The airport sprint has become a common sight during a summer of chaotic air travel. But Caroline Wales wasn’t running at the airport to catch a flight.
During a delayed layover in Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the 19-year-old college student from La Quinta, Calif., strapped on her backpack and logged 4 miles up and down the terminals.
“I don’t like sitting around and what better way to burn off energy so you can sleep on the plane,” says Miss Wales.
Travel is inherently stressful, but the long lines and flight cancellations this year have led more people to discover that the airport is a great place to work out. Those passengers running, lunging and exercising in terminals say the activity breaks up the wait time and lowers their stress levels. Gyms are also opening inside airports to accommodate demand.
Exercise can be one of the best ways to ease travel anxiety and the airport provides a lot of options for physical activity, says Christopher Berger, a professor of exercise physiology at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
“Rather than rush, it’s a good idea to get to the airport early and use the time to get in your steps,” he says. Airports are climate controlled, have water fountains, and many now have dedicated walking paths or at least tell you the distances between terminals.
“In my opinion, they’re better than malls for walking,” he says.
Sandy Hulme, 61, prefers to run rather than walk, which he says can prove tricky at airports with heightened security. Mr. Hulme, a professor of political science at Alma College in Michigan, says he was stopped by an armed police officer in an airport in Switzerland in the past.
“I try to run slowly so I don’t make people nervous,” he says.
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To keep up his habit of running 1 mile every day for nearly 50 years, a streak that has required planning to maintain on the road, he has run in the airports of Paris, Tokyo and Amsterdam. Last week, he flew to India and to keep his streak alive ran in the New Delhi airport before going through customs.
Virginia Kinkel, a 35-year-old competitive bodybuilder from Washington, D.C., says recent flight delays have been a great opportunity for her to sneak in the long cardio sessions her training requires. She normally puts her 7-month-old in a stroller and will do laps around the terminals. During a recent delay out of Baltimore/Washington International Airport, she discovered Roam Fitness near her gate.
The gym, which opened in 2017, charges $25 for a day pass to use its equipment including SkillMill nonmotorized treadmills, a Concept II rower, dumbbells, medicine balls and more. Plus, travelers can use showers and borrow
workout clothing and Brooks sneakers for free.
Ms. Kinkel enlisted her sister to babysit so she could run for 75 minutes on the treadmill and shower before their flight. “I’d drive the extra 15 minutes to fly out of BWI instead of Dulles to be able to get in a purposeful gym workout rather than wander the terminal,” she says.
Ty Manegold, co-founder and president of Roam Fitness, says their facility is seeing an uptick in use this summer, which he partially attributes to people getting to the airport earlier. The company is in talks to build gyms at several U.S. airports and has signed a lease with Philadelphia International Airport to open a location in Terminal F next year.
“People just don’t know what security and check-in is going to be like and want to give themselves more of a buffer,” he says. “That means they then schedule us into their routine before their flight.”
Noah Ryan has yet to find an airport with a gym, but that hasn’t prevented him from getting in a workout. The 24-year-old marketing agency manager is at an airport on average every 2½ weeks and says he’s come to anticipate having time on his hands. His gym attire now doubles as his airport uniform—5-inch seam athletic shorts or pants, a black T-shirt, and flip-flops—and he packs a self-massage ball and resistance band.
When a recent flight to Mexico City was delayed, he remained at the gate and started doing lunges, squats and splits and band drills to strengthen his upper back and shoulders. He does mobility exercises to loosen up and feel less stiff before a long flight. Mr. Ryan says he’s not self-conscious about doing his routine barefoot at the gate.
“These people will never see you again,” he says. “And what’s weirder, drinking a beer at 7 a.m. or doing splits in the terminal?”
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