Can two people maintain or even improve their fitness during three weeks living out of a humble sedan? Sure can! After a spring and early summer filled with business and changes – a wedding, a move, and career changes for both of us – we were more than ready to pack up on my first day of terminal leave from the Army and head off for the first stage of our summer cross country trip. I was especially happy that Ocean City was our first stop. All I wanted during the hectic spring was to dig my toes into the sand and listen to the waves and seagulls. The timing of that stop served a practical purpose too. Because we moved from a large townhouse with attached garage (gym) to an apartment in a high-rise (quite garage-gym-less), my gym equipment is taking the extended seashore vacation of my dreams for now. Last year we travelled with the sandbag, kettle bells, weight vest, and some other fun odds and ends but this year we chose to streamline and load up only the dumbbells – 15, 25, 35, and 45 pound sets.
Casey and I are both recovering from lingering injuries, and we had planned both some ambitious driving days and extended hiking days. We wanted to head into the trip with a set plan for our workouts so that we could measure improvement and hold ourselves accountable to a schedule. We also wanted something portable and time-efficient. Normally I’d have pointed out that low-equipment CrossFit would be perfect, but since we’re both still moving with more caution that usual we decided to ease into things with circuits of dumbbell exercises, some things you might encounter in CrossFit and some more traditional. At two weeks in, alternating a lower and upper body circuit followed by a run day, we’re both seeing improvements in the circuit and (at least the appearance of) body com positioning off a period of disrupted training and dietary habits during our move. Credit for the plan goes to Casey.
Day One: Ocean City, Upper Body Circuit
3 x 8 minute rounds, one minute continuous work per exercise, reduce weight or scale movement as necessary to continue for duration
minute 1: pushups
minute 2: “floor” (ground!) press
minute 3: double dumbbell rows
minute 4: shrugs
minute 5: dumbbell press
minute 6: tricep extension
minute 7: hammer curls
minute 8: rest
Our first time through this circuit was humbling; I attempted to press the 35# dumbbells, which I’ve done before… and not so much. They ended up on my chest, and there they stayed until I surrendered and rolled them off. I’ve at least improved in the past two weeks at using the 25# set!
Day Two: Ocean City, Lower Body Circuit in the Rain
Our second day in Ocean City threatened to be a rain-out as far as the beach went, so we headed out to at least get our morning workout in. I could have put some shampoo in my hair and saved the trouble of a shower. Casey correctly pointed out that flutter kicks in the rain is a funny way to celebrate your first weekend out of the Army but a good exercise is good exercise, after all!
3 x 8 minute circuit, 1 minute per exercise; reduce weight or scale movement as necessary.
minute 1: plank
minute 2: goblet/dumbbell squat
minute 3: forward lunge
minute 4: rear lunge
minute 5: leg curls, alternate at :30
minute 6: calf raises
minute 7: flutter kicks
minute 8: rest
This one felt more challenging, maybe because: lunges. We’ve both moved up in weights during the trip though, so the frustration is paying off. And then, to reward us for lunges upon lunges and flutter kicks in the rain, the storm vanished and left behind a perfect beach day. Happy toes at last!
Day Three: Ocean City, Run Day
The third day of our cycle is a cardio day. So far it’s always been a run – which is fine with me because I love to run. Casey isn’t as much a fan but he can’t really argue with the portability. Besides, the alternative would likely involve burpees.
Day Four: Rest & Westward Progress
On the fourth day it was time to stock up on provisions at the Wawa and head westward. We’d planned a 3 on 1 off cycle, and although we’ve felt we could have gone 6 days without a rest day the fourth day has consistently fallen on a long travel day so we’ve stuck with it so far. The first night we made it to Terre Haute Indiana, and fell into the air mattress to rest up for our first campsite training session in the morning.
Day Five: Upper Body in Indiana
By the start of our second round through the circuit we’d learned a few things from experience – like that we needed to pick up some towels to avoid picking pebbles and dirt off ourselves afterwards, and that ambitious weights for floor pressing immediately following pushups were a poor policy, so things started showing improvement.
Day Six: Lower Body in Kansas
Our campsite in Kansas was infested with small brown ants. Since I am the lucky winner of a fire ant allergy, I was very happy to NOT be floor pressing on this day and chose to be the weirdo doing planks and leg curls inside the tent. That did not stop my squatting dumbbell from transferring roughly half the area dirt from the ground to my body, however.
Another successful workout in the books, it was time to get moving for our drive to Colorado Springs – and the first real sightseeing stop of our trip, at Garden of the Gods. Sticking with the theme from last year, the closer we got the “desert” territory the rainier our weather became, so we saw the first cactus of the trip in the rain.
Day Seven: Run Day in Denver
As luck would have it, after our first run day at sea level we were just in time to do the second in the Mile High City. It was all of 60 degrees out, however, so the comfortable temperature seemed to compensate for the unfamiliar altitude as we enjoyed a trip around Sloan Lake Park.
That day we headed south through Colorado to visit my aunt in Paonia, which was a beautiful trip. As a bonus, we hit a natural hot spring on the way – the most refreshing post-workout soak I can recall!
Day Eight: Rest-ish Day, Hiking and Waterfall in Utah
The eighth day of our trip we didn’t lift, but we did a lot of hiking during the day. First to explore the wonderfully weird Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, and then to reach the Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase National Park for a much-chillier-than-the-hotsprings swim. It was our first-ever waterfall swim and I can’t wait for another.
Day Nine: Upper Body, Panguitch, Utah
On our eight night we began to fear we’d end up sleeping in the car with no dinner after regaining cell reception too late to reserve a campsite and driving for miles on deserted roads. As we were about to lose hope we reached the small town of Panguitch, where we were able to get a quirky old-fashioned motel room and a wonderful meal in a restaurant converted from a movie theater, the Gem, where the chef very kindly created a vegan dinner just for Casey. The next morning we pulled up a vacant corner of parking lot and probably confused a lot of French tourists with our workout. On the third time through, I finally felt like my floor press was coming along, but I’m still sticking with the 25# set. That afternoon we stopped in at the Valley of Fire in Nevada, for an afternoon of utterly amazing hiking despite the triple digit temperatures.
Day Ten: Lower Body, Merced, CA
We learned on the ninth day that the empty stretch of 15 across the California desert from Law Vegas experiences traffic jams possibly caused by a (closed!) agricultural checkpoint several hours into the state. Many extra hours of traffic later, we hit Merced on technically the tenth day and threw ourselves into bed. A morning workout was not happening, but after sticking to our routine across the entire continent, skipping didn’t feel like an option so lower body #3 got done around 9pm that night.
Day Eleven: Run Day, Merced
luckily, the next day’s run was a lot more fun – Merced isn’t at sea level but it’s not Denver either, and there’s a convenient bike path around the creek for a three mile run. Casey’s running has improved dramatically already, which is great for him and not so much for far-shorter me, so I got a good workout on this day too!
Day Twelve: Rest
We again chose not to eliminate the rest day because we were off for a day trip to the Monterey Bay aquarium, and who wants to floor press when there are otters to see?
Days Thirteen & Fourteen: Upper & Lower Body Circuits
We’ve started to hit a groove with our circuit now, and I’m joining Casey in the “going up in weight” club (but not on that press yet!). For a long-term plan I would find the circuit lacking, but for a several weeks’ trip like this it has been excellent so far. I can see improvement at the workout itself, my running feels good, and I’m feeling myself get back into a regular training groove after many months of injury and disruption. Once we return I am finally going back to an affiliate (since I won’t have my own gym anymore), and it seems like we’re starting on the right foot for that. Nutrition hasn’t been perfect, but our success sticking to our training regimen has kept us motivated to get more protein and less fries during our pitstops at least – we will see once the return trip begins tomorrow how the final leg pans out, but I am optimistic that we’ll return home back on track instead of further off.