When I'm packing for a business trip, the first things in my suitcase are my running shoes. I like running because it clears my head and keeps me in shape, but I also like it because I can do it anywhere, at anytime – no fancy equipment required. It’s also a great way to explore a new city (although I’ll be honest – I do prefer a treadmill in the colder months, and I try to make sure my hotels have a decent gym).
I know it isn’t for everyone, though, and if you’re not a runner, you might have a tougher time grabbing a workout on the road. But it doesn’t have to be impossible, or expensive. Here are a few tips:
- Plan in advance. If you're lucky enough to be a member of a chain of gyms, they may have a location in your travel area. Double check to be sure it's free (or at least reasonable) with your membership and give it a try. If this is not the case, pack a few small items that will help you make the most of the hotel’s gym, or get a workout in your room. First of all, the aforementioned sneakers, as well as some exercise clothes (tip: these can very often double as pajamas the night before your workout). You might also stick some DVDs in your suitcase with the intention of playing them on your laptop. (Or download your favorite so that no DVDs are required.) Look for Pilates or yoga, because they won’t require weights or other equipment, and a hotel towel can double as your mat. Resistance bands, if you have them (inexpensive if you don't) are good weight training tools and very packable.
- Use your body weight. Mark Lauren, the author of You Are Your Own Gym, which will be published by Ballantine in January 2011, says all you really need is a little floor space. “With a little bit of creativity, common items that can be found in any hotel room will allow you to get a total body workout while on the road.” A couple of his suggestions: Use two chairs with the backs facing each other to do dips, and turn a hotel room desk into a rowing machine by laying on your back underneath it and pulling yourself up until your sternum touches the underside of the desk. You can also do crunches, push-ups, lunges and squats.
- Go for quality, not quantity. You may not have as much time to work out during a business trip, so make the time you do have count. Lauren says a long workout isn’t necessarily an effective workout, anyway. “Short, intense workouts also build great strength and cause your body to burn far more calories than normal for up to 36 hours after the completion of the workout.” In other words, 20 minutes of high intensity exercise is likely more effective than an hour of lolling around on the elliptical. Try Lauren’s four minute workout: Do as many squats as you can in 20 seconds before resting for 10 seconds, then repeat, for a total of eight rounds.
- Beat the crowds. One of the biggest issues with hotel gyms, in my experience, is that they’re always packed in the morning, and I rarely have time to wait for a treadmill. So try to visit the gym when other people don’t: Maybe during an afternoon break in meetings, at lunch or in the evening when most people are at dinner.
- Stay moving. You can burn a lot of calories just by being on your feet, so walk to your business meetings from the hotel if that’s an option (if it’s too far, have the taxi drop you off a few blocks away, or get off the subway a stop or two early). And put the airport downtime to good use by doing “laps” around the terminal. It doesn’t seem like much, but as with money, every little bit adds up.
Jean Chatzky, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, is the financial editor for NBC's "Today," a contributing editor for More magazine, and a columnist for The New York Daily News. She is the author of six books, including her newest, Money 911: Your Most Pressing Money Questions Answered, Your Money Emergencies Solved. Check out Jean's blog at JeanChatzky.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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