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Traveling is back, sort of. Amidst many plane delays, a few cancelled flights, lost baggage, broken plane AC’s and freaked out passengers, I’ve traveled more in the past year than I can remember, and it’s been a blast. If you’ve read some of my other SPY content you know that I’m also a dedicated fitness enthusiast, especially passionate about cycling on my Peloton spin bike and strength training with adjustable dumbbells.
Read More: The Best Resistance Bands in 2022
Now, a fitness enthusiast and avid traveler might not seem like two identities that can peacefully coexist, because it’s hard to workout on the road, right? Wrong. Throughout this summer and past few years, my boyfriend and I have developed some foolproof strategies for staying not just fit, but on track towards fitness goals while away from your home gym or at-home setup, and today I want to share them with you.
Travel workout equipment is an essential in all of my carry on and checked bags, and while you can’t always exactly mimic the weights, flooring, music setup and motivational surroundings you have at home, you can still get a great workout in anywhere. We don’t have to leave the fitness habits we developed during COVID at home now that long trips are back in the cards, here’s the best travel workout equipment to pack with you on your next excursion in 2022.
How to Workout While Traveling
First and foremost, I have a few tips for working out on the road that I recommend following regardless of the equipment you buy or style of workout you prefer.
1. Find a Local Gym
The best case scenario? The hotel or AirBnb you’re staying in has a gym you can use. This is the most convenient way to mimic your at-home experience since it’ll probably have some of the same equipment you’re used to using. Many baseline gyms have some sort of cardio machine — a treadmill, bike, elliptical, etc — and a set of dumbbells. You can do a lot with both of these things.
You can also research if the town you’re staying in has a local weightlifting or CrossFit gym where you can access the more intense equipment you may need to still lift heavy while you’re away.
2. Find a Local Boutique Fitness Studio
If a close gym is a no-go, find a local fitness studio and take a class! If you’re traveling to a big city this should be no problem, and can actually help introduce you to new exercises, new styles of movement and give you the luxury of instructor-led circuits who can help motivate you and improve your form.
Finding the motivation to workout while traveling can sometimes be the hardest part. Going to a studio you already know you love, or a local studio that teaches a style of movement you enjoy, can help get your butt moving.
3. Pack The Essentials
If you’re going somewhere super remote, or a foreign country where fitness studios and gyms are scarce (we are a fitness-obsessed nation here in the U.S., after all) then packing the right equipment is going to be key.
Below, I’ve outlined my favorite portable travel workout equipment for staying in shape, outside of a gym. Even a short workout each day of a trip can help you boost your energy levels, reset your metabolism, fight jet lag and enjoy the rest of your experience that much more.
4. Make It a Priority
If you want to workout while traveling, you’re going to need to make it a priority, and potentially sacrifice other things for it. In my mind, it’s worth it, but it could mean doing an ab workout in an airport, getting up early to run before the scheduled boat tour or skipping out on that 3rd cocktail because you want to wake up the next morning for a workout. If you make it fun, working out while traveling can enhance your trip, and the benefits can vastly outweigh the costs, but you have to build it into your schedule and stick with it.
The Best Travel Workout Equipment of 2022
This is my list of fitness equipment you might not have thought of, but can definitely come in handy, when trying to workout on the road.
This is a no-brainer. Pre-workout is very easy to travel with, and can definitely help motivate and boost your workouts on the road. This one from Optimum Nutrition is packed with vitamin D for immune support (another key for travel), as well as 3 grams of creatine in each serving to help build muscle after each training session.
One of the best things you can do to stay on track towards fitness goals on the road is mimic your at-home routine as closely as possible, and if taking pre-workout is a part of that existing regimen it should travel with you. You’ll also want to pack your shaker bottle for mixing.
2. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are essential in any travel workout equipment kit, because they’re very lightweight and great for light strength training and toning.
Look, if you lift heavy weights, these won’t replace 50-pound plates and a barbell. You’re going to need to find a gym for that. These will, however, add resistance to standard bodyweight workouts and can help you not lose strength gains you’ve already made during a few weeks on the road.
This particular set is what I use when traveling, and comes with 5, 10, 15 and 20-pound bands that get thicker and less elastic the higher you go. They’re great for training biceps, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.
3. Ankle Weights
Ankle weights are another relatively lightweight (depending on the pair) light strength training tool you can easily carry with you on the road. They won’t replace doing leg lifts with a 20-pound dumbbell, but they can add resistance to exercises like mountain climbers, lunges, high knees and walking or running.
You can find my full review round-up of ankle weights here, but this pair from Gaiam is my favorite for most users looking to travel. They’re comfortable to wear, heavy enough to give you resistance you can really feel, and are compact enough to fit inside any suitcase.
4. Weightlifting Belt
This is for the folks who are looking to lift heavy on the road, and have a gym in mind where they can find the weights they need. A weightlifting belt can help engage your core and keep your torso and lower back safe during heavy deadlifts and squats. Bringing your own is essential, and is a relatively easy accessory to add to your suitcase.
This one from Dark Iron Fitness is one of my favorite affordable options, made of 100% leather and is USAPL-approved for lifting up to 600 pounds. The double-tongue buckle is strong and sturdy, while the material is flexible enough to still be comfortable to wear tightly.
5. Weightlifting Gloves
Even if you don’t use weightlifting gloves at home, I recommend picking up a pair for the road. Not only will you be touching weights that hundreds of other people touch daily, but you can’t be sure what the knurling situation will be on foreign barbells and dumbbells, and you don’t want discomfort to limit your workout.
These gloves from Atercel are available at a very low price point on Amazon and will get the job done. They have a 100% microfiber construction and a unique palm design to maximize your grip without limiting movement. These take up less room than a pair of socks, and could make a huge difference in how you’re able to lift different weights than what you’re used to.
Another travel workout equipment essential for getting a good grip while strength training is chalk, and you can never be sure whether your temporary gym on the road will have it. Further, they might not allow standard dry chalk, since it can be messy. That’s why I always carry liquid chalk with me on the road, so I know I can dry my hands without breaking any rules in my new workout space.
This liquid chalk from from Warm Body Cold Mind goes on smooth, dries quickly and gives me a solid 15-20 minutes of work before I need to reapply. It comes in TSA-friendly tubes and I haven’t had a leak yet!
7. Cross Trainers
I know, the space for shoes in any suitcase is already at a premium, but cross trainers are essential for a strong, safe strength training workout. Heavy lifting requires as flat a shoe as possible, so running shoes, with all of their arch and ankle support, aren’t the best.
I like these adidas weightlifting shoes because they have a slight heel lift, but a stiff sole for a solid foundation, and they don’t cost hundreds of dollars. And yes, women can wear men’s weightlifting shoes — they’re the same thing in my book!
8. Foam Roller
Recovery is crucial, and arguably more important than the actual workout, to staying on track towards your fitness goals, at home and on the road. That’s why a foam roller is an essential piece of travel workout equipment. They’re a bit bulky and awkward to pack, but if you stuff things into them they don’t take up that much space.
This TriggerPoint GRID foam roller is one of my favorite ones to use, at home and on the road, because of its efficient size and unforgiving surface that’ll work knots out you didn’t even know you had. It’s designed to not break down or wear even after extensive use, and it’s just over a foot long — which is shorter than many standard carry-ons.
9. Travel Yoga Mat
This is a travel essential no matter what type of workout you enjoy doing. If you’re relegated to doing a bodyweight HIIT circuit on the balcony of your hotel, your knees are going to thank you they’re not being subjected to the bare concrete floor. A travel yoga mat can be used to strength train, do HIIT workouts, a virtual yoga class, pilates, barre and stretch after every workout. Even if you have access to a gym, bringing your own mat can help you avoid the germ-ridden ones hundreds of other sweaty bodies have been on.
This folding travel yoga mat from Gaiam weighs only two pounds and folds up into a 10-inch by 12-inch square you can stick in your backpack or on the bottom of your suitcase. It unfolds into the size of a standard yoga mat, with durable, cushioning PVC material that’s grippy.
10. Theragun Mini
Another great, miniature, travel-size tool I never go anywhere without is my Theragun Mini. I’ve ranked it as one of the best massage guns and best mini massage guns for a reason — this thing works so well, and is so well-designed, I prefer it to regular massage guns 85% of the time.
The triangle handle design gives you total leverage over the muscle groups you’re giving percussive therapy to, and it has three speeds that are the exact level of intensity my body needs most of the time.
It comes in a foam-padded pouch that’s easy to put on and take off, and it doesn’t make a lot of noise due to its small size. If you buy one thing from this guide, make it this.