Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
June 13, 2020 - 4 min read

10 Tips to Fit in Exercise as a Travel Nurse

As a travel nurse, sometimes it can feel like it’s hard enough just to get through your shift, come back to your housing, collapse in exhaustion, get up and do it all over again. But if you’re committed to making fitness a priority in your life — or want to see if making exercise a regular habit can make a difference in your days as a travel nurse, we want to help.

You’re a healthcare professional, so we don’t have to convince you of the tremendous benefits that exercise has for you, but especially as a travel nurse, incorporating exercise into your life regularly can help you stay energized, maintain your sleep schedule, and keep your stress levels down. Bottom line? Exercise is important for everyone, so here are some tips to fit in fitness while working as a travel nurse.

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Check if your facility offers any fitness resources

Did you know that some hospitals have an on-site gym for employees? Yeah, me either. But my eyes have been opened thanks to other dedicated RNs who have made a point to work out on their lunch breaks, or before or after their shifts.

For instance, travel nurse Kelsea Drzewiecki found out that her former hospital had a small exercise room for employees, so she would squeeze in a short workout during her lunch break, following a modified version of her gym’s daily programming.

If your facility doesn’t have an on-site gym, check with employee wellness or HR or your recruiter what kind of fitness resources are offered–you may be able to snag a temporary free pass to a local gym or access some at-home fitness apps to help you stay on track. Your insurance company may have some fitness benefits you can tap into as well, so be sure to check what benefits they offer too.

Get inspired

One easy way to get motivated to work out? Follow other travel RNs who can help inspire you. For instance, @fit.gypsy.nurse posts plenty of workouts she does on the road, meal ideas, and motivational tips to workout even when you’re exhausted at the end of that shift.

Pick up one piece of equipment

Seriously, if you do nothing else, consider bringing just one favorite piece of equipment with you. It could be one set of dumbbells or an ultra-lightweight resistance band. Alternatively, ask a local gym if they offer dumbbell rentals (yes, it’s a thing). You might be amazed at how effective of a workout you can fit in with just one pair of dumbbells. From thrusters to shoulder presses to lunges-in-place, the possibilities are endless. And if all else fails, look up how to do a complete workout with just a kitchen towel. It will burn, promise.

Three words: Yoga with Adriene

If the thought of hardcore working out sounds absolutely terrible with your current assignment, don’t force yourself to get through a grueling, sweaty workout. Instead, calm your body and your mind with some free Yoga with Adriene workouts on YouTube. She has years of free, full-length videos that are effective, hit every fitness level, and will help center you. It’s important to remember that fitness doesn’t have to be slamming weights into the ground and sweating all over the place–challenging your muscles and your mind together in a way that makes sense for you always takes priority.

Meal prep

Yup, you knew it was coming. But if you can meal prep ahead of your shifts, it will free up more time for you to have to actually fit in a workout instead of cooking. And, as a bonus, you might eat healthier meals to complement your new exercise routine too. If meal prepping sounds absolutely terrible, look into a local or national meal delivery service that can help you stay on track while you’re on assignment. Freshly is a good option for single-serve, ready-to-eat meals.

Keep it simple

Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated — it could be as simple as taking a walk, doing some yoga in your living room, or simply turning on your favorite playlist and dancing it out for 30 minutes. Just get moving in a way that makes your body feel good.

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Exercise before your shift

When she has a shift, @thefittravelnurse makes a point to fit in a quick workout before she heads to the hospital. “Trust me,” she explains on her Instagram page. “I don’t want to get out of bed that early most days…so I set my alarm for 4:45 am and have a talk (with myself) about how I will feel if I DON’T get up!”

Have a library of easy go-to workouts

Half of the battle of working out is figuring out what you want your workout to actually be, which is why having an easy library of go-to workouts can really help. You can bookmark some favorite free workouts on YouTube, keep it simple by DIYing your own go-to moves like burpees and push-ups, or purchase a workout library like BeachBody on Demand or Daily Burn. Having easy access can ensure that you don’t waste any precious limited time by messing around, trying to decide on a workout to do, and instead, you can get right to it.

Know the recommendations

As a travel nurse, you know fitness is important, but do you know the actual official recommendations? According to the American Heart Association, 300 minutes (or 5 hours) of exercise per week is ideal and 150 minutes (2.5 hours) is considered the minimum. That boils down to either 1-hour workouts 5 days per week or 30-minute workouts 5 days per week. Either way, it’s time to get moving!

Give yourself some credit

Nurses have a pretty physically demanding job already, so give yourself credit for all that physical activity you’re doing at work anyways. Consider picking up an activity tracker or simple pedometer so you can track how many steps you’re logging at work — that way, you can see how much fitness you still need to incorporate.

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