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In-Flight Fitness- Yes You Can!

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Recently I traveled to Bulgaria.  The first leg, from Portland, Oregon to Washington Dulles wasn’t so bad.  A mere five hours.  Piece of cake.  The three-hour layover?  No problem.   I still felt fresh as a daisy.  The nine hour hop to Frankfurt, however, tested my limits.  How will I squeeze in a work out, I wondered?  After all, I was crammed into a too small economy sized seat with person of size on either side of me.  Sardines packed in a tin can had more room than we did.   And then it hit me.  If I can’t get to a work out, I’d have to create one I could do on the plane.  Now, I was traveling on a United Airline flight, and given the recent spate of kerfuffles between passengers and flight crew, I knew I’d have to mind my p’s and q’s.  No one wants to be reseated, say, on the wing of a 747, at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.    Still, I told myself, no reason to take the situation sitting down.

Off I went to the lavatories.  What can you do in a lav, you may wonder?  To my delight, I discovered, plenty!

  1.         Air squats

If you put the toilet seat down, it is just possible to get an almost decent set of air squats in before a flight attendant starts jostling the door and offering assistance.  I managed fifty before I was asked to please vacate the lav.

  1. Calf Raises

Having vacated one lav, I quickly ducked into another and completed twenty calf raises, toes out, ballet style, feet forward, and feet turned in.  Again, I was asked to vacate.  If I had more time I would have attempted


  1. Door hangs and pull-ups

This one is tricky because you need access to the doors of two opposite facing lavs.  With both doors partially open, a hand on the upper jamb of each, it is possible to hang or even to do some pull-ups.  This however, tests the patience of passengers and flight crew alike.  As there were only four lavs for over 800 passengers, I decided not to press my luck.  Again, I reminded myself, I’m flying United.


  1. Chair Dips

Back in my economy seat I noticed that both the passenger to my right and left had fallen asleep.  Even better:  the coveted arm rests between me and my fellow seat mates were free.  I could hardly believe my good luck.  I managed ten partial dips before other passengers noticed my strange activity.


  1. Butt Squeezes

Having made a fool of myself with the chair dips, I decided there was no point in trying to salvage my dignity.  Onto the butt squeezes.  The name is self descriptive, but I’ve found they really work well if clench the butt muscles as hard as I can, I hold my breath, and count to ten.   After fifty on each side, I had worked up a sweat.   Time for a cool down.

The moral of this little story is that it is, in fact, possible to get some kind of a work out at 35,000 feet.  The work out, of course, won’t be anything like a crossfit WOD, unless you can convince the flight crew to let you power snatch your luggage in the galley or something like that.  But it is possible to get the heart rate up the blood flowing—and not merely because you’re having an unpleasant encounter with the crew.