Nearly half of hotel-goers expect to make a stop at their hotel gym. But, in reality, less than a quarter — just half of those who intend to lift a weight, do a squat or work any muscles in the hotel fitness center — ever step foot inside.
Still, there is hope for hotel gym avoiders or travelers for whom the amenity is simply not available. A full-body workout — one that challenges arms, legs, core and glutes — can be done in the comfort of your hotel room. Skip the hotel gym with its treadmills, ellipticals and free weights, and instead grab the lounge chair and your luggage.
Remember, this is a hotel room and you likely have neighbors to the left and right, as well as above or below. No one wants a noise complaint or to get kicked out of the hotel room. For this reason, exercises requiring excessive amounts of jumping may be best left for home.
While an obvious choice, the bedroom floor is not the cleanest or comfiest surface for any floor workouts. Instead, if without a workout mat, opt to move any lying down or kneeling exercises to the bed. Don’t worry, staying in bed is not a cop-out. Rather, the uneven surface challenges your core muscles to maintain balance. Lastly, while barefoot training has its place, on top of hotel carpeting is not it. When doing standing exercises, wear your shoes just as you would at a gym.
Loosening muscles prior to a full-body workout is a must. Studies have shown warmups reduce risk of injury and improve exercise performance. Completing a series of simple stretches or slow, low-intensity exercises can ease not just your body, but also your mind into the workout. You could even try pre-workout. Avoiding these common mistakes before you even start will set you up for success.
Your hotel-room workout should be effective, but that doesn’t necessarily mean advanced. Given the confined space and materials, your body becomes your most valuable workout tool. Bring back school gym-time classics such as pushups, planks, mountain climbers and crunches. These moves require no equipment other than you and the earth’s gravitational pull. Repeat each motion 12 to 15 times. Gage your ability to do another set or go on to the next move.
Follow up a quick warmup with compound exercises — moves that work more than a single muscle group or joint at once. These time-savers improve strength and flexibility, and burn more calories than exercises that work a single joint or muscle group. Though they save time, compound exercises require more technique, so hitting them while your body is fresh can yield better results. Start with basic bodyweight moves like the squat. This deceptively simple motion works both legs and glutes but can do a number on weak or injured knees. Keep your knees in line with your toes, and your feet hip-width apart. Squat as if you are about to sit. Then, with your heels to the floor, rise. Let the hips, not knees, lead your ascent back up — then go again. Follow up the squats with other compound exercises like lunge twists, flutter kicks and wall sits.
Empty or stuff your suitcase, luggage, duffle or backpack to meet your weight-lifting needs. Lift the chosen weight above your head while squatting or lunging to add an arms element to an already compound move. Or, use your suitcase as a place to rest or tap your hands while planking. For hip thrusts, put the suitcase on the bed, place your heels on top and raise and lower your hips. Lastly, try your hand at medicine-ball side twists by substituting a backpack for a medicine ball. Sit, lift your legs and knees, keep your chest up and lean slightly back. Move the backpack from side to side, contracting your abs and twisting your core.
Place the front of your toes on a chair and your hands firmly on the floor for an elevated plank. Turn the plank into an oblique crunch by pulling one knee and leg forward. Next, work your triceps with a set of chair dips. Hold firmly to the edge of the seat with your palms as you extend your legs and lower and raise your body above the floor. To increase difficulty, raise one leg.
With compound moves complete, transition to exercises that engage primarily one joint or muscle group. Determine where you would like to focus your movement. For arms, do bicep or wrist curls using bags as weights. For calves, jump onto a short chair or a sturdy suitcase, using just your calves to propel your body forward (you might want to limit this to avoid a noise complaint). Or stick to a classic calf raise. Stand, raise your heels until you are balancing on your toes, then lower yourself back down. If you miss the compound movements, use a bag in each arm as weights.
There is less evidence pointing to the effectiveness of workout cool-downs than warmups. However, continuing your chosen isolated or low-impact movements at a slow pace and intensity for five additional minutes can help your heart and blood vessels ease out of the workout. Cap off the workout with a few gentle stretches and deep breathes.
After finishing up the workout, have a quick snack and consider a trip to the hot tub or a cold shower to soothe any sore muscles. Both cold and warm water have been shown to reduce soreness immediately after exercise. Pool party or shower sing-a-long, it’s up to you. Traveling and staying in a hotel obviously disrupts your workout routine, but it can ruin other routines as well. These hotel hacks will make a few nights at a hotel seem much more like home.
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