Training on the Road (Part 2): Equipment
By: Eddie Kuehne, BLOC Intern
Once you have the location and travel determined, bring the right gear. When I travel I like to use a backpack for my laptop, tripod, supplements and workout gear and standard carry on roller bag for everything else. Develop a system that works for you. Any system is better than nothing. It will help reduce the risk of forgetting something and it will reduce your anxiety levels. Evaluate how well it worked after each trip and refine it for the next one.
Training On the Road: Equipment
Last time, we covered how to make a plan for all you jet-setting lifters. But a plan means nothing if you don’t have your gear. Finding the right gym means you will have racks, barbells, plates, and chalk. But you can’t squat in your dress pants and you shouldn’t train in sandals and a speedo. You are going to need to take some things with you. Below is a checklist of the essentials as well as some of my go-to gear.
Once you have the location and travel determined, bring the right gear. When I travel, I like to use a backpack for my laptop, tripod, supplements and workout gear and standard carry-on roller bag for everything else. Develop a system that works for you. Any system is better than nothing. It will help reduce the risk of forgetting something and it will reduce your anxiety levels. Evaluate how well it worked after each trip and refine it for the next one. Consider the following.
Nothing is worse than putting the time and effort to plan your trip, find a gym, bring your shoes and belt, then open your bag and realize you forgot your gym shorts. Yep, I’ve done this. Traveling for work, I have looked through my suitcase and realized I didn’t pack a pair of gym shorts. All I had were dress pants. No workout, just disappointment, shame, and guilt. Be better than that. I’ve also purchased shorts at Walmart more than once with the same feelings.
Bare minimum, bring your shoes. Yes, I know they take up a lot of room and are hard to fit in when packing. Especially if you’re flying and are a carry-on only traveler. Shoes are important enough to make room for them or get bigger luggage. I use a GR1 ruck (backpack) from GoRuck because I’m no longer a novice and like to add variety to my voluntary hardship with GoRuck events. It fits all my gear, it’s comfortable, is nearly indestructible, and has a lifetime replacement warranty.
Don’t count on the gym to have decent belts. Bring your own. You know it works and fits, and it looks good so why leave it at home? Wearing Valeo destroys your credibility as a serious lifter. Just don’t do it. If you want to avoid trouble at security, buckle the belt around your carry on before sending it through the scanner. I’ve had minimal issues wrapping the belt around the inside of my suitcase or backpack and putting all my other stuff in the middle too.
Knee Sleeves and Wrist Wraps
These are easy to pack. Roll the wrist wraps and put them in your shoes. Knee sleeves can be stuffed almost anywhere. If they reek, wash them before traveling or put them in a plastic bag to keep the rest of your clothes from smelling like roadkill.
If you have a coach or an Instagram account you need a tripod. Recording your session to prove you actually showed up in a gym and did your workout is essential. You can also take a look and fix your form between sets. There are many inexpensive and versatile tripods available. Find one that fits in your luggage. The Joby Gorillapod line is a good place to start. Tripods with flexible legs that you can wrap on a rack or attach to a plate holder are really helpful for getting the right angles and heights. If you‘ve just been managing with a cheap spring loaded phone mount, do yourself a favor and buy a decent tripod. They don’t cost much and they will make your life better.
Eating on the road is a challenge. Especially getting enough protein from restaurant meals. 3 oz of meat is just not enough. Have your supplements with you. Plastic bags work well if they are of decent quality. I used them for years until I found something better. Being a frequent traveler, I purchased a set of Blender Bottle GoStak containers. Individual servings can be pre-measured and the containers fit in the empty Signature Sleek blender bottle. Just add water, dump in the serving, and you’re done. They also keep your creatine and fish oil separate. It’s a nice upgrade from the bags but takes up a little more room in your luggage.
If you travel more than once a year, get a bottle of liquid chalk. You can get a 2 oz bottle that will make it through airport security no problem. Keep it in your bag and you will have fewer missed deadlift reps due to the smooth, fat bars at the local YMCA.
Workout Log Book
This is an essential item. In addition to recording the details of your workouts, capture the lessons learned preparing for and implementing your training plan for the trip. Document what worked well, what didn’t, and any other thoughts on the experience. Use your training log to refine your travel system.
If you are at a stage in your training where you are micro-loading one or more of your lifts, throw these in the bag too. Most gyms will not have them. Those small increases in weight make a difference! They add up over time, each small step forward taking you closer to the next milestone.
A small gym towel doesn’t take much room up and is especially useful in the humid parts of the country. It is good gym etiquette to minimize the sweat you’re dripping all over the equipment, floor, and person you’re spotting on the bench. In some Globo gyms, it’s required. If you don’t have one, they may make you rent one.
Completing the Workout
When you get to the gym, be efficient. The first item of business is to find and secure a squat rack. If the gym doesn’t have a squat rack, you didn’t choose your gym very well. Go find the leg press. If all the racks are in use, talk to people. Ask how much longer they will be and if they will let you know when it’s available. Doing an upper body lift while you wait is an option too.
Equipment permitting, you can accelerate a workout by alternating the worksets of one lift with warm-up sets of your next lift. For example, if you squat first, once you reach your working weight, do the first warm-up set of presses. Then alternate work sets and warm-ups. It’s a great way to compress a workout into a smaller time block.
Ask forgiveness, not permission. When it comes to deadlifts, chalk, and taking videos of your lifts, be discreet and polite. This is good advice for basically everything you do in an unfamiliar gym. Apply chalk sparingly and clean up after yourself. The liquid stuff works well if the gym doesn’t supply it. Keep your camera focused on yourself and be efficient when using it. Have your belt on, weights loaded, hands chalked and then turn on the camera do the lift and turn it off.
People will generally leave you alone if you look like you mean business. Act unapproachable, put your earbuds in, and focus on your phone between sets. When people try to talk to you, pretend you didn’t hear them. If they persist, keep responses to one or two words and go right back to your phone. There may be times when you need a spotter for the bench press. When you ask them to spot, be very specific about how you want it done. Look them in the eye and speak very clearly. Don’t be surprised if they still screw it up.
Even with all the planning and preparation, there may be unforeseen situations, traffic accidents, or acts of God that derail your workout. Your schedule may change, eliminating the time you had planned for the workout. The gym you selected may not have the equipment you thought they did, and you’ll have to do an alternate exercise. If they just removed the only squat rack to make room for a new leg press, adjust your expectations. A leg press can serve as an adequate substitute. A Smith machine is not an adequate substitute for a barbell, and it can cause problems with your form when you return to regular training.
There may be broken equipment or equipment that looks sketchy. Use common sense. Don’t risk injury. Keep in mind, the ideal while you’re traveling is to continue to complete each workout in your program just as it’s prescribed, making the same progress that you would in your home gym. Reality may be much different. Getting most of your workout in can be a win too. Sometimes you may have to be satisfied with just holding the line, preventing detraining until you can return to your workouts at home. Be adaptable and resilient in the face of adversity.
This is a long game. Safe travels!