No more stressing over time and find gains in the process!
Can’t get to the gym; Bring it with you.
Gymnastics rings plus your body equals the ultimate gym, wherever you are. For under $100, you can purchase great quality rings by Rogue Fitness and have a gym on your person for the rest of your life. If we focus on the rings, we have plenty for a days work. The rings allow us to tackle almost every range possible to develop strength, even with the legs. There comes a freeing sense of self knowing that with the body alone we can achieve much and by adding a single pair of wooden rings with straps, we have the ultimate tool for physical development.
Rings are easy to travel with and as long as you can find a strong enough branch or horizontal structure to hang on, you have a place to get practicing. They tend to be a great conversation starter when you have them hanging on a tree or are passing them through airport security. If you need some ideas on how to get started moving with your rings, check out this video.
Find the spaces that have spread through the world like a beautiful virus: Crossfit Gyms
If I can’t find a gym like my hometown go to, Republic of Movement, I usually drop in to a Crossfit gym while I am on the road. These gyms are everywhere and many of them will have an open gym time when you can work on your own practice. They typically have all of the equipment you would ever need and plenty of floor space. The patrons and owners are usually friendly and interested in what I am up to. Sometimes, you can even get a nice t shirt included with your drop in for the typical cost of $25. If you check out the Crossfit site, you can find a map with the seemingly infinite amount of ‘boxes’ all around the world.
Bonus: If you are traveling and have extra space in your bag, I recommend packing the following:
- Rubber band for warmup
- Mobility WOD band for compression
- Tennis ball for warmup and games
- Lacrosse ball for self massage
- Captains of crush grippers for hand, wrist, forearm and finger strength
- Hand balance blocks
- GoPro to film your practice (This is a better option that phone because you can continue listening to your music and not run out of battery. GoPro also has a lense that allows you to capture video while having it very close to you, allowing you to film in tight spaces)
- Headphones to block out distractions (I recommend AirPods or JayBirds)
Be accountable to someone
Having a teacher that provides me with programming and checks in with me regularly has prevented me from being lazy with my practice. If I miss my marks and don’t put in the work, I risk the social embarrassment of having to explain why I missed x amount of sessions, usually exposing the bullshit excuses I am allowing myself to make. Having someone to check in with while I travel also helps me root my practice. When I am in Miami, we get together to review the pieces that are best explained and demonstrated in person. We work together to create a routine that adapts to my lifestyle on the road (Thank you Sean for your patience!). Although, I can program for myself, I prefer having a teacher for two main reasons:
- My teacher and I have established a relationship over the last two years. In the spirit of the methodology that I’ve been exposed to I will quote my teachers teacher, “If you find a real teacher, if you find a real process, it doesn’t matter what it teaches. It just matters that you follow that thing.” This is the state of the relationship between my teacher and I so I’ve chosen to steep myself in his teaching for the last two years.
- Delegation is a key to freedom. Much like my web development business, when I chose to delegate my training routines to someone with over 10 years of experience within their own practice, I found the freedom of mind and time to focus on the more pressing matters of my life while unlocking more gains than ever before within my practice. Trust in others, especially those who are much better qualified than you to get the work done to propel your practice and life in general.
Surround yourself with like minded movers to upgrade your level of performance and dedication. Facing embarrassment while also stepping in to encouragement are two powerful tools that you can only access with the right peer group to collaborate with. If you are looking to stay accountable to yourself, tracking my sessions by keeping a log/journal has been the best way for me. This allows me to quickly see the days that I have missed and track progress over time. If you want to take it a step further, streak building apps will help you see when you missed a day. For the ultimate test of accountability, use a service that forces you to pay up if you miss a training session. Few things motivate better than knowing you will have to pay up your hard earned dollars due to your inconsistency.
A life on the road can have the same obstacles to a daily practice as a life rooted at home. The excuses follow us wherever we go if we allow them to take their place in our minds. None of us are impervious to this reality but those who consistently make the gains are those who find systems and tools that ease work for them while reducing the friction to getting the work done.
Where do you find the most friction when trying to establish your practice? What are the tools that you use to help you stay on track?
Luke Hammond says
Cheers for this piece, Nelson! I often feel discouraged from travelling with work due to the combination a lack of mental flexibility with training locales, and a fear of the missing the exact programming. It takes a fair bit of mindfulness for me to GTG when I’m in the habit of practising on a hardwood floor and squat rack with all my usual toys around to comfort me.
Keep up the good work, my friend! I’ll read this article again while traveling to remind myself about cultivating more mental flexibility..
Chris D says
Can you point me in the direction of a good stadler press progression online?
Very thoughtful insights into training and the power of habitual behavior. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for reading John! Habitual behaviors, albeit the good kinds, are a time (and life saver) when on the road. When my surroundings are constantly changing, it helps to have some routine to stick to that help me feel grounded.
Thank you Daniel for always taking the time to read and share your perspective! The mental awareness to notice that one has been sitting all day is a valuable place to start for many because a majority of occupations demand this endless sitting. It’s good to hear that you feel the same. Having the confidence to get up and move how you please in areas where it may feel strange or uninvited is also a freeing idea that will benefit you throughout life. I hope you enjoy this new, more minimal design I’ve taken with this blog. My idea is to be able to document and create as effortlessly as possible without letting the bells and whistles of site design get in the way. Cheers to you and your new blog! All the success to you friend 🙂