Turn Your Hotel Room Into a Personal Gym
One of the things I love most about my job is getting to travel. Having the opportunity to explore the world is such a gift and one that fulfills a life passion of mine. That being said, traveling for work or pleasure can really throw a wrench in one’s workout routine. You take all the necessary steps— the first and hardest being to develop and commit to a disciplined practice. Maybe you’ve invested in training sessions or you’re working out consistently on your own. You’re eating a nutritious balanced diet—hydrating and exercising self-control when those damn office donuts show up in the break room and bang! An unexpected work trip comes up or that 2-week vacation you’ve been looking forward to finally arrives. Now you’re worried all that hard work will be undone by the end of a client dinner or the second margarita you have by the pool.
Nowadays it’s hard to find a hotel that doesn’t have a fitness center. However, it gets tricky when it comes to the quality and quantity of the gym equipment. Unless you’re staying at a five star resort (and sometimes even then), the selection is limited or subpar—often consisting of a few treadmills and a rack of dumbbells that cap at 50 lbs. Sometimes the machines don’t work properly or you run into the problem of weird hours of operation. What do you mean the gym closes at 7pm?! The worst is when it’s “temporarily unavailable” due to pre-scheduled maintenance work or hotel renovations and upgrades. With all these variables no wonder our fitness goals hang in the balance when we travel.
For this very reason I invested in some fitness equipment I could easily travel with as well as a back-to-basics workout routine that can be executed inside a hotel room. Resistance bands comfortably fit into a carry-on or checked bag. I know people who travel with rolled up yoga mats and inflatable exercise balls, too. Personally, that’s a little extra for me given the amount of space I need for my shoes. The standard desk chair, coffee table (or even edge of the bed) featured in most hotel rooms adequately supplements all the equipment one needs to cover the basics—ensuring that once you get back to the daily grind, you won’t feel like you’re starting at square one.
On a recent escape to the Ojai Valley Inn I put my partner to work documenting my keeping-it-tight-and-right-in-the-hotel-room workout routine. As I’ve said in my other fitness posts, by no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself an expert or a trained professional. Before implementing any new exercise routine it’s always advised to consult a physician or a trainer and listen to your own body. You might also be inclined to say: uhm excuse me Darrin, but vacations are not for working out, they’re for debauchery and indulging as much as possible, so take your resistance bands and get bent—a hostile but perfectly acceptable response.
However, for those of you interested in getting some TBOT tips on how to turn your hotel room into a personal gym, you’ll find them below.
RESIST THE BANDS
Perform Better is an online store that carries a variety of top-of-the-line training equipment. I was surprised to see how many types of resistance bands are on the market. Some are made of tubing with handles, others are extremely large—making it possible for them to be looped multiple times over to create the desired resistance. Some even have ankle straps. Even though you can do more exercises with bigger bands, I prefer the Mini Bands because they remain tight and taut without having to double loop them. Perform Better sells a pack of 4 mini exercise bands that go from light to heavy in strength resistance. You can find resistance bands just about anywhere (Target, Amazon, etc.) so next time you’re out or shopping online, drop a couple in your cart.
UPPER BODY EXERCISES
1. OVERHEAD PULSATOR- Put your arms straight up above your head with your neck and spine in alignment. Your shoulders are down and back, not hiked up in a shrug position. The resistance band is wrapped around your wrists. With your elbows slightly bent and your hands balled into fists, pull your locked arms away from each other while maintaining your form—being careful not to stick your chest or butt out. You will primarily feel this exercise in your shoulders, upper-back and triceps. You’ll feel it secondarily in your biceps and forearms. Do 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 25 repetitions.
2. FRONT PULSATOR- Bring your arms down in front of your stomach, and bend the elbows at 90 degrees. Again, ball your hands into fists and make sure your shoulders are down and back, not raised up. Your elbows should be pinned to your ribcage. They will stay glued to your sides throughout the exercise. The resistance band stays looped around your wrists. Pull your fists away from each another. You should feel this exercise primarily in your triceps and biceps. You’ll also feel it in your shoulders and forearms. Do 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 25 repetitions.
LOWER BODY EXERCISES
1. SQUATS- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. The resistance band should be looped around your thighs just above your kneecaps. Engage your abdomen and untuck your pelvis by sticking your butt out as you bend your knees into a squat position. Try to keep your center of gravity by placing the majority of your weight on the back of your heels. You can stretch your arms out in front of you to help maintain balance but be careful to keep your body upright so you don’t pitch forward. You should feel this exercise primarily in your quads, glutes, and calves. Squats are great because they work every part of the leg. Challenge yourself by sitting in the squat for 10 to 30 seconds before releasing the position. Do 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 25 repetitions.
2. SIDE PIVOT- From the engaged half-squat position where your knees are bent, the resistance band is looped just above the kneecaps and you’re sitting down on that imaginary bench behind your butt, take your right foot and step to the left, back behind your left foot. Try to place the right foot as far to the left as you can. It will require you to transfer all the weight to your left leg allowing you to freely pivot into the step and swing right back to where you started. When I really want to blast my booty, I’ll do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions on each side. It kills!
3. LATERAL WALK- From that same half-squat position you can keep the resistance band above the knee or reposition it to just above your ankles. Make sure you keep the band taut. Transfer your weight to the right leg and step sideways with your left foot. Continue shifting your body weight to travel sideways for 10 to 12 steps. Make sure you keep your center of gravity low so you’re still feeling the burn in your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. The sidestepping will also make you painfully aware of the outer abductor muscles in your thighs.
4. PLANK LEG RAISE- Get yourself into the plank position where your hands are shoulder width apart and your arms are straight, supporting your body weight. The resistance band is wrapped around your thigh above the knee or just above your ankle. Take your left leg and lift it straight up in the air without bending at the knee. Squeeze your butt at the top and put your leg back to the starting position. Repeat this motion 10 to 12 times. Then take the same leg and lift it up and out to the side 10 to 12 times. Your butt will be begging for mercy as well as your arms and chest from holding that plank position for the duration of the exercise. Do 3 to 4 sets.
USING WHAT YOU GOT
1. PUSH-UPS- Grab a chair (or in my case a petrified wooden stump courtesy of the Ojai Valley Inn) and put your toes on the seat cushion. Now that you’re parallel to the floor in the plank position with your back straight, make sure your palms are flat and shoulder width apart. Your palms should be directly under your chest cavity supporting your weight. For a regular push up designed to target the mid section of your pectoral muscles you’ll want to keep your elbows pinned to your sides—not splayed out. As you widen your arms—moving out to the sides beyond your shoulder width, you’ll begin to work different sections of the pectoral muscle.
The widest span that still allows you to lower yourself into the press while maintaining a 90-degree angel at the elbow, works your upper chest. In the photo you’ll see that I have placed my hands into a diamond shape. In this case my elbows are splayed out to the sides as I lower myself into position and quickly press up from the diamond. This targets the lower pectoral muscles and is effective in helping sculpt and define the crease between the left and right pec. You don’t have to use the chair to create the incline but I find that it helps to maximize the chest workout. Secondarily, you’ll also be working your shoulders and triceps more intensely. For those who are ambitious, do 3 sets of regular, wide, and diamond push ups—12 to 25 reps in each set. With your own body weight as resistance, I would imagine that you’ll start to feel the burn as much as if you were on an incline or decline bench at the gym.
2. SIT UPS- Flip over allowing your tailbone and back to make contact with the floor. Prop your feet up on the chair’s seat cushion and place your hands behind your head. Keeping the neck long and the chin up and out like it’s going to touch the ceiling, tighten your abdomen and allow your stomach muscles to lift your upper body in a crunch. You can go all the way up to a seated position attempting to touch your elbow to your knee, or half way up. I’m sure this exercise is extremely familiar and may even be attached to some childhood P.E. anecdote. It’s one of the most effective ways to work the entire core especially the lower abdomen, which is a problem area for the majority of us.
Placing the soles of your feet firmly on the ground, with your palms flat on the floor and your knees bent at 90 degrees, you can also get some pelvic thrusting in while you’re down there. Great for quads, hamstrings and glutes, press your pelvis up towards the ceiling until your hips, shoulders and knees all create one long line—making sure to squeeze your butt at the top. You’ll be well on your way to the J Lo kadunkadunk of your dreams.
3. Relevé- Place your hand on the back of the chair, or the side of the hotel dresser or desk. Your feet are shoulder width apart and your weight is evenly distributed. Channel Natalie Portman in Black Swan and shift your weight entirely to the balls of your feet and press your body straight up. You should feel your calf muscles engage. The key to maintaining good balance in an unassisted calf raise is to engage the core first and keep it engaged. Do 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 25 repetitions.