About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8″, old-time strongman training, and much more.
It can be very hard to get into a fitness or workout groove. The initial soreness, the shortness of breath, and the unfamiliar shock to the nervous system are the reasons that most gyms are empty once again by February each new year.
But when you get past those hurdles, the euphoria of gaining strength and confidence is indescribable to anyone who hasn’t experienced. I’ve heard so many people say “Why did I ever stop? I feel so good, why did I get out of the habit?”
There are lots of reasons that knock people out of their fitness groove. Work, family, sickness, and let’s face it, it’s easier not to exercise. It is natural to choose the path of least resistance, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us.
And nothing can throw a wrench into your health plans like traveling. Well, I don’t have access to a gym. I don’t have any weights. These excuses don’t hold water, but I don’t hold it against anyone who believes that they need these things to be healthy. There’s a lot of terrible fitness information out there. Most people don’t have the experience to disagree when a personal trainer or a magazine says “Do this and you’ll get this.”
I’ve been there, believe me. But now, if you are traipsing all over the globe like Colin, and you want to stay fit and gain strength constantly — like Colin — there’s good news.
Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
The plank — if your core isn’t strong, nothing is
A plank just means holding any part of a pushup. If you hold yourself up at the top of a pushup, that’s a plank. If you hold yourself an inch off the ground, that’s a plank. Anywhere in the middle: plank.
Even though it’s simple, there are still ways to mess it up and not get the full benefit. Focus on these things and you’ll be fine:
- Press your heels together
- Press your shoulder down towards your feet
- Keep your butt down! no waving it around in the air
- Keep your butt up! It can’t sag below your hips
Once you can do a 90 second plank, you’re ready to move on to other things. The plank is primarily an assessment. Once you can hit 90 seconds, you are authorized to do other things, and there’s not much point in going longer than 90 seconds. It’s impressive, but not particularly helpful.
The pushup is great, but most people don’t do pushups correctly. Once you can hold the plank position, you should be strong enough to do a good pushup. Butt down, heels together, hands beneath your shoulders, and keep your chin up as you descend under control.
If you start feeling really sassy and get bored with pushups, try the one arm version. When that gets boring, do them on one arm and one leg.
The one-legged squat
These are also called ‘pistols.’ They can be used both to build strength, and as an assessment. In order to do a pistol correctly, it means that a lot of things in your body are working correctly. Pistols are something you practice, rather than using as a traditional workout. Mike Mahler has the approach I’ve used to work on my own pistols. All you need are some stairs, a chair, or a box.
Just about any kettlebell exercise
The portability of the kettlebell makes it my first choice when I travel. I’m 6’8″ and weigh 245 lbs, but if I want to whip myself, I can do it with a mere 35 lb kettlebell. This is hard to explain if you’ve never tried it, but if you try it, you’ll have a great new tool in your toolbox.
Handstands or handstand pushups
A handstand pushup is just what it sounds like. You do a handstand, then lower your head to the ground (use a pillow beneath you) and press back up. You probably won’t be strong enough to do this at first, but you can kick up against a wall and hold the handstand for time. Once you can get a 30 second hold, you should be ready to start lowering yourself to the ground under control. Once you can lower yourself, start trying to see if you can press back up, even half an inch. In time, you’ll pop back up.
I hope this needs no explanation, because I’m not sure how to explain it. Watch a few of the Rocky movies and you’ll be ready to go.
There are very few excuses that ultimately hold water when it comes to neglecting our bodies. Travel is one of the poorest. There is always something you can do. Always. The first thing is to realize that you do not need a gym to train. Or weights. Or anything fancier than your own body.
Please let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve said up above. And if you’d like an expanded list or a greater technical breakdown of any of anything I’ve written above, please let me know.
Update: November 25, 2016
I hosted guest posts on my blog back in the day, because that was what one did to build one’s audience, one’s network, and one’s credibility. Some people still do this, of course, but I stopped years ago — it just didn’t fit the rhythm for what I wanted this blog to become.
That said, I had the chance to publish work from some amazing people back then, and Josh is one of them. This guy is an amazing writer and person, and his book is just stellar. Also: I’ve seen him tear a deck of cards in half with his bare hands.