I’ve been asked many times about how I stay in shape while I’m constantly on the road. I spent years telling myself that I needed to work out more. I even went so far as to join a gym but then rarely went. Then there’s the hectic travel schedule. Airports, airplanes, hotel rooms, other people’s houses, not to mention the busy work schedule with very little sleep that goes along with it. What turned my exercise ethic around were DVD workout programs.

First, I was introduced to the Billy Blanks Boot Camp. What I thought would be easy soon showed me how out of shape I really was. Following that I discovered Tony Horton’s P90X, which really changed things for me, as some of you well know. After awhile Tony Horton introduced the graduate program, P90X Plus, and his One-on-One workouts. Finally, the same company that produces P90X, Beachbody, released the intense cardio program called Insanity.

For those of you who are interested in getting into shape, whether at home or on the road, I’d like to give you some helpful tips with regard to these DVD programs. For those who do travel, I’ll give you some great tips to make it work. I also want to state that these are merely my own personal findings and I’m in no way a professional personal trainer. If you want to get really serious about physical fitness, I suggest consulting a personal trainer.

Know Thyself: When it comes to working out, the most important thing is to know your own body. Know what you are capable of, your strengths and weaknesses, and what you’d like to achieve. From there you’ll be able to choose the program that is best suited to your needs and abilities.

Consistency: Nothing is going to change for you if you don’t work out regularly. I often hear the joke that someone did the “P14X” because they didn’t finish the program. You need to commit and follow through. That’s why these workout programs were great for me, because they gave me a schedule to follow. You won’t start seeing any good results until at least 2-3 weeks into each program and then again after 1 month into it. Stay with it and don’t give up. Don’t fall into the traps of making excuses, getting lazy, or feeling overwhelmed.


Billy Blank’s Boot Camp: At first the idea of doing workouts from the guy who brought us Tae Bo seemed pretty lame. Then I saw my then girlfriend working out almost every day to these DVDs, and she convinced me to try a couple. They kicked my ass. I was an athlete in high school and I have been doing Lindy Hop ever since. I thought I would destroy them, but they destroyed me. Billy 1, Nick 0. I went right out and bought the Elite program. I’m very glad I started out with this system because it prepared me for all the other ones. Boot Camp is a full body cardio program, so if you’re looking to lose some weight and tone up, this is a good one to start with. It does come with bands for some resistance exercises.

P90X: Next came the big guns (pun intended). P90X is a full workout program by Tony Horton that includes weight training, cardio, yoga, stretching, plyometrics and core work. For this program I bought free weights, a yoga mat, and a pull up stand. For those who travel and/or don’t want to spend a ton of money, I recommend resistance bands in lieu of free weights, a travel-friendly yoga mat, and a pull up bar that can fit over the door. I also recommend push-up bars. They will help save your wrists. I have the Perfect Pushup travel set, which comes apart for easy packing. After a couple of years with P90X I graduated to P90X Plus as well as the One on One with Tony Horton series, and I also found great results with those. Tony can be a bit of a “fitness clown” but he can grow on you and keep things entertaining. Side note: P90X2 released at the end of last year.  It uses more whole body work instead of isolating muscles.  I recommend starting with the original before going for its sequel if you choose this series of workout DVDs.

Insanity: A workout program from Sean T, the guy who brought you Hip Hop Abs? Right. What next, Buns of Steel? Keep in mind though, that Sean T was a track athlete. Insanity is an intense cardio/core program. Unlike P90X which requires a lot of equipment to get the full experience, all you really need for Insanity is a mat and lots of water. I added Insanity to the mix because P90X didn’t give me the cardio I wanted. Since I started Insanity, I have lost weight in my waist and have gone down a pant size. I have also seen other friends who stuck with Insanity do the same with even more weight loss results. Insanity does work the legs quite a bit so if you’re feeling wasted the next day, do a recovery DVD.

After having done all these programs on their own, I now mix them up to create my own program. Variety and muscle confusion keep it interesting and also create better results in the long run.

Helpful Hints

The hints below help make working out, especially working out on the road, a more achievable and healthy, pain-free experience.  They’re areas that are not necessarily directly addressed in the workout programs but nevertheless will have a big impact on your long-term success if you incorporate them into your program.

Stretching: This is the one area in which I fail miserably. These programs simply do not have enough stretching in them, especially if you also dance a lot. How often have you heard or said “I should stretch,” briefly reflected on the idea, and then moved on, without stretching? Stretching can save your body from wear and tear as well as help to prevent injury. All the muscle pulls I have ever had were due to lack of stretching. Stretching is also especially important if you fly frequently like I do. Flying makes my body swell up like a balloon and tightens my muscles to the point that I feel like Gollum after a long trip. Doing stretches or yoga after flying can help your body recover as well as fight against jet lag. (Side note: warming up is very important to preventing injury as well as cooling down after a workout or dancing.)

Lower Back Care: Most of these programs can really destroy your lower back if you’re not careful, or if you’re feeling too lazy or tired to do the exercise properly. When using weights or bands, never arch your back to try to lift the weights, because this puts too much strain on that area. If you find yourself doing so during a set, pick a lighter weight or stop. P90X has you do a lot of weight lifting while standing up, so make sure you have a wide stance with bent knees. Insanity has a lot of movements that reach for the floor. Do these with a straight back unless otherwise instructed. Rely on your legs and a tight core to complete the exercises.

Ninja Skills: Be one with your surroundings. When you travel you find yourself in different living conditions constantly. Sometimes you can move furniture around in your room to create the space you need (note: chairs and beds can be very useful for different exercises – get creative). Other times, you’ll have to find a hallway, spare room or lobby in which you have enough room to exercise. Get over the idea of being embarrassed if people see you working out – most of those people are thinking that they should work out too. If you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead and see if they have a gym (workout room) with free weights. Lastly, if you’re going to use bands for doing pull-up type exercises, be careful with what you attach them to. Most things break easily. I made the mistake once of attaching them to a locked door – it sounds like a good idea, but what I failed to do was to check to make sure it stayed shut. Needless to say, the band came crashing down on my head, and I nearly passed out from the pain. Lesson learned.

Hydrate: They always say this in the programs, but seriously, drink more water. Even when you are not working out you should drink more water than you are. If you feel thirsty, then you are already dehydrated. Start carrying around a water bottle that will be a reminder to keep hydrated. Drinks with electrolytes are also very helpful. Lately, I’ve been pounding back coconut water and Vitamin Water Zero (both of which I’ve noticed are more widely available at airports now). Hydrate even more when you fly. I find that drinking a lot of water the day before I fly helps on the travel day.

Supplements: For someone who is very active, or travels a lot, and/or as you get older, daily vitamins become very useful in alleviating pain and promoting general health. Also calcium/magnesium, fiber, and joint vitamins can help. If you’re not getting enough of these vitamins and minerals in your regular diet, the store bought pills are a way to create a balance. I also use whey protein mix as a dietary supplement as well as a post workout drink. Protein mixes help your body replenish what energy you spend in the workout, as well as help build and tone muscles. I always travel with protein mix., and I sometimes use a pre-workout drink to energize myself if I’m tired. They give you a better workout, but never use them more than 2-3 months at a time without taking a month off. It’s not good for your body to constantly take them. I recommend consulting a professional for the right mix of supplements for what your body needs.

Diet: This is the other major fail to my health. I just love food too much. I find eating well to be much easier when I am consistently at home, because I can buy the right foods and plan a balanced meal. However, on the road this issue becomes near impossible to solve. Here are some helpful hints for eating while traveling: When you are at an airport, it’s easy to stop at the McDonald’s and order a number 4 but remember that pretty much anything that you order by number is going to be bad for you. Look at the airport map and choose the least egregious option. Also, avoid soda whenever possible. I’m a big soda addict, especially since I often run on little sleep and am jet lagged, but seriously, soda is bad for you. My most recent effort has been to limit soda and find other caffeine options like tea when I need it. Another useful tool in keeping a steady, healthy diet is to try to be good all week and then reward yourself with a “cheat” day or meal to pig out a bit. If you do some activity like squats for a minute and a half within an hour after the meal, it will help your body process the food better. Be careful of the mindset of “well, I’ll just work it off later”. That never ever works…ever.

Nap time:  When you’re on the road all the time, naps and resting times become rare commodities.  It’s also possible to use these times to get in a workout.  Working out can give you energy and is sometimes more beneficial than a nap.  Again, listen to your body.  If you’re running on exhaustion, or you know you’re going to get very little sleep that night, by all means take a nap.  Your body needs sleep to recover.

Final thought:
Whether or not you decide to try the workout DVDs or start working out on your own, I implore you to take care of your body.  Just dancing isn’t enough.  I have female friends who join Pilates and/or yoga classes to stay fit.  Some enjoy getting outside for running, swimming, hiking or climbing.  Whatever it is that will motivate you, I encourage you to be active.  It’s never too late to start.

See you on the dance floor…or on the airplane.


*edited by Chelsea Bromstad Lee