Travel Fit With These 7 Expert Tips from Jens Voigt

Jens Voigt knows how to prepare for fitness success on the road.

Think you’ve traveled a lot lately? When it comes to countries visited, jet lag experienced, and miles logged—not just on wheels but also in overall distance—I’m in the lead. Don’t believe me? Here’s my travel schedule for the past year (note that most countries were visited more than once):

2 x Australia

3 x Thailand

1 x South Korea

1 x Israel

1 x South Africa

2 x Canada

7 x USA

2 x Denmark

1 x France

2 x Great Britain

1 x Spain

Even more shocking, this is just travel for work and excludes all family trips. Needless to say, staying fit and healthy while traveling is a challenging topic that’s near and dear to me. Here are my expert tips:

1. Pack Light

You might be thinking, “Jens, you’re a professional cyclist, why not just bring your bike?” While I do travel with wheels sometimes, the extra fees can become an expensive headache that can easily top $3,000 a year. Some of it you get back, some not. I’ve started to only pack items that fit neatly into my suitcase. Before a speaking engagement, trade show, or exhibition, I pack running shoes and swim shorts.

2. Ask Key Questions

Next, I vett the location. When checking into a hotel, my first questions are always:

  1. Where is the gym and how long does it stay open?
  2. Where is the pool and how long does it stay open?
  3. Do you have a sauna and how long is that open?

3. Stay Flexible

Depending on the climate and traffic situation in the city I’m visiting, my fitness program changes. If I land late in the afternoon or at night, bike rides are out of the question. Instead, I opt for a walk or urban hike under city lights, or go for a quick run on the treadmill in the hotel gym. If it’s crazy hot outside, I’ll go for a swim. Most importantly, I don’t let excuses get in the way. If one form of fitness falls through, I choose another path.

4. Embrace Your Weakness

We all love doing what comes to us naturally—whether that’s running, skating, or biking—but working on activities that take a little more effort is essential for growth. I’m a pro on the bike, but water is my weakness. I swim like a manatee, happy and slow. But, I’m working on improving my pace and mastering my stroke. Working on my style and technique now is sure to pay off later; I think I have more triathlons in my future.

5. Reframe The Negatives

When traveling, jetlag is my biggest enemy. I hate when it hits me in the middle of the workday, and I constantly yawn. The feeling of your body just wanting to shut down as it still lives in the old time zone is tough. Instead of using the time change as an excuse to skip a workout, I pencil in my workouts around my sleep habits.

The advantage of jetlag is that I can usually wake early enough to get in some good exercise before breakfast. Sometimes this means getting creative. If the gym is not open at 5 am, I often use the emergency stairs as my exercise field. A lot of hotels I frequent have 15 or more levels. Run those a few times, and you’ll burn a substantial amount of calories.

Lucky my Fitbit counts the steps and flights of stairs, making it easy for me to track progress. Hitting that 10,000 steps goal pushes me and also leaves me feeling satisfied with my workout—even if I don’t have a brick-and-mortar gym.

6. Train For Your Goals

If the gym is open, I do a quick warm-up on the rowing machine to engage all of my muscles. Then, I do a whole-body circuit training workout. I essentially make up my own program. I row for 20 minutes, then do biceps and triceps training on machines. I do some shoulder work and, in between sets, I work my core with planks and sit-ups. Depending on my motivation, I do three to five rounds.

It’s a simple program, but it works towards my goal of having a better-balanced body. I’m retired; I don’t want to be the next Schwarzenegger. The upper-body focus is deliberate. I don’t do much leg work simply because I am fully convinced and confident that my legs will be ok for the rest of my life. I just want my upper body to catch up.

7. Find A Way To Explore Actively

Any day without any physical activity is a lost day to me. Keeping my body healthy helps me to keep my mind healthy and clear. It’s a win-win situation. When I travel, I add another layer of win: I integrate sightseeing into my fitness.

Running or walking in cities is a great way to explore the neighborhood. In fact, one of the first things I check for in every new city is a course to ride or run. For running, I prefer city parks or trails over running on busy sidewalks. I’ve run in some cool places like Stanley park in Vancouver, Central Park in New York, Paris running along the Seine River, and the Lumpini in Bangkok. In Seoul there is a running path next to the river, and it’s lit up at night. Running along the water is a real treat; it gives me peace of mind, and makes me calm and happy.

6 Comments   Join the Conversation

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Jens, I love exploring new cities while running! What I read between the lines is that you don’t let your fitness be an accident – you make sure to plan it into every day. I am always amazed when I go to a conference and meet another runner and ask if he/she wants to run in the morning and they say, “Oh, I didn’t bring my shoes.” WHAT?

  • These are great tips, Jens. I often have clients that I’m coaching who have to travel for work and struggle to keep their program going, so I will be passing your blog along to them. Next time you’re in the SF Bay Area, look me up and I’ll take you for a run!

  • Jens you are an amazing athelete. I can remember your days as a professional cyclist and seeing you in the Tour de Georgia I like the idea of trying new things in excercise. I always loved cycling but hated the idea of running. I purchased a Fitbit last year has become one of my biggest motivators for staying active and tracking my progress. I have started running the past year and now run about 3-4 Times a week. Changing things up keeps me excited about excercise.

  • Jen,

    Great tips. I also travel in my work but not as much as you do. As you have pointed out. You must have a strategy and anticipate problems. Good information.

  • I am 77 and in the decade where the body wants to gain weight. My workouts have become a chore and my step goal has dropped to 8000. Thanks to your inspiration I feel motivated to improving my activity and start enjoying my workouts again.

  • “…I swim like a manatee, happy and slow.” I really enjoyed your article, but I can particularly relate to the context of your above quote. I will remember this one for sure, to help get me motivated.

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