Be an enlightened fit pilot, aware that you can workout anytime, anywhere, with anything, including your own bodyweight. What exactly do I mean by this? As we all come to realize, sooner or later, this airline biz can be quite unpredictable – from weather to mechanical issues, our daily schedules can change, seemingly on whim, deviating us into cancellations, stopovers, or unplanned layovers, sometimes without any overnight luggage, let alone workout gear. The sooner you can deconstruct your workouts to keep them simple, to get back to basics, you will realize that you truly can workout anywhere, and that all you really need is your own body, a bit of desire, and a little creativity. I’ve worked out in airport parking garages, in hotel stairwells, in my hotel room, and everywhere in between, even barefoot and in my pilot-shoes. Sure, if the hotel has a state-of-the-art fitness facility or access to a local gym, I am stoked and use it, but more often than not, hotel fitness centers are minimal and some equipment is broken.
You need to be able to call an audible on your workout plan, given whatever layover accommodations you may find yourself. Recognize the value the situation brings! There’s an unintended benefit – Muscle confusion resulting from randomly changing things is in fact a benefit that prevents fitness plateaus and muscle adaptation. While most fall into complacency in their standard fitness routines, our career lands us in new environments, pushing us out of our comfort zones and into new opportunities for growth. Shift your workout paradigm to perceive each new hotel layover, not as a fitness obstacle but rather as a new challenge. Discover how creative you can be by inventing a new workout and by utilizing whatever happens to be available in your surroundings. Ideally, if you have your overnight roll-aboard, you will have packed a pair of running shoes, a resistance band, and a jump-rope. Following are 10 solid tips to employ when more traditional workouts may not be available or you’re stranded without luggage. Always be vigilant and cautious to be aware of any potential risks.
#1 Yoga & Burpees
There is space in every hotel room to put down a towel and do a complete yoga routine, Burpees and other bodyweight-only resistance exercises, such as lunges, squats, planks, push-ups, butt-lifts, leg-lifts and crunches. The Burpee is a six-part, full-body, functional exercise that involves all muscle-groups. It is reputed to have the highest workout value of any other bodyweight-only exercise.
#2 Go Barefoot
The recent minimalist-shoe movement, while extreme, did teach us that we tend to wear and rely on shoes too much. Our feet become weak over time, if we are always in shoes. So, if you are stranded on a layover without running shoes, see this as an opportunity to train barefoot. If that is just not possible, there is no reason why you cannot train in your pilot-shoes. I have done this many times and it has never been a problem.
#3 Take the Stairwell
If the weather is inclement and there is no hotel fitness facility, or you’re not feeling it for room-yoga, check out the stairwell. It obviously offers a stair-interval workout. Exposed structural steel elements might provide an opportunity to do some pull-ups.
#4 The Gym is All Around Us
I don’t care at what airport you happen to be stuck, if you have a few hours to kill, then a workout opportunity is available to you. I often head to the parking garage to do intervals up and down floors, or plyometrics (jump training) and yoga on the roof, often with a good view. But if nothing else, you can go for a brisk walk around the terminals and people-watch.
#5 Train your Brain
Ultimately, no matter where you may be stranded, you always have access to a mental-fitness opportunity. Learn to practice mindfulness or another form of meditation. These are present moment, awareness, or breathing-centered, mental fitness exercises that help positively influence the Amygdala (the fear-center) of the brain.
#6 Take a Nap
Let’s face it, most pilots suffer from sleep-deprivation or circadian rhythm disruption. It is on us to manage our sleep, because the work rules aren’t going to protect us. Sleep is the foundation of our holistic health. Everything is built upon being adequately rested. Deciding between a nap or a workout with an extra few hours on your layover is always a toss-up, in my opinion. Personally, I would never tell any of my fellow pilots that exercise is more important than sleep. When in doubt, go with extra sleep. Most pilots become really good nappers. If you see an opportunity, put on your shades and log a nap.
#7 Your Luggage is a Dumbbell
I believe in resistance training using only your own bodyweight, however your luggage is always available to hoist in repetitions. Lifting luggage may not be as comfortable as a kettlebell, for example, but luggage is a tool of our trade.
#8 Take a Cold Shower
Taking a cold shower is not only very healthy, it actually serves as a synergistic, moderate cardiovascular exercise, as it causes your blood vessels to constrict, as they do in physical exercise. Cold exposure also triggers your adrenal glands in an ideal manner making your immune system more robust, kick-starting your metabolism, and thermogenically activating any brown-fat you may have. All you have to do is stand there under the cold water and focus on your breathing.
Flex your butt and abs, throughout your day, while stuck sitting in the flight deck or in your car in traffic. Nobody has to know or will even notice. Repeatedly, isometrically flexing and squeezing your core, butt and legs is indeed a toning workout that can be discretely done underneath your uniform, anywhere and nobody has to know.
#10 Sitting is Lethal
While this is not a training tip, per se, I just wanted to emphasize that our chosen career is inherently full of occupational health hazards, and the number-one risk hazard is being sedentary due to long-term sitting. Careers that require long-term sitting are linked to a shortened lifespan and early death, and that is without even considering all the other occupational health hazards we face (all of which can all be found on my website, www.PilotFitness.Net). Anything you can do to offset all the sitting you do will help add years onto your life. ACN