Getting the most out of a workout when you can only get to the gym one time in a week

For me, this time of year happens to be filled with lots of travel.  When I am home, I want to be at home with my family so getting to the gym on a day I wouldn’t normally work is out of the question. Because things are so busy, I must make the most of my time in the gym.

When I can, I travel with a kettlebell.  Having the skills to use a kettlebell allows me to bring a hand-held gym with me to get a surprising amount strength and conditioning work in.  Of course, there are times when I can’t bring a kettlebell.  In those cases, I bring some bands and a small ball for my “foam rolling” and mobility work.  These tools help me offset the physical effects on my body from travelling but don’t necessarily let me get a solid workout in.  In those cases, I focus on my bodyweight exercises and can almost always find a park with hills or stairs to get some cardio in.  

These travel strategies “patch the holes”, but I would be exaggerating if I said that all my needs from a fitness standpoint are met.  Often, I am leaving behind true strength training, and almost always missing out on certain exercise categories.  As result, I think critically on how I can get the most out of each workout in the gym.  I take three major things into account when planning those workouts in the gym:

First, when planning the session, I look to fill the “movement” holes that are left by “road” workouts.  Typically, this includes pulling exercises and any machine work I do.  Since those are movements are important to me for health and performance, they get high priority in planning and I plan them accordingly in the workout.  

Secondly, I have a hard time getting in my heavier work on the road.  My little car won’t fit a barbell and I think the weights would kill my gas mileage. As result, I plan this heavier training, and get it in early in the workout.  

Third, if I am not as active as I’d like to be on the road, I try to cover all my bases from a “metabolic” perspective.  If I miss out on the higher intensity work on the road (I can usually find a place to take a long walk!), I’ll set up my workout so that it does include some interval training. I like “battle ropes” for this as well as tires and sleds.  Dragging or pushing a heavy sled isn’t practical on the road, so I get it in at my gym.  This “conditioning” work is how I finish my workouts in the gym.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that getting in heavy strength training plus all the movements that might not be my “favorite” and getting in the “high end” conditioning is a lot of work (and often tough to get through!).  Including all the missing parts in one workout could easily take up two hours.  Since that isn’t practical (nor is it sensible in most cases), I must find a way to squeeze all that work into a more reasonable time frame.  Here’s how I make it happen:

Time

(in the session)

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

0-10 min

(Preparation work)

Foam roll or Stretch

Jump rope or carry something heavy around

11-35 minutes

(strength and

correctives)

Heavy strength exercise 1

Easy “corrective” exercises 1,2

Complete these movements between sets of strength exercises

Heavy strength exercise 2

Easy “corrective” exercises 3,4

Complete these movements between sets of strength exercises

Heavy strength exercise 3

(if included)

Recover:

stretch, foam roll, etc.

36-49 min

(conditioning)

Conditioning circuit: ropes, sled, weight carries, etc. (can use one of these, or all) done as some form of “interval training”: 30 s. “On”, 30 s. “Off” or comparable

50-60 minutes

(recovery)

Stretch and foam roll

Deep breathing/easy walk

Although these workouts are tough, organizing them in this way goes a long way to prevent regressing in fitness under the difficult conditions of frequent travel.

Following this template allows me to really “fill the gaps” in my training schedule and get the most out of the time I do get in the gym during periods of travel.  

Interestingly, I have also found that when life prevents me from getting in as many workouts as I like to get in, I can sustain a solid foundation of strength, mobility and endurance following this model.

If any of these situations sound familiar to you, give this format a try!

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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I need to stay in shape for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.