This article is written by Fred Ashford, who is a competitive Masters 2 (over 50) powerlifter who has set M2 records in the raw bench at 479lbs and raw deadlift at 655lbs.
Powerlifting requires a special environment to train and to hone our unique endeavors.
Many mainstream gyms are considered “powerlifting friendly” as well as numerous semi-private and underground gyms.
If you are lucky enough to live close to a powerlifting gym, congratulations.
On the other hand, you have either found your way to a powerlifting friendly commercial gym or created your own home gym environment. Lets call this your ‘home’ because you are familiar with the equipment, where to change, who to ask for a spot, and where to sit when wrapping your knees.
You are familiar with the gym rules and have a clear understanding of the expected protocol. Again, this is your home.
Powerlifting as we all know is just a sub-set of our lives. If your life is even just a little like mine, you find yourself traveling now and again.
I travel over 60% of the work week so inevitably I find myself road-bound during a training day. Of all of the challenges you have during the work week; meeting clients, late night meetings, fitting into US Airways’ seats… Getting in a good workout might be the largest challenge you face.
I’d like to offer some insight and a few tips that will help get in that max effort squat day you just can’t get in at your home.
Training While On The Road
The first tip is to modify the timing of your program. If you can plan your travels far enough in advance, you could shift around a few training days.
Planning ahead can ensure you lift in the comforts of familiar surroundings. If this isn’t possible because you are going to be gone too long or not enough notice to modify your training, doing some homework before hitting the road will be worthwhile.
Here are three recommendations that may just help you get your workout in:
- Ask a powerlifter; Ask those who lift with you and around you if they recommend a gym at a specific location. If you don’t get a response, ask a powerlifting forum. My favorite is Muscle and Brawn.
- Ask the hotel where you are staying; Call ahead to the front desk or concierge service since that’s their job. Don’t be surprised if the first answer you get is “What?” – Ask nicely if they have any staff that even lifts.
- Google; The last vestige used by scoundrels and powerlifters alike. I wouldn’t Google “powerlifting gyms” since you may not get any results. Use terms such as gyms, fitness centers, or health clubs and start calling them. The conversation usually goes one of four ways.
- “Hi, do you guys have free weights?” “No? Okay, thanks.”
- “Hi, do you guys have free weights? Do you have racks and an area to deadlift?” “No? Okay, thanks.”
- “Hi, do you guys have racks and a deadlift platform? Is it strictly for classes or do you accommodate powerlifters?” “Just classes? Okay, thanks.”
- “Hi, this is Planet Fitness?” Just hang up.
Once you find a gym that will welcome or at least tolerate a powerlifter, ask about their hours of operation and their peak hours. Finding a gym is just half the challenge; getting in a productive workout requires a little more homework.
Here are a few tips to facilitate a good road workout:
- Try to work around their peak hours. The gym may tolerate our sport but other patrons may not.
- Expect the worst. No lockers, no changing room, crappy spotters, or no water fountain. If you plan on leaving valuables in your car, changing before you get there, asking the desk for spotter references, and bringing your own water you won’t be disappointed if the joint isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
- Ask to work in. Let the gym member know you don’t mind stripping weights, they usually welcome a stranger. You’re going to have to put up with the occasional dumb ass questions like “why do you squat so deep” or “why do you do heavy rows?” This comes with the territory; always has, always will.
- Set a pace. When I’m on the road I usually find myself training faster than usual. Thoughts like “Oh I better get to that rack or I’m going to lose it” or “better hit that bench now or I’m shit out of luck.” Be cognizant of this and slow it down, waiting a few extra minutes for the rack will allow you to get more out of your workout than rushing through it.
- Bring liquid chalk and a towel. Rack your weights and clean your area before moving on even if the locals suck at it. Folks in the gym will notice and respond accordingly.
- Lastly, realize you are a visitor so act like one. Be gracious, modest, and friendly; you may just change a few stereotypes along the way.
With a little forethought and planning, that required trip to visit your supplier for three days won’t disrupt your training for the next meet.
Any questions or tips you use while traveling? Leave them below.