Maybe you are a “road warrior”... you know, that kind of human who spends days and even weeks each month far from home due to business travel. If you exercise when in your hometown, you may worry that your travel schedule comes first in comparison to maintaining a healthy exercise regimen when on the road. Besides bad airport food, that hotel fitness center, if one exists at all, is probably a pitiful conciliation to what you’re used to at home.
Should poor workout facilities be an obstacle to exercise while traveling? Does business travel always crush your intentions to be fit and healthy? No, but you need to rethink exercise on the whole. The good news is you’ve already started. Carrying luggage, walking the airport concourses, or perhaps sprinting to catch a flight – all of these things involve some degree of physical activity. Still, you are not working out at your regular gym in your customary routine. My suggestion is to attack each problem directly - time restriction, minimal or no work out facilities – turn difficulty into opportunity.
Variety is the spice of life AND fitness. Perhaps your workout routine at home has become just that - routine. Having to improvise with poor hotel fitness centers – the room with one or two cardio machines, and a set of mismatched dumbbells ranging in weights from 5 to 20 pounds – might actually wake up a few new muscles if you think outside the box.
Rethink the exercise circumstances in these terms:
- Get more from less. If you’re used to doing bicep curls with 25 pound dumbbells but the highest weights available are 20 pounds, use the “super slow” method: 10-second count up, 10-second count down. Pause at the point that is hardest to do for 1-3 seconds. Apply the same thinking to any weight that is not as much as you’re used to lifting. Want to make it harder yet? Lift one foot off the ground while performing this and other upper body exercises to add a core-stability dynamic to the workout.
- Go hard on that old equipment. If you’re used to state-of-the-art equipment that provides a full range of motion, or if you generally work with free weights because of the full-body benefits found in most free weight exercises, don’t worry if the hotel gym has a pre-1978 “universal” gym. That limited-range bench press would be bad for you if you used it three times a week. The set range of motion on the shoulder press machine doesn’t give you the full-fledged exercise you know is so important. However, this is just one day out of many. Use this equipment, assuming there are no safety concerns with it injuring you, to push your weight limits a bit higher. If your muscles fail, the equipment at least prevents injury that might have happened had you pushed yourself using free weights. If the weight maxes out before you do, try everything with one limb instead of two.
- Go to real places. Life is not a treadmill – it’s running down streets, along parkways, and on beaches. What better way to take in your environment than a quick jog in neighborhood of the hotel? Or, if the hotel stairwell is accessible, forget the Stairmaster and go for a real climb.
One of the biggest barriers in traveling and maintaining your healthy lifestyle is time. Close in second and third are stress and access. As a result, many individuals find their health being compromised by the demands of their jobs. Does that sound about right?
Even if the hotel doesn’t have an exercise facility, you can alleviate both stress and time factors when you learn to exercise in your room. Think about this: take 15-30 minutes in the comfort and solitude of your own room, with the television tuned to the channel of your choice, and your laptop not far away incase some great thoughts surface when your endorphins kick in.
This workout is graduated by time periods: a 15-minute workout if that’s all you can do, with additional exercises if you have 30 minutes.
The 15-minute hotel workout:
This segment primarily focuses on the lower body. A huge benefit is that by working these large muscle groups, you are creating a more active metabolism – a real benefit for the calories of that Cinnabon you ate at the airport.
Inverted bicycle: Start out by lying face up in bed or on the floor, legs lifted straight up at a perpendicular angle to your torso. Begin “pedaling” your legs, bicycle style with wide circles, for two to four minutes.
Squat-reaches: Plant your feet on the floor, shoulder distance apart. Squat down as low as you can go without falling over, touching the floor or your ankles if possible. Rise all the way up onto the front balls of your feet, heels raised off the floor, then return to the squat position. Repeat ten times, three sets.
One-leg squats: Stand at the side of your bed, facing away from the bed. Lift your left leg from the floor and extend it straight back onto the bed such that you are putting most of your weight on your right leg. Slowly lower your whole body on the right leg, maintaining an upright torso. After reaching the lowest level, rise up again. Repeat ten times on both legs, three sets.
The 30-minute hotel workout:
Now that you’ve worked your lower body during the previous 15 minutes, focus on the “push” motion in your upper body. As the name implies, push exercises generally involve force to move something away from the body. (On a subsequent day, a “pull” motion would be fitting.)
Below-grade pushups: Set up two stable desk chairs (non roller wheels for obvious reasons) about 3-5 feet away from the bed facing each other about 6 inches wider than your shoulders. With your feet on the bed and hands on the opposing chairs, lower your body - plank form, in a straight line passing from your ankles through your knees, hips, torso and shoulders - to the lowest position you can manage, even to the point where your chest is lower than your hands. Return to the starting position, and repeat 10-30 times.
Tricep dips: Keeping the chairs in approximately the same position as they were for the below-grade pushups, turn around to face the ceiling, with feet firmly near the edge of the bed, your hands on the chairs and arms fully extended. Keeping the hips as high as possible, slowly lower your body by bending the elbows outward. When you reach the lowest point possible, pause then press up with the arms. Repeat ten times, times three sets. Still want more of a challenge? Put luggage on your lap to add weight.
Two-hand shoulder press: Stand with your right hand at shoulder level as if you were about to raise a dumbbell in that hand but with the palm face open. Instead, reach your left arm across your face and place the left palm face down onto the right. Press up with the right, but simultaneous oppose that by pressing down with the left. Do this slowly, allowing the right to rise all the way up in about 8 seconds. After a pause, press the right hand down to the starting position at shoulder level. After ten repetitions, switch sides, then repeat for three sets each side. Note how both shoulders and arms are exercising in different ways and to different effects.
Did your time run out but you still want more?
ON THE GO BONUS ROUND!
Do some raises: While you’re standing in line at the hotel, the airport, Starbucks; raise yourself up on the front balls of your feet and hold that rise for 3-10 seconds. If you have heavy luggage in one or both hands, the exercise progresses to another level. For even more of a challenge, rise up onto one foot with or without luggage and hold for 3-10 seconds. Make sure that core is engaged.
This calf workout also helps improve balance – even though the people in line behind you may believe you may have an imbalance of another kind! But why should you care? You are fighting back against the unhealthy forces of business travel and winning!