Categories: Food Travel

Best Hotel-Room Exercises

Woman bikes near Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico
Biking in Oaxaca

Eat Your World never tells you What to Eat without also telling you How to Burn It Off. But sometimes hiking and biking just doesn’t cut it, and we need more strength-building exercises in the mix. Of course, we rarely have access to a hotel gym and are often pressed for time when we travel. So we usually find ourselves doing push-ups and squats in our room—and there are hardly two more effective moves out there.

Now, we’re not official experts (more on this below), but we’ve spent a combined five decades in gyms—we both started pretty young!—and I, for one, have spent a few years perfecting the art of working out at home when I’m too lazy to ride the subway to the gym. It’s very easy to take the best body-weight moves on the road with you, and, no, you don’t have to time yourself if you don’t want to. Just put on some music or the TV, and get moving.  

Warm-up: Jumping-jacks, (fake) jump-rope, high knees (jogging in place and lifting your knees as high as you can)—whatever you prefer. Do some arm circles and torso-twisting to wake up your shoulders and core. Mostly you want to get your body warmed up by slowly raising your heart rate.

Here are your key moves. For most of them, try for three sets of 10 to 15, and feel free to mix and match them in any order. The point is to stay active for at least 20 minutes—it doesn’t really matter how, though a great way to burn calories is to switch off between high-intensity (when you’re really out of breath) and low-intensity (when you’re able to recover) moves. To do that, intersperse these moves with bursts of high-intensity cardio, like the ones suggested at the bottom of this post.

Man does pushups in a Buffalo, NY park
Pushups between wings in Buffalo, NY

Upper body and core

Pushups. The sooner you make friends with this move, the better, because it’s an incredible strengthener for your shoulders, chest, triceps, and core. Do them on your toes unless you’re really a beginner, in which case start out on your knees. Keep your body straight and your head in line with your torso (i.e., don’t lower your chin). For variation, experiment with different styles of pushup: wide-armed pushups to target your chest, close-armed pushups (thumbs and forefingers touching) for triceps, V-shape pushups (butt raised high in air, chin tucked) for shoulders.
Make it harder: Add some glute to the mix by doing one-legged pushups—just keep one leg raised straight up behind you.

Triceps dips. Sit with your legs bent and walk your feet out a bit. Raise your butt off the ground and then bend your arms straight up and down to target your tris. Also effective to do these off the edge of your bed or a chair in the room.
Make it harder: Keep on leg raised off the floor.

Supermans. Great for core strength—especially if you’re carrying a heavy backpack—and shoulders. Lie facedown on your bed, arms extended over your head, palms down, and toes pointed. Tighten your core and lift your legs and arms off the ground simultaneously, being careful to keep your neck relaxed (just keep looking down at the bed). Your back shouldn’t be arched, but you will feel this in your lower back. Hold the position for a few seconds before you slowly lower and repeat.
Make it harder: While you’re in the lifted position, add some shoulder squeezes: From your straight-arm position, bend both elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together, then re-straighten your arms. Again, keep your neck relaxed throughout.

Crunches, reverse crunches, bicycles. The holy trinity of basic ab moves. You know what a basic crunch is—most important thing is to protect your neck by keeping your chin off your chest and eyes on the ceiling, and remember to breathe (exhale on the crunch part). For the reverse crunch, to target lower abs, raise your legs up 90 degrees and lift your hips straight off the ground. Bicycles are incredible because they target all three ab groups: With your arms bent, fingertips lightly behind your ears, slowly bring one elbow to your opposite knee, keeping your shoulders and legs off the ground the whole time, and then repeat on the other side. Do 50 of each of these moves, and you’re good.

Three women perform a yoga move on the beach in Dominican Republic
Yoga with friends in the Dominican Republic

Lower body

Squats. The king of all leg exercises—so easy to hate, but they’re very effective for strengthening and toning your quads (front of thigh) and your glutes (butt). Keep your legs a little more than shoulder-width apart and be sure to sit back into it, just like you’re sitting on a chair.
Make it harder: Raise your arms over your head, or do one-legged squats: Stand on one leg and slowly lower yourself straight down, aiming to briefly touch the ground (for experienced people only).

Lunges. Also a quad killer. Stand with one leg a few feet in front of the other, and simply move straight up and down, taking care not to extend your front knee over your front foot.
Make it harder: Keep your arms up, or take these to the hallway and make ’em walking lunges.

Bridges/hip raises. One of the best glute and hamstring exercises you can do while also lowering your heart rate a bit. Lay flat with knees bent, arms at your side, and lift your hips straight up and down, going as high as you comfortably can and never resting your butt on the ground until you’re done with the set. Keep your core tight.
Make it harder: Do this one leg at a time—the same move, but raise one leg in the air.

Dead lift. Another great glute and hamstring exercise. It’s best performed with dumbbells, but you’ll get the burn without them. Good form is essential: Stand shoulder-width apart with your back very straight and, keeping it very straight, slowly lower your upper body so that you’re bent 90 degrees at the waist. (Keep your legs straight, but don’t lock your knees.) When you stand back up, squeeze your butt cheeks together.
Make it harder: Hold something weighted just in front of you, or do these on one leg at a time—same exact move, but keep one leg raised off the ground behind you.

Side-lying hip abductors. I love these because you can do them on the bed, in front of the TV! Lie on one side with your body straight and legs stacked. Bend your arm and rest your head on your hand (comfy, right?). Keeping your legs straight, raise your top leg off the ground as high as is comfortable, taking care not to twist your hips toward the ceiling (keep them straight, facing forward). Lower without resting, and repeat.
Make it harder: To target the inner rather than outer thighs, follow this move with an inner-leg raise. Bend your top leg and place your foot in front of your bottom-leg knee. Now lift and lower your bottom leg.

High-intensity cardio/strength bursts
Intersperse the moves above with 30 to 60 seconds of these to really make the most of your time.

Mountain climbers. From pushup/plank position, bend one knee and bring your foot up toward the middle of your hands, and then switch feet by jumping them to opposite positions. Keep switching feet as rapidly as you can, keeping your upper body straight and your core tight.
Jumping squats and/or lunges. Just what they sound like. Do your regular squat and explode up through your legs into a jump when you straighten up. Go back into another squat without pausing (keep it fluid). For lunges, same idea: From a lunge, jump straight up and reverse your leg position before you land into another lunge.
Burpees/squat thrusts. These suck, to be quite honest, but they’re fantastically effective. Start standing up, squat down and put your hands on the floor, jump your legs straight out behind you into plank position. Then jump your legs back in toward your hands and end with a standing jump, straight up. Back down you go, immediately. If you’re really nuts, you’ll do a pushup while you’re in plank position.
—It’s also OK to intersperse your strength routine with some basic cardio, like jumping-jacks or high knees.

**Keep in mind that we’re not licensed trainers, and everyone should consult a doctor before beginning a completely new workout routine, especially if you don’t exercise regularly or aren’t familiar with correct form.


Published On: August 14, 2012

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