Holiday Fitness and Travel Tips

By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, CSCS

With Christmas only a few days away, many of us will find ourselves traveling to reunite with family and friends.  With all the excitement that comes with the Holidays, our health can often be put on the back-burner for a week or two.

We all know that between the travel, the friends and family, and the food, that staying active and healthy isn’t always priority #1.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that big of a deal.  At all.  But if you’re like me, I’d really prefer that when I start my new 8 week program come 1/1, my body isn’t totally wrecked.  I’ve planned my deload week (10 days actually) to revolve around my travel schedule.  So if you plan on making a New Year’s resolution and getting in the best shape of your life, you don’t want to start feeling absolutely terrible!

That being said, I’ve put together some quick tips and thoughts regarding holiday travel and how we can try to prevent some of that Holiday weight gain!


Whether you’re traveling via train, plane, or automobile, preparation is key.  The longer the travel, the more prep required.


  • Choose an aisle seat if possible.  You’ll be able to squeeze out a little extra leg room, plus have the added benefit of walking around whenever you need to.
  • Get up and move as much as possible while in flight.  Either Americans are getting bigger (we are) or planes are getting smaller (they are, too), but being crammed into a seat for 4 hours without moving isn’t the best idea.  Getting up and moving will help increase circulation and venous return of blood to the heart!
  • Use your feet at the airport.  Try to avoid escalators and moving sidewalks.  You’ll have plenty of time to sit when you’re on the plane.
  • Hydrate!  Bring an empty water bottle with you through security and use a water fountain to fill up before the flight.  Unless you WANT to pay $5 for water.


  • Stop for frequent breaks.  Although providing a little more room than your standard airline seat, you’re still stuck in a poor postural position for hours.  I’ll agree that it can be annoying stopping more than you have to (“I gotta go to the bathroom, Daddy!  Not now, damnit!“), but your body will feel considerably better the more you move.
  • Stop and stretch during breaks.  Actually use the breaks you take and make them worth the while.  Sit in a deep squat for a few minutes.  Stretch out those quads.  Do some trunk twists!  MOVE!
  • Practice your breathing.  Long trips with nothing to do provide a great opportunity to work on your diaphragmatic breathing.  This type of breathing decreases sympathetic tone while increasing the parasympathetic system.  In other words, it helps your muscles relax!  You won’t feel so tight when you get out of the car.
  • Hydrate again, and you won’t have to deal with pesky TSA agents questioning your water bottle.

Travel Nutrition

This is where the preparation comes into play.  Just because you’re hungry at the airport doesn’t mean you should be guilt free about your nutritional choices.  Plan ahead and you’ll save calories (not that they’re all created equally), and you’ll also save some money.

  • Bring your own snacks.  Nuts, fibrous fruits (apples, berries, etc.), a bag of veggies, or jerky.  If you’re on a flight, these will surely hold you over on domestic destinations.  If you’re in the car, you can pack even heavier food, and more of it.
  • Be wary of caffeine.  As much as I love my coffee, caffeine will have a slight dehydrating effect on the body.  So if you skimp on the water and head straight for the java, your jet-lag effects could be amplified.
  • Search out healthy options.  Take some time and figure out where you might want to stop, and make sure those stops have some decent dining options (if you’re driving, or choices in the city you’ll be visiting).

Holiday Fitness

Working out during the Holidays can be a chore.  So much to do, so many people to see, so much tasty food to eat.

I get it.

I’m not asking for anyone to forego the Christmas festivities and lock themselves in the gym, but you don’t have to ignore your fitness routine completely.

Here are some fitness thoughts that might just suit your Holiday plans.

  1. Be Efficient.  Set aside a certain amount of time (even 20 minutes is sufficient), and try to do as much work as possible in that time period.  Circuits are great for this.  Figure out what exercises you can do, and do them in subsequent order.
  2. Be Intense.  This will take “being efficient” to another level.  If you can be efficient and intense, you’ll find yourself actually having a very productive workout!  Focus on the task at hand and bust ass!
  3. Be Resourceful.  You don’t always need a massive hotel workout room to be fit while traveling.  You don’t always need to seek out a gym, either.  Especially if you have limited time.  So use what you have.  And you ALWAYS have your body weight.  Try this bodyweight circuit when you lack equipment.

*Do each move for 30 seconds and then go on to the next.  Rest 2-3 minutes between each circuit.  Perform 3-5 rounds of the circuit.*

  1. Air Squat
  2. Pushup
  3. Jumping Jacks
  4. Front Plank
  5. Split Squat
  6. Decline Pushup
  7. Squat Jump
  8. Side Plank
  9. Glute Bridge
  10. Toe Touches

Take these tips and remember that traveling during the Holidays doesn’t necessarily spell doom for your fitness goals or your waistline.  Just make sure you plan ahead and listen to your body.  But most importantly, enjoy the time with loved ones!

Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays)!!




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