Powerlifting While Travelling - Your Guide to Gains
by Nicola Paviglianiti
“Where are you now? You still train while travelling? How?”
With my love for exploring the world, people are often surprised I still manage to get my lifts in while away from the comforts of my ‘home’ gym in Canada. If you love to lift like me, life would not be the same without powerlifting, and whether it be a conference, an internship, school, or a family vacation, my motivation to train always comes with me. Powerlifting of all sports isn’t the easiest for training abroad (when someone figures out how to transport a rack and a few hundred K-G’s worth of plates let me know!) but with a little effort and a few tips and tricks a successful session is in store.
PLAN BEFORE YOU GO
If you know you will be in a specific place at a specific time, do a quick google search and see what gyms are in the area. Facebook and Instagram are both great ways to scout out places to train, and you can often find people posting pictures about the facility too. In the past, I have had a lot of luck searching up hashtags such as #powerlifting(insert-name-of-city) or #weightlifting(insert-name-of-city). While powerlifting is growing, powerlifting specific gyms are still relatively rare so don’t be afraid to be creative and broaden your searches.
Gyms abroad often look very different than in Canada. Many gyms are un-advertised small one-room facilities in basements or on top floors of buildings and are very hard to find. But they do exist! When I lived in Kenya for 4 months I even came across barbells and weights in the poorest of slums. Using crossfit gyms are always a good option while on the road too, and for the most part are very friendly places for powerlifters during their open-gym times. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, and send emails and messages to gyms and trainers asking questions and inquiring before you arrive.
Training with the gym owners at Crossfit Reggio Calabria in Southern Italy during a month-long family vacation.
CONNECT WITH OTHER POWERLIFTERS
You would be surprised at how many humble powerlifters are hiding around the world, including many Canadian Powerlifting Union past or current members. In my studies abroad in Europe I have come across a number of CPU lifters that are studying here as well. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and connect with the local powerlifters you come across for gym recommendations or a training partner - because chances are they would love to connect with you too. I still remember how nervous I was randomly messaging Kelly Branton asking if he knew any gyms in the area I could train at (like duh the dude knows gyms!) but it led to being able to get my squat session in with him, and I was able to meet a ton of other talented lifters who live around Windsor.
Connecting with other powerlifters can not only prove to be an opportunity to find a gym and a new training buddy, but it is also a key way to learn the gym etiquette. A new gym environment can be intimidating, and the gym may have different rules than you are used to. Where are the change rooms? Are cameras allowed to videos of my lifts? Some gyms only want you using certain plates on certain bars. Ask questions and use other lifters as an opportunity to learn so that you have a happy gym experience and are welcomed back. Trust me, having security guards in Nairobi stop my deadlift session because I had cracked the roof of the offices located below was not cool. Apparently deadlifting was a banned exercise at that gym – opse.
Stinky post-squat snuggles with Kelly & training with Rowan, a Scottish Powerlifter, while in Edinburgh. Rowan wore her CPU shirt with pride as she showed me the ways of the gym she trains at.
SET YOUR STANDARDS LOW
Have an open mind. When you go to the gym for the first time do not expect it to be perfect and have everything you need. The squat rack might have high safeties forcing you to walkout a few meters every set, or there might not even be enough plates to deadlift. Schedules of gyms can be interesting as well. For example, when I was in Italy in August almost every gym was closed for summer holidays, and the single gym that was open was only open on select days of the week for a few hours in the evening. Do your best and work with what you have, and if you have a coach be sure to communicate with them about what gym equipment exists and your schedule.
But it isn’t all bad, and at times you will be pleasantly surprised at the facilities. In my recent trip to Poland I was very impressed to find affordable commercial gyms complete with slacklines, jacuzzis, free refreshments, and separate mobility rooms - setting me up for some awesome sessions.
Finding ABS Powerlifting, a jackpot of a gym in Dublin, Ireland
With all the unknowns of travelling and training you can still do your part to make sure things go as smooth as possible. Allowing extra time for your gym session is a must because it always takes more time than you think to orient yourself to new equipment and facilities. Some key items I always carry along with me are a lacrosse ball for mobility, cash in the local currency, a little tube of liquid chalk, a full water bottle (you would be surprised how many gyms don’t have water fountains), as well as a lock. Having food along is always a good idea. For me, no-drain pouches of tuna have always been my go-to and are allowed on airplanes, or some kind of protein bar that won’t melt is always good. If you are travelling with supplements and powders always be sure they are in their original containers to avoid unwanted questions.
If you are a student on a budget like me, take advantage of free trials often offered by gyms. Sure sometimes it requires a silly tour of the facility and signing a few forms, but it often beats paying for a pricey drop-in. I have often landed entire free weeks of training because I signed up for their new client deals online before-hand. Never hurts to ask! Always travel with your student card too because many gyms offer discounted rates for us squatting scholars.
Recognize your priorities and why you are travelling in the first place. The conference you are speaking at or a special family dinner always comes first, and if you can’t train as much as you usually do (or at all!) it is totally okay. If you have a coach, be realistic and communicate with them about your commitments and what you are willing to give up to train. It took me a long time to get over the fact that I was not going to get weak by not training six days a week. Stress and sleep are also big factors, and if they are not in check it is best to postpone. In fact, often times I have come back stronger than ever after taking a complete break from training.
Worst case mobility, pullups, plank, and some pushups with your friend or brother on your back are always options if you need something to do until you are home.
Most importantly, have fun! Powerlifting is a great conversation starter, and an amazing way to make friends and meet others with similar interests. Sports have a special way of connecting people, and I am still friends with many individuals I have come across powerlifting around the world. The Canadian community in particular is one of the best, and in my travels across Canada I have been able to make life-long powerlifting pals that make competitions even more fun. A support system is key in the sport, and it’s always nice to have some familiar friendly faces cheering in the crowd or watching the live stream from another crazy country.
Linda is a Canadian powerlifter in particular who has become a mentor, role model, and lifelong friend after she welcomed me into her home during my travels in Ontario. We even had some extra fun when she toured me around Niagara Falls - memories I will treasure for the rest of my life.
While airport security is always interesting constantly having to explain how my Inner Strength Products SBD belt in the bottom of my backpack is NOT a weapon, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Training while travelling is never boring, and I never leave without learning something new from the lifters I meet along the way. In fact, continuing my powerlifting while abroad has even opened up some new and exciting opportunities for me, and most recently I was a guest lifter at a deadlift competition in Dublin – but that’s a story for a different post.
Have you ever trained while travelling? Or do you have any interesting (or awkward) experiences while trying to get your lift in away from your home gym?
Nicola Paviglianiti is a CPU 52kg junior lifter and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in International Humanitarian Action studying at 4 different universities in Europe. Feel free to connect with her at @storiesnotselfies, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on facebook.