I know. The last thing you need is one more person telling you how important it is to stay healthy and in shape.
Instead, I’m going to share some exercises I’ve added to my workout routine over the past few months, along with their unexpected travel-related benefits.
See, I didn’t initially add any of these with the intent to make myself a better traveler. During my family’s recent winter trip to Maryland however, I surprised myself by setting new personal bests in several events well-seasoned traveling dads know well – like the multiple suitcase-carry and overhead storage clean-and-jerk.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re more used to checking out than working out, or more concerned with flight times than exercise; these are simple moves and suggestions that I believe made me a more effective traveler, and dad.
One quick note – I am not a professional trainer. I’m just a dad that reads a lot on the Internet, and occasionally likes to try new things. You should definitely speak to your doctor or other health professional before you give any of these exercises the old college try.
The Farmer’s Walk: For Carrying Everyone’s Suitcases Through the Airport
I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t find the extendable handles on most carry-on luggage very convenient. For those of us of the taller persuasion, most aren’t long enough, which leaves us constantly banging them into our back legs. Plus, in a packed airport terminal, they’re a nuisance to other travelers.
That’s why I prefer to simply carry mine by the top strap.
Of course, if you’re traveling with members of your family, and one of them is a four-year-old that tends to move his feet at a glacial pace, you can easily find yourself carrying more than one suitcase at a time. Do this enough, and you learn how quickly your shoulders, forearms, and legs can tire out.
Enter the Farmer’s Walk. This is a great overall body workout that exactly mimics all the same movements you go through as you snatch up your kid’s carry-on and swiftly, yet gently urge him toward your gate in time to board.
Here’s a short video I found which explains how to practice this:
The Dumbbell Swing: For Stuffing Suitcases into Overhead Compartments
So, you’ve made it onto the actual plane. You know what comes next; it’s time to load your luggage into those cramped overhead bins. There’s limited space to work with here, and those suitcases can be awkwardly weighted depending on your packing skills (of which I have next-to-none).
This, coupled with your attention being focused on directing seat assignments can result in every frequent flyer’s worst nightmare: accidentally dropping a bag filled with a couple dozen pounds of underwear and emergency snacks onto the head of the person you’ll be stuck uncomfortably close to for the next few hours.
Meet the single-arm dumbbell swing. This workout helps build the hip movement, core stability, and shoulder strength necessary to easily lift-up and push those suitcases into their temporary home.
An added benefit is that you won’t appear weak to your fellow passengers. This drastically decreases the odds you’ll be the one sacrificed when the plane crash lands on some remote mountain and all the 100-calorie packs of pretzels are gone.
Here’s another video made by someone else to show you how to do it:
The Plank: For Core Strength During and After Long Flights
You’ve now successfully carried your carry-ons and loaded them securely. Now, all you have to do is sit back, and spend the next couple of hours shifting constantly in an attempt to find a comfortable position that won’t leave you stiff and sore by the time you arrive at your destination.
We’re all familiar with how – let’s say, “snug” – airplane seats are. They aren’t built for comfort or speed, but they are…well, they are built. Somewhere.
In a factory for pain and misery, I assume.
Speaking of being built, we also all know that a strong core is a clear sign of being in good shape. Even if it’s hidden under a couple decades of craft beer and beef jerky. Strengthening your core can be useful for avoiding, or at least reducing those crimps and pains that stem from long flights.
One of my favorite workouts for this is the plank. For me, these were a little hard to get started on, but easy to get better at, which makes them sort of fun in a self-loathing kind of way.
Oh look, a video for you to watch made by a guy who only looks like that because he doesn’t have kids:
The…Um…Jogging: For “Street” Cred
Although you’ve arrived at your destination, you aren’t done yet. As noted in my recap of my first business trip to San Diego, getting into a jogging habit can be an awesome way to discover a new locale.
Taking a quick run around the streets of the hotel or AirBnB you’re staying in doesn’t just have to be about burning off the extra muffin you treated yourself to from the continental breakfast. It gives you a chance to get your bearings and experience an unfamiliar setting like a local, rather than a tourist zipping by in a taxi, gawking at the sights only through the lens of your phone’s camera.
Then again, morning jogs do tend to make for killer photo-ops, thus providing you with double the bragging rights; being both an amateur photographer and #HealthyAF.
Most of you probably ran a bit back in high school or college, but if it’s been awhile it’s important to treat regular jogging like learning a new skill. Here’s a video to help you get started again properly:
See? No preaching, like I promised. Just four simple exercises I’ve found to not only aid my overall health, but help turn me into a more efficient traveler. For those of you like me who prefer function over form, it might not hurt (well, maybe a little) to give these workouts a try for a few solid weeks before your next family flight and note any differences for yourself.
Have your own traveling dad workout suggestions? Share them with me in the comments!