The single dude is always on the move. Crashing a friends couch, waking up in a strange land, or getting settled in a new one; we are often adapting to a new environment. Two of the first good habits that go by the wayside when one is on the move are two that matter very much to us: physical activity and nutrition. In the first section of this two-part post, I’ll address how you can stay fit when unable to settle into a gym routine. Use these tips to get and keep the body you want in the minimum amount of time, with the minimum amount of equipment!
Intensity Up, Volume Down
Intensity, for this purpose, should be thought of as the answer to the question, “How hard are you working?” with volume consisting of the amount of work done, i.e. sets, reps, time. The primary value of exercise is the neuroendocrine (hormone) response in the body, not calories burned. Forget calories. Your goal is to keep your body in training mode while pulling you away from your fun life for a minimum amount of time. The best way to do this is to train at maximum intensity for a very short amount of time. Spending 30-60 mediocre minutes on the treadmill or bike is an insult to your schedule and your body. Workout so hard that you are completely exhausted, and your muscle building and fat burning hormones will spike. Jog a few miles and you will simply have gotten a sweat. Have access to a gym, but only 15 mins with which to use it? 2000m row on the rowing machine, absolute maximum intensity. If you aren’t completely winded after 2-3 minutes, you’re fit. If you aren’t dead when you finish (between 7-8 mins) then you don’t know how to work hard. If you don’t have access to a gym, squats and pushups (or combine them in a burpee) are your best option, but don’t rest when you get a little bit winded and wait a few minutes before the next set. No… keep going until you are beat. Then switch exercises and do the same thing. This approach applies to lifting as well: One very heavy set done to total failure is far more beneficial than 2-4 lighter sets. Think of it this way: Cavemen didn’t jog after their prey until it got tired. Cavemen sprinted after their dinner, tackled it, strangled it, and brought its fucking head home on a stick for the wife to cook up. Don’t go for an hour log jog on the beach, everyone will be done with breakfast by the time you finish! Do 20 mins of sprinting intervals and see how you feel afterwards compared to jogging. Up the intensity and be in and out of the gym faster than ever.
Surround Your Meals
While many women are unfortunately incorrect in their assumption that if they go for a walk after eating ice cream or cake, it will make up for the act, they are actually on the right track. Simply put, food energy (calories) will preferentially be directed to whatever area of the body has the most blood flowing in it. What this means is that if you work out directly before you eat (especially with the first meal of the day), you get more muscle building & fat loss than if you train at another time of the day. Doctors have found that people of all ages see improved body composition if they exercise immediately before their first meal. It’s difficult to schedule workouts when on the run, and this will feel silly at first, if you go into the bathroom and do 50 air-squats in the stall immediately before your entrée is served, you will see real results! I don’t do this always, but it is a good way to ensure you do minimal damage with munching out if you’re feeling under-active one week.
Use The Whole Body
Hopefully this point has already been expressed enough elsewhere to make it clear, but I’ll restate it here: The more muscles involved in an exercise, the better results and the better use of your short time. Kettlebell Swings, Squats, Deadlifts, Rows, and Overhead press are all excellent lifts to do anytime, but especially when you are short on gym minutes. Similarly, burpees, air-squats and pushups are excellent for the gymless dude. Move more muscle to build more muscle.
Hopefully, as travelers most readers are active already-touring through new places and moving around different locations can keep one on their feet more often than a normal desk-dweller. However, getting involved in real physical activity can be surprisingly beneficial. It is not necessary to have planned exercise time or to join an organized sports league, but if you spot something active going on, jump in. An impromptu pick up game of basketball or volleyball, a bicycle tour, or hiking are all useful ideas. A bout of physical activity where you are moving on uneven surfaces and/or changing directions often can be an equal or greater training session than time spent in the gym. Again, you don’t have to put this into your schedule, but spontaneously engaging in real outdoor ‘sporting’ activities can go a long way to checking off the ‘exercise’ box for the week.
About the Author:
Jake Schuster is a sports performance coach and nutrition consultant at Well Traveled Wellness, where he provides consulting and coaching services for athletes and busy professionals. Jake’s work has been featured in One Life Magazine and the newsletter of the International Council of Sports Science and he has trained professional athletes in both America and Holland. Raised in Boston but currently living in Berlin, Germany after spending a year in Amsterdam, Jake is very familiar with the single dude lifestyle. He has written about his experiences dating foreigners, moving frequently and is currently putting out a series about the ten biggest myths of mainstream nutrition.