The Star Late Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

OTHING puts a damper on travel quite like a bum back or scream­ing sci­at­ica. Just sit­ting for long stretches in a car or on a plane, lift­ing lug­gage and slum­ber­ing in dif­fer­ent beds – not to men­tion div­ing into new ad­ven­tures – can spell trou­ble for even the most hardy trav­eller. Some­times all you can do is fig­ure out how to ask for an ice pack or hot wa­ter bot­tle in the lo­cal lan­guage. I’ve been there, and I don’t care to re­turn.

With the help of phys­i­cal ther­apy and a strong de­sire to min­imise pain, I’ve de­vel­oped some good ex­er­cise habits. But I’ve also learned that those habits don’t get a free pass just be­cause I’m in a dif­fer­ent time zone.

“Trav­ellers will be well-served by ex­er­cis­ing,” said Robert Gil­lan­ders, a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist at Point Per­for­mance in Bethesda, Mary­land, who helped me re­cover from de­bil­i­tat­ing neck pain sev­eral years ago.

“On va­ca­tion, you may not be able to do ex­actly what you do at home, but mix­ing up your rou­tine is good – and of­ten in­vig­o­rat­ing.”

It’s easy to pack run­ning shoes or gog­gles and a swim­suit for a va­ca­tion work­out.

When I have space in the car, I bring my bike, but even when I ar­rive sans wheels, most cities now have bike-share pro­grammes that make it a cinch to get mov­ing. If I’m trav­el­ling light, I toss a re­sis­tance band and jump rope in my bag.

But what if you’re foot­loose and gear-free? What if you – gasp! – end up overnight­ing some­where with­out a gym?

One way to get your heart pump­ing on a road trip is to knock out one push-up for every litre of petrol when you fill up – a rit­ual I adopted from the Black Lil­lies, a Ten­nessee-based band known to do the same on tours. Drop for 30 every sev­eral hours, and you, too, will con­sider tak­ing your mo­tor­cy­cle next time.

For all the other travel times, be re­source­ful with your sur­round­ings.

For­mer New York Yan­kees first base­man Mark Teix­eira used to spend his holidays in a time­share dur­ing the off sea­son, and he once told me in an in­ter­view that he’d cob­ble to­gether a high-in­ten­sity bare­foot work­out.

He moved fur­ni­ture in the house and cre­ated a cir­cuit of body­weight ex­er­cises, in­clud­ing lunges, squats, calf raises and dips. When all you need is floor space, he said, you don’t have any ex­cuse.

I re­cently asked Gil­lan­ders, a marathon run­ner and spokesman for the Amer­i­can Phys­i­cal Ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion, to rec­om­mend some sim­ple, gear-free ways to stay fit dur­ing travel.

When you be­gin look­ing at your travel des­ti­na­tion as a big play­ground, you’ll find count­less spots to move your body: curbs for calf raises, jun­gle gyms for pull-ups, board­walks for lunges and walls for –what else? – wall sits.

I met Gil­lan­ders out­side Washington’s Rock Creek Park Ten­nis Cen­tre, next to a park bench, and he coached me through a work­out.

He rec­om­mends per­form­ing each ex­er­cise for 15 to 60 sec­onds, de­pend­ing on your fit­ness level, and cy­cling through the en­tire set. If you’re feel­ing good, try it twice or thrice. Re­mem­ber to en­gage your core, breathe and fo­cus on your form. “I would rather see five good reps,” Gil­lan­ders quipped af­ter watch­ing my (con­ceiv­ably sloppy) push-ups, “than 15 slacker reps.”

Get your joints loose, mus­cles mov­ing and heart pump­ing with some easy move­ments. Gil­lan­ders sug­gested skip­ping with an imag­i­nary­rope or go­ing old-school with jump­ing jacks.

Swop the Stair­mas­ter by step­ping up on a park bench or run­ning up stairs.

You can even march in place for a few min­utes. “Chan­nel your Jane Fonda and get your arms go­ing, too,” Gil­lan­ders said.

Th­ese ex­er­cises work your quadri­ceps, glutes and ham­strings. For good squat form, try stand­ing about 15cm in front of a chair or bench, and lower your hips un­til your bot­tom taps the seat.

Look for­ward, and coun­ter­bal­ance the squat with arms ex­tended to the front. A lunge is es­sen­tially a half-squat.

From the push-up po­si­tion, lower your up­per body so your fore­arms are flat on the ground, par­al­lel to each other. Keep your core tight, and for ex­tra chal­lenge, al­ter­nate lift­ing each foot up, or try a side plank.

This ex­er­cise is es­sen­tially the op­po­site of bird dog. It’s great for your core and min­i­mally stress­ful for your spine.

Flat on the floor, raise your arms straight up, fin­ger­tips point­ing to the ceil­ing. Lift your legs so your hips and knees are both at 90 de­grees. With a tight mid­dle, slowly lower one leg and the op­po­site arm to­ward the floor, with­out arch­ing or flat­ten­ing your back.

Tone the back of your arms with tri­cep dips, which you can do off a park bench or even a step.

Sit with your palms on the edge of the bench, be­side your legs. Scoot your bot­tom for­ward un­til it’s off the seat, with your knees at about 90 de­grees. Slowly drop your hips a bit un­til up­per arms are par­al­lel to the ground (bend­ing your el­bows more can strain your shoul­ders). Re­turn to the start­ing po­si­tion.

The far­ther out you move your legs, the greater chal­lenge for your arms.

“Peo­ple roll their eyes at me all the time about bal­ance,” Gil­lan­ders told me. “But so many things we do –trav­el­ling or oth­er­wise – re­quire bal­ance: walk­ing, climb­ing stairs, hik­ing.” Just like strength and flex­i­bil­ity, he said, we lose bal­ance with age. But with a lit­tle work, it’s pos­si­ble to main­tain mad skills in the sta­bil­ity de­part­ment. Stand on one leg and en­gage your core, quad and glute. If you’re wob­bly, stand in a door­way for sup­port. Once you can stand like a flamingo for 30 sec­onds with­out los­ing bal­ance, progress to swing­ing your leg for­ward and back, like a pen­du­lum, then left and right in front of you. For a more ad­vanced ex­er­cise, turn your head side-to-side and up and down, close your eyes or stand on a folded towel.

Gil­lan­ders rec­om­mends ded­i­cated stretch­ing time af­ter your work­out, when mus­cles are warmed up. “Peo­ple don’t like the idea of stretch­ing,” Gil­lan­ders said, “but think about your non-va­ca­tion habits (hunch over a com­puter screen, any­one?) and ar­eas where you’re prone to tight­ness, such as your ham­string, back and hip flexor.”

Stop. Lis­ten to waves crash­ing or birds chirp­ing. Wan­der. Get lost. Sit in the sand and breathe deeply. “Most folks think of ex­er­cise as go-go-go,” Gil­lan­ders said. “The prac­tice of mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion demon­strates the up­side of slow­ing down.” He sug­gests ditch­ing de­vices and scrap­ping sched­ules. “Stay­ing fit doesn’t have to be mov­ing. It can be go­ing into a field and med­i­tat­ing.” – The Washington Post

While keep­ing fit dur­ing a stint of trav­el­ling is vi­tal, prac­tis­ing men­tal fit­ness, like med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness, is also im­por­tant, says the au­thor.

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