By Kira Stokes
Tis' the season for holiday travel, often to places with less than luxurious gym options. Don't let that stop you from getting your sweat and pump on. Whether you are headed to a relative's house, a tropical destination, or hitting the slopes, it's always smart to be prepared with a few key portable pieces of equipment so you can keep GETTING STOKED no matter what the circumstance. Here are a few of my "favorite things" that travel in my luggage on every trip I take, along with a super simple exercise (or two) to coincide with each piece of body-changing equipment.
There are countless choices as far as brand and resistance level for tubing with handles. All are pretty economical, and I often suggest clients purchase both a light and medium band to take on trips, so they have options depending on the exercise and muscle group they are focusing on. Here, the green band is light resistance and the red is medium. Bands are a fantastic alternative or provide an additional challenge to working with free weights, and require the fitness enthusiast to really control movements on both the concentric and eccentric contractions. They are easily portable and can be attached to pretty much anything. Two simple posterior chain upper body exercises:
a. Standing Row
Anchor the band around a stable object and with a handle in each hand, walk back so you feel tension in the band. Step your feet to hip width and activate the lower body by bending your knees and sitting into "chair position" (hips even with your knees, anterior pelvic tilt so you are sticking your butt out). Keeping your chest lifted and core tight, perform a row by pulling the band so your elbows skim the side of your body - feel your lats and entire upper back engage. Control the release of the band and repeat. You're on your way to perfect posture!
b. Triceps Kick-back
Anchor the band around a stable object. With a handle in each hand, walk back to feel resistance in the band. Bring feet to hip width and hinge forward from your hips to a flat back position. With your palms facing the ceiling, lock your straight arms by your side to check the tension (it should be challenging but doable). Keeping your elbows locked to your sides, perform a kickback by bending your elbows to form a right angle between your forearm and bicep on each arm, then straightening your arms to contract your triceps. Repeat and get stronger with every rep!
2. Mini-band and Sling Shot Hip Circle
These ingenious bands should not only be in your suitcase, they should live in your gym bag 365 days a year. They can be used for upper body work, but more commonly to keep the lower body strong and mobile. The green mini-band is medium resistance, weighs almost nothing, and is very economical. The blue "Sling Shot Hip Circle" is much more durable, provides more intense resistance, and is quite comfortable around your legs when put to the test.
a. Suicide Squat Steps
I prefer to use the green mini-band for this lower body "torch and tone" exercise. Place the band around your ankles and step your feet to hip width distance apart. Perform a squat, maintaining constant tension in the band, then step your right foot to the right, keeping weight even on both heels. Bring the right foot back to hip width and repeat for a total of eight reps to the right. Execute the same form with the left leg. Continue this movement with seven reps stepping to the right, seven to the left, laddering down until you finish with one rep with each leg. Be sure to maintain a challenging squat position the entire ladder system and say HELLO to your glutes and quads.
b. Glute Bridge with Glute Medius/Abductor Pulse
I reach for the Sling Shot Hip Circle when more intense resistance is necessary as with this glute/hip strengthening exercise. Lay on the floor in a supine position (on your back), knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hip width distance apart with the Sling Shot Hip Circle above your knees. Pushing from your heels, lift your butt and perform a glute bridge. While in a bridge position, press out on the band to contract your glute medius. I like to have clients combine five bridge lifts, followed by ten pulses pressing out on the band continuously for six to eight sets. This exercise pattern is great to strengthen hip abductors, external rotators, and to get your glutes feeling high and tight.
3. Gliders - Simple, light, but deadly
Most people have a love/hate relationship with these bad boys. The options are endless for your lower/upper body and core. All you need is a surface to glide them on and some gumption to get to work. One important tip to remember no matter what exercise you are performing, whether it be with your hands or feet on the gliders – dig into them. Put weight into the gliders to really engage and feel the magic happen. Commit to the gliders.
a. Plank Glide
Perform a forearm plank with your toes on the gliders. Draw your navel to your spine, engage your glutes, and dig weight into the gliders as you shift your shoulders over your elbows/wrists, then back behind them (maintaining solid, strong plank form throughout the entire movement). Your deep internal abdominal muscles, the base of your core otherwise known as your transverse abdominus, will thank you.
b. Push-up, Knee Tuck
Assume a high plank position with your toes on the gliders. Walk your hands wider than shoulder width but shoulder level for a basic push-up position. Perform one push-up (remember a push-up is a moving plank) then slowly bend your knees to bring them about three inches in front of your hips, digging weight into the gliders to more effectively activate your lower abdomen.
If there is one piece of equipment worth investing in for both your home and travel, it's a TRX. This may seem like a major commitment to travel with, but this portable "gym" is surprisingly light and can be anchored pretty much anywhere - a tree, pole, door (using the TRX door anchor), etc., and gives you endless options for a full body workout. It may end up being the cheapest gym membership you've ever purchased! The TRX can look a bit intimidating so I suggest you obtain guidance in person from a professional before getting your workout on the first time.
a. TRX Row
This is one of my personal favorites as it works your postural muscles and is a great first step in working towards nailing a pull-up one day. After all, fitness should be about proper progressions: you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. Anchor your TRX and face into it with your hands on the handles. Walk under the TRX as you straighten your arms to guide your body back maintaining a plank-like position with your body. Perform a row by pulling on the straps to bend your elbows (elbows skimming the sides of your body) and engage your lats/back. You can also perform a row with your elbows wide, even with your shoulders, to focus more on your rear delts. To make these movements more challenging, walk further underneath the TRX for your start position. The closer your body is to parallel with the floor, the harder the exercise.
5. Jump rope
Last but certainly not least in the world of STOKED is this no excuse, go anywhere, "shock it to rock it" gem. In short - GET ONE. Having a jump rope on hand ensures your ability to get your heart rate up to a metabolism boosting, fat burning level with added benefits of working your shoulders, legs, and core. I preach the benefits of jumping rope with every client and in each Stoked 360 class, as we slay jump rope circuits in between each block of intense strength/cardio work. On days or times when the only available cardio equipment to use is more noted for steady-state cardio (i.e. the elliptical), jump off the machine every 8-10 minutes and rock your rope for 3-5 minutes until you feel those endorphins start to kick in. Look at your jump rope as a mood/sweat/ metabolism enhancer.
Having the right jump rope for you is as important as the work you actually do with it. My go-to brand is sold by Power Systems. It's the LifeFitness Premium Vinyl Jump Rope, 9 foot. The correct rope can take the majority of the frustration that can occur your first time attempting this skill out of play, allowing you to focus on the important stuff - agility, coordination, and body awareness.
A few Stoked Tips for becoming a successful jumper:
1. Nothing needs to move above your elbow, it's all in your wrists.
2. You only need to catch an inch or two of air when jumping.
3. Be patient - in most cases, you aren't going to be a "double-under" pro your first time (or 50th for that matter). Practice makes close to perfect. Spend quality time with your rope and the tricks will follow.
4. As always, connect your mind with your body. When beginning a jump rope regime, it helps to say out loud "jump" just as your rope is about to hit the ground. And yes, you may want to do this in private (or with a trainer) so your neighbor in class doesn't think you're crazy. Like anything in life, it we say something out loud, it becomes a commitment and you stay on point.
Finally, though you may not consider online workouts/videos a piece of equipment, they are extremely valuable in keeping you on track when crunched for time/space and while traveling. I'm super STOKED to be launching a series of kick-butt Stoked Workouts on Booya Fitness to keep you in tip top shape over the holidays and on target to hit all your fitness goals in 2016. These videos will be available for purchase this week. Get ready to GET STOKED anywhere, anytime.
Now you are fully "equipped" to stay strong, fit, and healthy over the holiday season and beyond. No excuses, the gym is everywhere. Continue to live your Fully Stoked Sweat Life no matter where your journey takes you.
Kira Stokes, a graduate of Boston College with a BS in psychology and a minor in health science, has excelled in the personal training and fitness industry for over 18 years.
Kira's personal training clients include professional athletes, celebrities, television journalists and dignitaries. She has trained co-hosts of the television show “The View,” including Sherri Shepherd. She currently works with former "The View" co-host and TV personality Jenny McCarthy. She also trains co-anchors of “CBS This Morning” and the “Today Show.”
Kira's focus is on innovative training, concentrating on transforming the body and mind. She has developed a signature training technique, The Stoked Method, which combines functional and traditional methods of working the body. Her personal training methods have evolved to include a unique combination of strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, sports specific drills, yoga, and Pilates.
In November 2014 Kira was chosen as the celebrity brand partner for BFX Studio. Her signature "Stoked Series" classes are exclusively offered at the Chelsea location.