Written by martin bingisser
If you’re an average Joe looking for a treadmill and a curl bar, working out while traveling has never been easier. But unfortunately I don’t think many of you are average. We are strength athletes and as such it can be harder to train on the road. If there is one universal rule for us it is that we should expect to be disappointed.
There is no excuse to be surprised when the hotel “fitness center” doesn’t meet your needs. But disappointment is lurking even where you’d least expect it: at a European Cup throwers event I competed at in 2010, over 200 throwers were given just one bar and about 200-kilograms of plates to use for a pre-meet workout. This was all placed in a closet under the stadium with a ceiling so low that any overhead work was impossible. No matter who organizes the trip, you can always expect to be disappointed if you aren’t making the plan yourself.
The only way to respond to this expectation is with a plan; if you plan properly you will never be disappointed. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot since I keep finding myself on the road. In the last ten weeks I’ve spent less than five of them in my own bed even though my season has yet to start. But with good planning I didn’t miss one workout. After having thrown in hundreds of competitions in more than 15 countries over the past decade I’ve learned how to play the travel game. Here are five tips that can make it easier for a strength athlete to train on the road.
1. Know What You Need and When You’ll Need it.
Strength athletes need strong equipment, which is often the heaviest and least portable thing imaginable. Many of you will need specialized equipment like a yoke, kettlebells, or in my case over- and under-weight hammers. Others might just need a bar and weights. Either way, look at your training plan and create a list of what you need and when you will need it since what seems straightforward isn’t always so. For example if you are an Olympic weightlifter you don’t just need any bar and any weights, you’ll need a nice bar, bumper plates, and a platform. Thanks to Crossfit, at least these are much easier to find now, but even then many Crossfit boxes have limited hours or restrictions for guests that might prevent you from working out when you need to.
The earlier you make this list the easier it is to plan ahead. If I know I will be traveling during a training block I will select specific strength exercises that I can complete with standard equipment rather than the custom equipment I often use.
2. Do Your Research
After you know what you need and when you’ll need it, it is time to start researching training options. With Facebook, Google, and other online tools this is easier than ever. You can essentially contact anyone in the world nowadays. Look up training groups, gyms, and athletes to ask if you they have the equipment you need and if they are open when you will need them to be. I’ve even searched Google Maps aerial photos for potential hammer throwing rings and then contacted people at those locations. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. You will often be surprised by how welcoming people are to guests. And it is always better to know if training options will meet your needs before you arrive.
With some sports the research is harder. There are fewer Highland Games athletes, after all, than Crossfiters around the world. But this can also be a good thing. Smaller communities are often more close-knit. This is the case with hammer throwers and it has made it easier for me to travel. I can find a hammer thrower in nearly every city that will welcome me like a friend even if we’ve never met before. They will loan me implements and let me into their weight room. This only works because we are in the same small brotherhood. The importance of this cannot be overrated: after tons of baggage fees and years of schlepping luggage weighed down by hammers I’ve realized that the body does not need any more stress than travel gives it already.
If you can’t locate anything, just remember to be flexible and improvise. Don’t freak out if you there are no options or if, upon arrival, the facilities are not as described. Try to find a suitable alternative or just move on. I’ve often found myself slinging stones instead of kettlebells or lifting a log instead of a bar when I’ve come up short. It was not exactly what my program called for, but it got the job done, felt me feeling like I was training in Rocky IV, and gave me a good story to tell later.
3. Find a Routine
The importance of a routine on the road is often overlooked. If you just squeeze in workouts when you can you will quickly find out that you are going through the motions. A routine helps you keep focus in training so that you are not simply maintaining your strength on the road, but improving it. A routine is also one of the easiest tools to fighting jet lag if you are travelling across many time zones. After checking into my hotel I almost always go straight to training to help adjust my body to its new environment.
The simplest yet most important thing on the road is sleep. Don’t forget about it. And I’ll pass along one more valuable lesson it took me years to learn: you will never regret paying a little extra for a hotel with a nicer bed. Your back can thank me later.
5. Make Friends
You never know when you’ll need help again, so be nice and leave a good impression. Reputations travel fast in the Internet age and a simple thing like not racking your weights can have a larger impact than you might think. Invite your new friends to train with you when they’re in town, and welcome other strangers that reach out to you. This is all just good karma.
But, most importantly, open your eyes and ears and mouth when you travel. This is your chance to see first hand how others train. Too often we live in our own bubble. By engaging with others on the road you might learn something or be able to help someone else out. I’ve made some of my best friends on the road and learned many times more at training camps than at home. Those moments are what make travel the best.
Martin Bingisser is the founder of HMMR Media, a website bringing together ideas on training and throwing from top names in the sport. He is also the current Swiss national champion in the hammer throw and coach at Leichtathletik-Club Zürich. Raised in Seattle, Bingisser was a two-time NCAA All-American at the University of Washington. Throughout his career he has sought out knowledge from the best coaches in his sport, including the legendary Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, which he chronicles on the site. He currently lives in Switzerland where he splits his time between training, coaching, and working as a tax attorney.