I hope you enjoyed your holidays. Anyone who read my last column knows that I ate lots of treats in December. But I don't feel guilty at all, because in addition to loving food, I also love to work out. Whether you're a die-hard fitness fanatic like me, or a casual exerciser who just wants to feel good and stay healthy, it can be very hard to keep up with your fitness routine when you're trapped in a 10-foot-by-10-foot hotel room. No excuses! These days, there are plenty of ways to stay fit when you're staying at a hotel.
1. First, don't stress
You don't have to keep up with your entire fitness regimen when you travel. Even if you can manage only a third of your usual workout, you'll still keep yourself in reasonably good shape. So pull back a little while you're away. For example, if you do weight or resistance training, just concentrate on your large muscle groups, such as abdominals and quadriceps. Whatever you do, don't miss out on important experiences because you're too busy trying to cram in a workout.
2. Did you know that every hotel has a free fitness center?
It's called the hallway. If you can't do anything else, you can always walk or run up and down that hallway as many times as you like. Sure, other guests might stare, but who cares? They're just checking out your tight tush. You can also run stairs in the stairwells, but first ask a staff member whether the stairwell door will lock behind you. If it does, you'll have to finish on the ground floor and catch the elevator back up when you're done.
3. Walking is better if you take it outside.
Ask at the front desk if the hotel is in a safe location, and if there are plenty of sidewalks nearby. If so, get out and take a stroll. There's no better way to see a new destination than on foot. A staff member can suggest routes that will take you past neat shops, into funky neighborhoods or through parks — whatever your interests. Some hotels even provide maps of walking and jogging routes complete with mileage markings.
4. Knowledge is power.
If you already attend fitness classes, it's often easy to be your own instructor in your hotel room. Whether you do Pilates, yoga or aerobics, chances are you know the routine so well you could practically teach the class yourself. And you probably know how to do crunches, pushups, squats and tricep dips. These types of exercises can be done in your room just as easily as in the gym. It may be a little less motivating when you're the only one around and you don't hear thumping music or clanging weights, but if you push yourself, your in-room do-it-yourself workout can be very effective.
5. Visit the fitness center.
More and more hotels these days offer a fitness center. In the past, hotel fitness centers were pretty horrible. I've seen way too many basement rooms with leaky ceilings, filthy equipment and no staff, and when hotels have the nerve to charge for the use of these "gyms," it really ticks me off. But plenty of properties offer facilities that rival fancy gyms. Some Hilton hotels in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany and a few other locations feature full-service LivingWell health clubs. Similarly, Westin has developed the WestinWORKOUT concept in conjunction with Reebok, offering sleek gyms and other fitness services in most of its hotels worldwide.
Smaller hotels usually don't have space for a grand gym, but they often have a partnership with a nearby fitness facility. Ask at the front desk if your hotel offers guest passes to a gym. And here's a tip: If the hotel charges you for this pass, don't pay for it without first going to the gym yourself. Chances are the hotel has raised the price on a guest pass that might be much cheaper, or even free, if you get it directly from that gym.
6. Have the hotel bring the fitness center to you.
At some properties, you can work out with major fitness equipment in your own room. Hilton was one of the first hotel groups to offer treadmills in guest rooms, and the Westin program allows guests to have cycles, dumbbells and other equipment brought to their rooms. There's a daily charge for many of these services, but the fee may be worth the privacy and convenience.
7. Or, pack your own equipment.
While 10-pound dumbbells aren't easily packed in your suitcase, plenty of other fitness equipment is. Resistance bands or tubes, jump ropes and even a deflated exercise ball with a small pump are a cinch to pack. I've even seen inflatable dumbbells that can be filled with water to your desired weight. Another product I like is flexible shoes. I'm not a light packer, and sometimes after cramming everything into my suitcase, I would find there was no room left for my bulky athletic shoes. Not having shoes just gave me an excuse to be lazy while away. So now I pack a pair of trainers that can bend in half and weigh next to nothing. While this type of shoe might not provide great support and cushioning, it's just fine for light workouts. I like my Pumas, but almost every major athletic shoemaker has a similar style.
8. Watch some television.
If you love working out at home to fitness videos, you can get a similar workout in your room. Many hotel pay-per-view systems now offer exercise programs on their menus. And upscale hotel chains often have DVD players for guest rooms, so you can bring your own workout videos from home. Some hotels also offer radio channels on their televisions. Just crank up the music and dance around the room or jump on the bed like a maniac to get your heart rate up.
9.Surf the Internet.
There are some great Web sites that offer a ton of information for fitness-minded travelers. The Healthy Travel Network has some really interesting articles on staying fit while traveling. Exercise Friends lets you search for workout buddies by activity and ZIP code, so you can hook up with a partner at your destination before you leave home. And the Athletic-Minded Traveler Web site is terrific. Pick your destination city, and then use the site to research which hotels have the best fitness centers, which restaurants offer healthy fare, which local gym is closest to your hotel and even which nearby stores sell fitness gear. You'll have to pay a low subscription fee to fully search the site, but the collection of information here is priceless.
So never let me hear you say it's too hard or too inconvenient to work out when you're traveling. I don't care if your hotel is large or small, five-star or basic. Moving your butt is free and easy!
Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties — from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. or on Tripso.com.