Hotel room workout: Stay fit with what you have

Can’t get to a real workout room to strengthen and tone? No worries. You can do a pretty good job maintaining fitness with a hotel room workout that uses what you have in the room and in your luggage.

A hotel room workout just takes a little imagination. Think about each exercise you may normally do and then get creative with your own hotel room exercise routine mimicking its motions, using everything from your luggage to water bottles filled with water to chairs to even toilets!

Certainly you can always perform basic exercise basics that require no equipment: Your hotel room workout can be rounded out, for example, with pushups, crunches, yoga warrior poses, cobra back extensions or any number of non-equipment-based exercises. Perhaps just lay a towel on the floor – and do keep your face out of the carpet!

We suggest you make a list to follow when you are in your hotel room so you don’t stand there brain-dead in a strange surrounding — yes, we have done that ourselves.

HI Travel Tales has put together a few ideas for you to try out or incorporate into your hotel room workout. Refer to your normal workout routine for numbers of repetitions.

One piece of equipment we mentioned in a January 2014 story, “Travel fitness advice: packing, clothes and gear” was a simple rubber resistance band. No, it may not offer body-builders their workout equivalent but it offers great basic resistance. The key is that the shorter you make the band – i.e. the closer together (or farther from the ends) your hands are – the more the resistance you get. Remember, for safety, to check the band for any tears or snags before every use, try not to leave it in a hot place, and do not stare at it during exercise — if there is a snap because it breaks or you did not hold onto it securely enough you don’t want an end smacking you in the face.

All the normal safety precautions apply during your hotel room workout, including ensuring you’re healthy enough to perform the exercises – please check with your doctor or medical professional before trying any workout or exercise described in this article or website. Like with any workout regimen, remember to support your back by tightening your abdominals during exercises, keep your chest lifted and open, breathe, and relax your shoulders … and don’t overdo it!

Assuming your doctor has given the go-ahead, let’s start your hotel room workout!

Hotel Room Workout – Upper body


You can do them on the floor or try a slightly easier version by putting your hands on a bed or other stable platform.

Hotel Room Workout Pushup

Make pushups harder but putting your head lower by resting feet on the higher platform.

Hotel Room Workout Harder Pushup

Back #1

For rows, wrap that resistance band around a table leg or other firm object. Sit on the floor (or on a chair if the wrap point is higher). Keep your back straight and pull back either with elbows tucked in.

Hotel Room Workout With Resistance Band

Back #2

You think your duffle or suitcase is heavy? Then use it for a weight — as long as it is not too heavy or bulky! Lean over slightly, keeping your back flat and abdominals tightened while supporting yourself with a hand on the wall, a chair or other stable object. Lift your bag up off the floor, keeping elbow tucked in. Pull the elbow back enough so you feel your mid-back muscles engage.

Hotel Room Workout Back Strengthen With Luggage


Do a press by basically facing the opposite direction as in the back row with the resistance band, above. With your back toward the band’s anchor point (instead of facing it), push out with your hands away from your chest.


Reverse dips just need two stable objects. Try both double beds in a room – or even the bathroom if the objects are spaced correctly! A bathtub or toilet isn’t going anywhere!

Hotel Room Workout Triceps


Use that suitcase for a weight again — but don’t overdo it! Bicep curls are a great way to do that! Keep your elbow tucked in as you raise your hand toward your chest, moving only your forearm. Elbow and upper arm should stay locked in place.

Hotel Room Workout Biceps Curls

Hotel Room Workout – Lower body

Squat #1

With your back to a wall a foot or so away, lean back against the wall and then slide down until your upper legs are as close to parallel as you can comfortably get. Tighten abs to support your back and keep chest and head lifted. You can place a firm plastic bottle or a folded towel behind your back to facilitate the slide up and down.

Hotel Room Workout Squats

Squat #2

Need more resistance? Hug your suitcase against your chest. Standing in front of a chair, bed or other stable object, lower your buttocks toward the chair as if you were going to sit down – but don’t! Go as low as you comfortably can while keeping your knees behind an imaginary line that goes straight up from your toes to the ceiling. Glutes and abs tight, and avoid slouching or sagging your chest downward.

Hotel room workout squats with luggage

That’s just the beginning! But even these will give you a good workout.

Travel fitness advice: Packing, clothes and gear

What you pack along will have a huge impact on whether you workout or how comfortable you are when you do. A friend of mine used to always have a just-in-case workout bag in his trunk “just in case a workout broke out,” he’d say. And that’s our travel fitness advice too. If you aren’t prepared, you won’t get your healthy fix in.

Travel Fitness Advice Luggage

Seriously, you need to pack to workout when you travel,…but, OK, not like this.

As a part of HI Travel Tales’ everlasting advocacy of staying fit, we’ve already talked about how to wisely cut back and adapt to maintain fitness. Plus we have addressed planning ahead as a part of our travel fitness tips.

Now it’s time to pack your bag. The first bit of travel fitness advice we’ll offer is to never assume you will NOT be able to get in a workout of some kind, be that running, walking, hiking, lifting weights, cycling, swimming or whatever you choose. If you do get the opportunity, you will most certainly kick yourself (and that doesn’t count as exercise) if you don’t have the right apparel, gear and shoes with you – or something that will do.

Travel fitness advice: Think multifunctional, cross-over use

When it comes to apparel, a light fleece you may wear around town as a sweater may fit the bill for a hike or quick run if the weather is chillier than expected.

Some socks can be worn as day wear then turned into a running sock the next day before needing a wash – but be sure you try this first at home. We’ve packed socks we thought would be perfect for multiuse wear, only to find they take forever to hang dry once they get wet from sweat or after a wash.

Merino wool or wool blend tops, such as from Icebreaker, Smartwool, or Supernatural, can often be worn as regular tops, then also for a workout before needing to be laundered. In fact, we have some of these types of tops that can literally be worn for numerous consecutive sweaty workouts before needing a wash – just hang dry after each workout. (Sssh, we’ve even gone a week without hitting the laundry!)

Shoes can multitask too and often must since they are typically some of the bulkier and heavier items in  your luggage. Choose footwear that can pass as casual around-town wear and function for your workout fun. Combination walking and multi-sport shoes from Ahnu, Lowa, Asolo, Merrell , Salewa, The North Face or one of your favorite brands will work very well. New technical materials dry quickly and have odor-resistant properties too. Hike in them, bike in them, jog in them (most aren’t meant for serious running but will do in a pinch) and then wear them out to dinner.

Travel Fitness Advice multifunction clothing

Wool top for everyday and bike wear? Check. Shoes that can be worn around town and for running or biking? Check. Socks that can be rinsed out overnight and worn to a museum tomorrow? Check. Small daypack for urban schlepping and workout hydration? Check.

Sometimes, packing along your running shoes is the only way to go. If they are new enough, you can often wear them for all but the most formal occasions (preferably not in glaring white or neon colors). However, we also always pack along an extra pair of light sandals or other lightweight shoes to change into if our running shoes just get too damp and funky.

Other ideas: Shorts can double as a swimsuit. Super lightweight cycle short liners can be worn UNDER your other shorts or pants.

Pack “blinkie lights” (Nite Ize has oodles of great ones) and reflectors (Nathan Sports has a great line of visibility gear) if you may end up on the streets before dawn or after sunset. They take no room in a carry-on or suitcase and add a degree of necessary safety in unknown areas. Making sure your apparel or fleece has reflective piping or is lighter colored too.

Travel fitness advice: business meetings and conferences

Keep a pair of walking/running shoes or a simple set of workout clothes in your briefcase or carry an extra bag (Sea to Summit has super packable totes no larger than your fist you can unfurl at your destination for additional tote space). You never know if you’ll be able to skip a meeting or lunch one day — and you will be  more likely to if you plan for it.

Make sure you’ve packed gear that will do for indoors or outdoors, as well as the weather you’ll face. If you usually train inside realize you might need to head outdoors or if you are a devoted outdoor fitness enthusiast, know you might just have to get your workout done indoors. The HI Travel Tales team knows an indoor hotel workout room — or even our hotel room — can serve for a quick workout in time crunches.

Travel fitness advice: Pack for indoor workouts

Make sure you’ve updated your music playlist with up-tempo workout. An extra 15 minutes in your day can mean pushups, jumping jacks and even dancing (nobody is looking!) in your hotel room. Music has saved her life a time or two in a claustrophobic hotel fitness room too.

How about all those apps that guide you through workouts, from yoga to strength to stretching? Click on that for your indoor workout. But download and experiment prior to departure.

Don’t forget exercise tubing or resistance bands (Try gear from Spri, Fitterfirst or GoFit) for working your muscles. They squish into the tiniest, lightest bundles and unfurl into an entire weight-lifting gym – if you know what to do and how to use them. Use those and furniture in your room or benches and curbs you find in a city park, and you will have a workout at your fingertips.

Travel Fitness Advice stretch band

A resistance band, like the Theraband pictured here, takes up little to no room in your luggage and provides quick and effective stretching and strength workouts in a hotel room using only the leg of a heavy chair , desk, or a door jam.

How about taking a jump rope for a stationary aerobic workout?

Travel fitness advice: Prep for outdoor workouts

Yes, digital maps are great but sometimes a photocopy of a map tucked in a hand, belt or pocket can be a lot easier to glance at. Do a little research before you go and then print out and pack along your own paper maps since hotel maps are most often the epitome of useless – only showing main streets and restaurants. YOU want to be able to find your way through residential neighborhoods or know what the best way is to the local park or bike path!

Safety first: Always, always carry ID. If you are not in your hometown, make sure to also carry a note with the name of your hotel and an emergency contact.

Don’t forget our two other travel fitness tips stories: how to wisely cut back and adapt to maintain fitness and planning ahead with lodging and travel.

Pack right, be creative, and you won’t come home from a holiday or business trip moaning about losing all your hard-won conditioning or falling off the workout wagon.

Travel fitness tips: Plan ahead to stay on track

Once your trip is planned and you’re thinking about how you can cut back wisely (per the advice in our article “Travel fitness tips: You can stay fit if you adapt”), it’s time to start plotting. Should we say planning? Nah, plotting. It’s time to “plot” hotels, tours, sightseeing, travel departure times and all that other stuff so it doesn’t make fitting in even a short workout totally impossible.

This could be the most important part of your preparation to staying fit while traveling. You’ll need a few minutes with a calendar and your schedule while on the road. But also take some time for a few Internet searches, online map study time, and perhaps even an archaic phone call or two.

Travel Fitness Tips Biking

Therese found a bike shop near her hotel in France and jumped at the chance to get in a quick ride instead of a run for a workout and some sightseeing — pausing here for a sans-helmet break. If it’s a choice between running or biking, Michael, the “he” of HI Travel Tales, most always opts for a bike.

Knowing in advance what you’ll confront when you get there will help you work fitness into your day. What follows are some travel fitness tips that have kept our fitness guru, Therese Iknoian, the “She” of HI Travel Tales, sane and fit over decades of worldwide travel:

Travel fitness tips: lodging and hotels

Travel Fitness Tips Hurtigruten Workout Room

Some careful sleuthing helped us determine the Hurtigruten Midnatsol ship had an adequate (though old) workout room with a heckuva view!

  • Call the hotel before you leave to find out if it has a reasonable fitness center or pool and its hours. But don’t stop there: Make sure you ask what’s in the center because some hotel fitness centers are filled with junk not worth the iron they’re made of. Why make an archaic call? Because sometimes online photos of fitness rooms aren’t realistic. It’s easy to be tricked by mirrors and fish-eye lenses that make rooms and pools look bigger and fuller than they are.
  • Also, ask if the hotel has an agreement with a nearby gym for guests’ workouts and whether there is a fee. This is often on a hotel’s website too – but not always. Sometimes clubs have a one-time or one-week guest pass on the web you can take advantage of.
  • If you are a member of a club at home, ask about travel programs. Some have trade agreements with clubs in other areas. You may just need a special pass, such as with IHRSA’s passport program.
  • Check out some hotel chains that tend to do a good job, such as the Kimpton boutique chain (which offers yoga gear baskets for in-room sessions) or Hilton and Hyatt hotels. Of course, higher-end chains like Four Seasons and many resorts will have these facilities – you get what you pay for.
  • Choose hotels that are near places where you can workout easily. If you plan a 2- or 3-mile walk and you are staying a mile from any place decently walkable, you won’t be very motivated. I have favorite areas in a number of cities around the world because I can be in parks or on trails in minutes, allowing me to get in the quickest workout where most of it is actually pleasant. Sometimes large cities (like Paris or Los Angeles) can be difficult if you like to hit the streets (and we both hate dodging traffic). For example, in Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg is a magnet for fitness enthusiasts – choose a hotel nearby.
  • If you are a swimmer, make sure your choice of lodging has a pool – oh, and it’s not closed for cleaning! It’s happened….
  • And if you are into biking (as is Michael Hodgson, the “He” of HI Travel Tales) it pays to know where you can rent a bike near the hotel and if they also rent helmets before you arrive. Some hotels have bikes you can borrow too. Or check out the growing number of city bike rental programs with pick-up and drop-off stations in key neighborhoods.

Travel fitness tips: city maps, local stores, regional information

Travel Fitness Tips dont walk here

A little careful planning will help you avoid surprises, like finding a “stay off the grass” notice in the park you were planning to run through.

  • Study online maps of the city you’ll visit before you leave to find parks, recreation areas, fitness trails, community pools, or even quiet neighborhoods close to where you’ll be staying so you know where you can go. Look for green splotches on maps, or do a search on a community parks websites for maps and advice. You’ll be surprised how little hotel staff knows about an area. Even in concrete-paved, hotel-packed Orlando near Walt Disney World, there are a surprising number of dirt roads through old swamplands behind hotels – if you take the time to open your eyes.
  • Contact a local running store or fitness club in the city where you’re going before you leave to find out about either group runs or walks, or recommended recreation trails, tracks, or neighborhoods. Always ask about safety too.
  • Check newspapers or the Internet to pinpoint sunrise and sunset so you can better plan your time. Even from one end of the West Coast to the other, you might have an extra 30 minutes at one end of the day you hadn’t planned on.
  • Also check newspapers or the Internet for the weather forecast so you can pack the right clothes. Today’s packable, lightweight jackets, fleeces, hats and gloves often don’t take a second thought since they take no space. (We’ll talk more about the kinds of things to pack in another story.)

Travel fitness tips for airports and travel:

  • Caught on a layover at an airport? Find lockers (if possible these days), stash your bag, and head out on a brisk walk along endless corridors. Some airports these days in bigger cities even have yoga studios and small gyms or nearby trails you can access during layovers. No lockers? Switch off with a traveling companion for a brisk walk or, if you have lots of time, go to the nearby airport hotel and check your bag.
  • The American Heart Association even has a portal where you can access information about airport paths.  Just choose “airports” and the state for more information (albeit still somewhat limited).
  • If possible, plan departures mid-day so you can fit in a morning workout before leaving, or try to arrive early enough in the day to do the same once at your destination.

Travel fitness tips: Business trips don’t have to be the pits

travel fitness tips you can if you cut back

  • Mention to associates that you’re trying to fit in a workout. You might be surprised to find someone there has the same wish. You two can get a workout together instead of “doing lunch,” or a local person might take you to the gym.
  • Size up your agenda before you leave (or as soon as you’re there) and mark in your fitness “appointments” with yourself.
  • Some conference hotels have gyms and pools that conference attendees can use even if they aren’t guests there. Just ask!
  • Consider skipping a lunch or breakfast for your workout. Just be sure to have some snacks handy for a quick bite afterward. I was at a meeting in Crystal City near Washington, D.C., and found a delightful recreation trail that is used more for bike commuters. I had to discover it on a map because the hotel staff didn’t have much of a clue.

Travel fitness tips for family vacations:

  • Look for chances to rent bikes, skates, or paddle boats. Or make a brisk hike, or a long tag game, part of the family’s schedule. That counts as exercise too!

If you haven’t read it yet, check out one of our other stories on travel fitness tips, “Travel fitness tips: You can stay fit if you adapt.”

Travel fitness tips: You can stay fit if you adapt

Whether you’re a frequent business traveler or heading out on a family vacation, don’t fall prey to the belief that travel has to be a devastating departure from your fitness routine. Staying fit while traveling isn’t as difficult as you may think. HI Travel Tales has a few travel fitness tips. Because we manage to fit in fitness. It just takes a few adjustments to your workout regimen.

travel fitness tips you can if you cut back

The key to taking workouts on the road successfully is, one, not letting the travel control you and, two, learning to be flexible. A little planning before you pack your briefcase or travel duffel goes a long way toward avoiding frustration plus setbacks in your hard-earned fitness. And some fitness routines can be a fantastic way to sight see or have fun with the family or your significant other, too.

To return a happy camper, remember HI Travel Tales’ four travel fitness tips:

  1. Cut back
  2. Plan ahead
  3. Pack right
  4. Travel smart

In this story, we’ll address the No. 1 principle: cut back. As fitness-aholics, we too have to get used to the idea that cutting back (smartly) is OK. And that’s why we’ll address cutting back before planning ahead. Because you may have to think about the cutting back as a part of your planning! Indeed, this may take mental willpower, flexibility on your part, and a bit of cooperation from your travel companions.

Don’t panic if you can’t get to the gym or a workout as often as you do at home. Research shows you can reduce the frequency and length of your cardio workouts by one- to two-thirds if you maintain the intensity. That is, something (done right) is better than nothing.

Travel fitness tips – Cut back, but how often?

If you normally workout every other day, i.e. 3-4 days a week, aim for every third day, or 2-3 days a week. Heck, even two days will be, as we said, better than nothing.

Travel fitness tips – Cut back, but how long?

If you’re caught in a traveler’s time crunch, don’t fret if you can’t get in a 30- or 45-minute aerobic workout. Make it 15 or 20 minutes. Even 10 minutes is better than heading to the buffet. Yes, better than nothing.

Travel fitness tips – Cut back, but how hard?

Here’s the key to maintaining your condition even when you’re forced to cut back: Don’t dawdle about on those workouts. Those shorter, less frequent workouts need to be at least at the same intensity as you manage at home. In other words, keep up the intensity during nearly every workout since you’ll only be doing them every second or third day.

Travel fitness tips – For strength workouts, try to do a workout once a week for maintenance while you’re gone. These workouts are just to keep what you have, not to get stronger or more beefed up. Look for other HI Travel Tales articles down the road about ways to incorporate short strength training into your day, as well as ways to train in a hotel room or city park. You really don’t need a room full of iron all the time.

Guess what? Follow these HI Travel Tales travel fitness tips, and you’ll come home in the same condition as before you left – even after a multi-week trip. Granted, you do have to avoid eating every new delicacy you find, doubling up on all those yummy pastries, or taking a third trip to the buffet. But that’s what you do anyway,… right?

HITT Tip: Remember, that not everybody on your trip may have the same agenda. Whether you are traveling à deux or with the family or a group, another of our important travel fitness tips is that you need to have regard for others’ needs while not neglecting yours. At HI Travel Tales, sometimes he decides to sit in a café and draw while she heads for the hills for a run. And sometimes she has to be OK knowing a brisk walk can also be a great maintenance workout – especially if they are doing it together.


Walking equal to running for health gains, per latest study

Walking equal to running for health benefitsA study from the American Heart Association released in early 2013 found that walking equal to running when it comes to lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. In addition, the more people walked or ran each week, the more gains they experience in health benefits.

This is what the AHA said in its April 4, 2013, statement:

Walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running can, according to surprising findings reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study. They found that the same energy used for moderate intensity walking and vigorous intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease over the study’s six years.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said Paul T. Williams, Ph.D., the study’s principal author and staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkeley, Calif.

Unlike previous studies, the researchers assessed walking and running expenditure by distance, not by time. Participants provided activity data by responding to questionnaires.

“The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable,” Williams said.

Comparing energy expenditure to self-reported, physician-diagnosed incident hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and coronary heart disease, researchers found:

  • Running significantly reduced risk for first-time hypertension 4.2 percent and walking reduced risk 7.2 percent.
  • Running reduced first-time high cholesterol 4.3 percent and walking 7 percent.
  • Running reduced first-time diabetes 12.1 percent compared to 12.3 percent for walking.
  • Running reduced coronary heart disease 4.5 percent compared to 9.3 percent for walking.

“Walking may be a more sustainable activity for some people when compared to running, however, those who choose running end up exercising twice as much as those that choose walking. This is probably because they can do twice as much in an hour,” Williams said.

Study participants were 18 to 80 years old, clustered in their 40s and 50s. Men represented 21 percent of the walkers and 51.4 percent of the runners.

“People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise, but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health,” Williams said.

Co-author is Paul D. Thompson, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study.

For more information on how to increase your level of physical activity, follow the American Heart Association’s Get Moving: Easy tips to get active.