Undersun Fitness

- 15 April

As we’re kicking off springtime, the sun is (finally) coming out and the world is opening back up. For our traveling family, that means two things:

  1. International travel will be more accessible soon 
  2. Outdoor workouts will be WAY more fun

And as much as I love going abroad and working out on some tropical beach, that’s not what we’ll be talking about today. Because, sometimes, you still need to get a workout done when the cards are stacked against you; when the weather is less-than-ideal; and when every ounce of you is begging to curl up on the couch and grab your favorite snack instead. 

In fact, that’s the reason I started using UnderSun Fitness in the first place: once you’ve got the bands, you’ve got no more excuses. Period. 

And as my family was heading through Banff (Canada) to Jasper, I decided to put my money where my mouth was. Rather than skip my workouts for the weekend, I committed to pushing through two workouts in sub-freezing temperatures. 

But before diving into our “No-Excuse Winter Workout,” you might want to check out what made me switch from weights to resistance bands in the first place. For the full backstory, you’ll definitely want to start here 

Otherwise, let’s layer up and dive into this intense winter workout.

Nomad Fitness: The No-Excuses Winter Workout

Right now, our traveling family is fully respecting lockdown restrictions. As borders were closing and provincial rules got tighter, we decided to hunker down in Cochrane, Alberta until things were safe. This plan would allow us to explore Western Canada, do tons of hikes we’d only heard of, and scratch our “travel itch” without putting other people at risk. 

So we decided to spend a weekend in one of our favorite places, Banff, to check out the Rockies. But we also wanted to drive through Canada’s Icefield Parkway to explore Jasper. And, as excited as I was about our weekend getaway, I was still fighting that nagging thought only fitness enthusiasts will understand: 

Saturday is back and arms. Sunday is chest and shoulders. So… how’s that fitting in?

In the past, this would lead to a “discussion” (which is a nice way of saying “argument”) between my wife and me. I’d usually ask to leave a bit later to hit the gym in the morning and get back in time the next day before the gym closed. Understandably, my wife didn’t think these were the most family-focused solutions. 

But now this discussion is hardly even a sentence. It goes like this: “Hey love, did you put the bands in the car? I want to work out with the boys at a park.” That’s it. No argument. No stress. Everything’s all good. Emilie’s usually happier because it also means she’ll have 45 minutes at the park to relax while the boys do a workout with papa. With the car packed (and yes, she had already loaded the bands), we hit the road. 

Day 1: Back and Arms in Jasper

Any parents of young kids know that there are three certainties in life: 

  • Death
  • Taxes
  • None of your family’s travels will work the way you plan them

And our weekend trip through the Icefield Parkway was no different. 

Here was the plan:  

First, we were going to drive from our temporary apartment in Cochrane, Alberta, to Banff. We’d stop at Lake Louise for a few hours, and I’d get my workout done while the kids were playing. Then we’d head through the Icefield Parkway while the kids slept, adults grabbed a coffee, and we’d explore Jasper in the evening as a family.

Easy, right?

Here’s what actually happened:

We got to Lake Louise pretty early and jumped out of the car. I grabbed the bands, threw them over my shoulder, and tossed the boys in their sled. We were walking as a family across the lake to see the frozen waterfalls. 

Now, to parents, this next part will sound familiar. Sam, my youngest, dropped a mitten, and his hands were pitifully wet. Noah, my oldest, couldn’t quite decide if he wanted to walk or be in the sled. As I turned around to help, my boot caught a deep patch of snow and left my sock soaking wet. 

My wife was taking pictures of the waterfall, and I suspect asking herself how men survived the process of evolution. 

At any rate, we headed back to the car earlier than expected and hit the Icefield Parkway. We drove, the kids slept, and we reached Jasper by the early afternoon. Since the kids had just woken up, we thought a little outdoor time would help burn off the energy. So we headed to a nearby park where the boys could play.  

And this is where back-and-arms day got done. 

When I started using Undersun Fitness, I literally took the plan I used at the gym with weights and transferred it to bands. Things like deadlifts, seated rows, lat-pull downs, and other movements I’d do at the gym could be done from the monkey bars my kids were learning to use. 

Here is what my Jasper winter workout looked like:  

  1. Bodyweight pull ups (unassisted): 3 sets x 10 reps
  2. Deadlifts (X-heavy + Light): 3 sets x 8 reps  
  3. Bicep Curl (Medium): 3 sets x 20 reps 
  4. Seated Row (X-heavy + X-light): 3 sets x 8 reps 
  5. Hammer Curl (Medium): 3 sets x 15 reps 
  6. Lat Pulldown (varies depending on the height of the anchor): 3 sets x 8 reps
  7. Barbell Bicep Curl (X-heavy + Light): 3 sets x 12 reps 
  8. Lawnmower Pull (Heavy): 3 sets x 8 (each side)

In total, it was around 45 minutes, and my kids were sledding on a nearby hill. It was also -5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit), but it felt a lot warmer, especially after a little warm-up.

When I’d finished, I threw the bands back in the car, and we went on enjoying the day.

Pro-Tip: If you’re in that area, check out the Athabasca Falls hike. It’s killer and super quick (though it’s better if you can do it on the way to Jasper National Park as we had to backtrack a bit):

Day 2: Chest and Shoulders in Banff

After spending the night in Jasper, our family woke up and got to do another nice hike in the morning. 

One of the great things about traveling with kids is that you’re usually up bright and early anyway. So rather than sleeping in until 10:00 and getting a late start (like I’d done in my 20s), we were up and out of the hotel room by 7:00 am. 

The hike we chose was Malign Canyon, and it was 100% worth the trip:

Once we were done with the hike, we drove back to Banff to stop for lunch. And, of course, papa’s workout. 

This day went much more according to plan than the previous one, though it’s mostly because we’d already packed the food, gotten prepared, and we were lucky with the weather.  

 One thing I’ve learned about making fitness part of our traveling family lifestyle is that the more prepared you are in advance, the easier it is to make sure your workouts go smoothly. Since most of my workouts are between 45 minutes to 1 hour, I know that I’ll need something to distract the kids for at least 20 minutes.

They usually love working out with me at the start, but their patience tends to run out after 30 minutes or so.

Today’s workout was still a bit cold, but not as bad as Jasper.

My Banff winter workout routine was like this: 

  1. Pushups (X-heavy): 3 sets x 15 reps 
  2. Lateral Should Raise (Medium): 3 sets x 15 – 20 reps
  3. Single Arm Incline Press (X-heavy): 3 sets x 12 reps 
  4. Standing Shoulder Press (X-heavy): 3 sets x 10 reps 
  5. Single Arm Fly (Light): 3 sets x 15 reps 
  6. Front Raise (Medium): 3 sets x 12 – 15 reps
  7. Unanchored Chest Fly (Medium): 3 sets x 12 reps 

And in just under an hour, I got my chest and shoulder workout done that let me spend more time with my family, didn’t interfere with our weekend, and didn’t require lugging heavy weights around in the trunk.

Final Thoughts

One of the things I love about the Undersun Fitness bands is that “no-excuse” mentality. As our family travels full-time, everything about our surroundings can change month-to-month. Sometimes the weather will be great, and sometimes it won’t. 

By switching from the gym to bands, I didn’t just stop being location-dependant; I stopped being anything-dependant. And as a father, I was really looking for 3 qualities in particular from a workout system. It had to be: 

  1. Versatile enough to replicate any movements I do at the gym
  2. Flexible enough to take anywhere and train with my family
  3. Affordable enough that they made me seriously rethink gym membership costs

Oh, and they had to work. Fortunately, resistance band training checked all the boxes, and I don’t plan on looking back any time soon. 

Stay tuned for the next adventure of this Nomad Fitness series as I head through Great Falls, Montana, on a long drive down to California.