Maybe you’ve used this excuse: “I’m not at my normal gym.” Or this one: “The flight is too early for a work-out.” Or the trusty old standby: “I just don’t have time.”
We skip workouts on vacation (or is that just us?) because we tend to view “going to the gym” as a burdensome activity that takes an hour. And we’d rather spend that hour exploring, visiting, dining, drinking, basically doing anything besides gym-ing.
HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is the ideal solution for time-stretched travelers. It’s quick and it works. “You really only need 15 to 20 minutes at most, if you’re doing it right,” says Alesha Courtney, a certified nutritionist and trainer who specializes in HIIT.
At heart, HIIT can be described in two words, says Courtney: “short bursts.” Less jogging, more sprinting. “It raises your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories you’re burning at rest,” says Courtney. “It creates lean tissue and burns fat.” (Plenty of research has backed this up.)
And here’s why it’s especially useful while traveling: You can do it anywhere. “I’ve zoomed with clients who are in hotel rooms,” says Courtney. Or out by the pool. Or in a parking lot. Or sprinting up the hotel’s stairs. If you don’t have access to weights? Not a problem. “You can create a whole-body circuit and you don’t even need any equipment,” says Courtney.
Here’s how to do it.
Pick 8 exercises.
Courtney suggests a mix that require no equipment: jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, planks, air-squats, wall sits, triceps dips (requiring only a chair), and burpees. These are enough to get a full-body workout. If you want some variety, you could swap in some lunges, high knees, or butt kicks.
Target 3 circuits.
Do 30 to 45 seconds of each exercise, instructs Courtney. That’s one complete circuit. “Do three or four rounds of each circuit,” Courtney says, and then you are done. That’s it. Congratulations. Get back to your vacation. But also keep in mind…
Minimize the breaks.
Now for the bad news. HIIT is hyper-efficient, but the workout itself is not gentle. And there’s little time to catch your breath. “At most, rest 5 to 10 seconds in between each exercise,” says Courtney. The logic? The entire point of the workout is to boost your heart rate. You need to work it hard. “If you take a 30-second to a minute break, your body’s heart rate is going down too much.”
If you only have 5 minutes…
“5 minutes is greater than zero minutes,” says Courtney, who posts 5-minute routines on Instagram. Just pick three exercises — jumping jacks, push-ups, and burpees, for example — and do 2 quick circuits. That’s enough to elevate your heart rate and kickstart your system.
And perhaps Courtney’s most important piece of advice:
Make it a priority
We all know what happens when we let things slide. “If you don’t want to work out on vacation, that’s fine, and that’s cool, but when you get back home, it’s hard to get in the swing of things,” says Courtney. “So just trying to keep that habit on vacation, as much as you can, is important.” Even if it’s only 5 minutes.