Training and travel simply do not mix well. Unless you have the time and energy to track down a real gym (often miles from your hotel), your workout gets stripped to 30 painfully boring, relatively worthless minutes on a rusty bike in the hotel's basement. "I'm over staying at places with wimpy gyms," says Chris Davenport, world freeskiing and 24 Hours of Aspen champion, who spends up to half the year on the road. "Before I know it, I've lost any motivation to work out at all."
Thankfully, road-warrior fitness doesn't have to be a chore. Wendy McClure, co-owner of Body Dynamics—a Boulder, Colorado—based physical therapy provider for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams—has created a high-efficiency workout that holds its own against any home-built regimen. "The biggest advantage to this workout is that it gives you maximum benefits for a minimal time commitment," says McClure.
This interval circuit workout is designed to simulate a ski day: It elevates the heart rate quickly, maintains it at a high level for a short period of time (30—45 seconds), and follows the effort with easier core and upper-body exerises. The circuit is also designed to increase blood lactate levels in your legs—making your thighs burn like they do at the bottom of a long run—and teach your body, over time, to quickly flush out the lactic acid. "Because the rate of lactate relief is related to its concentration—the higher the concentration, the faster it can be removed—interval training that increases lactic acid levels improves an athlete's capacity to remove it," explains McClure.
Don't bother looking for a bike or treadmill. All you'll need is an hour, good shoes, and a couple hundred yards of cement. "When we run or bike, we are typically not using the metabolic systems required for skiing. The interval circuit allows the athlete to perform sport-specific movements at a realistic pace—much quicker than we would do in a weight-room workout or running and cycling."
The circuit does have one drawback, however: Plan on people staring at you. Most folks aren't used to seeing telemark jumps in front of the Washington Monument or Russian twists on its lawn. "And watch out for mean security guys in stairwells," says Davenport. "I was in a hotel in New York doing squat jumps from the 40th floor to the 70th, and some security guy came in and told me I had to leave. I argued, but he kicked me out anyway for 'security reasons.' Still, I was limping after three sets, so I must have been doing something right."
The Circuit Interval
The high-intensity effort packed into circuit training is an invitation to injury, so a good warm up is essential. And we're not talking about Jane Fonda bouncing stretches. Plan on a ten-minute jog at a good pace, which will effectively move your blood from your core to your extremities. (If you find yourself dizzy at any time during the circuit, especially after a tough exercise that drives blood to the muscles in your legs, take a 30-second break of fast walking to move the blood back to the heart and head.)
McClure's intervals have three levels of intensity, based on increases in time, reps, and levels of difficulty. To find a starting point, run through a full circuit at Level 1. (This should take about one hour including the warm-up.) Remember, proper form is paramount. If you compromise technique, then the speed and strength gains will be limited as well. Once you establish the correct intensity, run the circuit as many as four times (if you've got a few hours to kill, or be killed by).
When you're done, check out our selection of road gadgets that will help you stay in shape.