Matthias Morel, an airport marketing consultant who travels a lot for work, likes to stay in shape.
So Morel doesn't care to check into a hotel only to discover that the gym is in a converted guest room crammed with out-of-date equipment, or in a windowless basement cell with no air-conditioning.
Hoping to spare other travelers that experience, Morel, 27, and three partners have started HotelGymReview.com, where users can review their hotel gym experiences and find the best hotel gyms when they're traveling.
Morel's site is just one of many new tools that make it easier to get a good workout on the road.
Some sites, such as HotelGymReview, feature user-generated reviews to steer travelers toward the hotels with the best gym amenities. There are also sites for runners, such as Run.com that direct travelers to safe, measured running routes in unfamiliar places.
Many hotels with exercise facilities also provide in-room workouts through programs like the cable station Exercise TV. Others, such as selected Marriotts, will set up a Wii Fit on request. Some Westin hotels even have exercise equipment in selected guest rooms. Sheraton hotels offer free "workout in a bag" kits, with a mat, stretch rope, and other items for guests to use in their rooms.
Being able to exercise on the road is critical to business travel, said Ben Schwartzman, a Boise, Idaho-based lawyer who flies around the country for his litigation work.
"Everything else being equal, I'll try to find a hotel that has better exercise facilities," said Schwartzman, 40. "To me, that's a selling point for a hotel."
And the quality of the facility matters. Like Morel, Schwartzman doesn't care for doing his workout on 1980s-era equipment in an ill-lit basement room.
"Some of these facilities are so unappetizing you really don't feel like doing anything there," said Schwartzman. "I prefer to go back to my room and do yoga."
Fortunately, travelers who are willing to do their homework have lots of choices. Here are some options for staying fit on the road:
- A low-tech hotel room workout: Jennifer Galardi, a dance and fitness trainer for Exercise TV, believes you can get a good workout anywhere, even without a gym. She regularly stretches and lifts weight with furniture to fit exercise into her hectic travel schedule. Exercise TV content is available in 1.1 million rooms at hotels including DoubleTree, Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Omni, and Radisson, but none of those chains have it in every single room. Ask before you book. Exercise TV also offers online workouts and has an iPhone application.
- Yoga: Schwartzman researches online before he travels to find a good yoga studio near his hotel. In the absence of a studio, he carries a yoga mat and does yoga in his hotel room. Kimpton Hotels offer guests a yoga kit at check-in. If you have your laptop with you, Core Power Yoga offers podcasts of yoga instruction.
- Running: If you prefer to do your workout outdoors, Run.com can point you toward more than 11,200 running routes, with mileage. The site has running routes in all 50 states plus dozens of other countries (five in Cambodia alone). Visitors can choose from 2-mile, 5-mile, and more demanding routes.
- Athletic-Minded Traveler: Like Morel's HotelGymReview.com, AthleticMindedTraveler.com reviews hotel gym facilities. But it uses professional reviewers and it concentrates on major cities. It includes reviews of running loops, lap pools, and places to eat.
While the top-end resorts and clubs do tend to have the most up-to-date, comfortable gyms, choosing a high-priced hotel is no guarantee you'll find a top-quality gym there, said Morel, who lives in Calgary.
"Some unknown hotels have a beautiful gym," he noted.
In the absence of a good gym, Galardi recommended that travelers just use what's at hand.
"There are a number of things you can do without equipment," said Galardi, who travels frequently for her job and often works out using hotel furniture — including chairs, for leg-strengthening squats. "Resistance bands don't take up a lot of room in a suitcase, or weigh a lot.
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"I think people get spoiled," she said. "They're used to the best and the latest equipment, but you don't need it. Actually the older things are better because you need to work hard to make them work."
Galardi said she often stretches after she gets off a plane, before her luggage appears on the carousel.
Finding healthy food on the road is another challenge, noted Galardi, who recommends stocking up on snacks like apples or almonds before you get on a plane.
"It's not like they serve food on planes anyway, but avoid being tempted by the biscotti on Delta," Galardi advised. "It's all about being prepared."
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