10 Hotel Room Exercises That Will Keep You At Your Best Whilst Travelling
Staying fit, strong and healthy whilst travelling is always a challenge. You sit for long periods, your diet goes out the window and the combination of lack of time and fatigue put paid to even the best intentions. If you did take your kit with you to use in the hotel gym, it often travels back unused as you simply ‘didn’t have time to go to the gym’.
The key is to keep it short and sweet using nothing but the stuff that’s already around you in your room. Here are 10 simple things that will keep you at your best physically and mentally.
1. What - Wake-up Torso Twist
Why - Sleeping in a hotel bed often takes it’s toll on the back and shoulders - especially as it’s often more restless - so this gently opens up the lower back whilst stretching the hips and shoulders. Best done whilst relaxed so after you wake up.
How - It doesn’t get much easier! Before you get up, lie on your back and put your right arm out straight to the side, palm up. Bend your right knee up. Now slowly twist your hips to the left so your right knee ends up touching the bed to the left of you. Try and keep your right shoulder down the whole time. Breathe deep and slow, letting your lower back relax as you exhale. After 5 deep breaths, reverse it to the other side (remembering to keep the left shoulder down this time).
2. What - Dynamic Swings
Why - Staying in any fixed position for hours - such as a long flight or sleeping - causes your joints to lose their lubrication and stiffen up. You end up walking around the place like a mummy with a bad back. It’s time to mobilise the joints again, whilst opening out and warming up the muscles.
How - Stand up straight next to a chair or near a wall for support, tighten your tummy and start to swing one leg, gradually kicking higher as you go. After 15 swings, switch sides. Then, keeping the same posture, put your arms out straight in front of you, keep them straight as you swing them back to open up your chest and shoulders, then back to the front again as if you were doing a big clap at arms length. Repeat this action 20 times, keeping your shoulders down throughout.
3. What - Bed Planks
Why - Activating and working those deep core muscles will not only help prevent back ache but also improve your posture - so you can walk tall into that important meeting!
How - Get back on the bed, tummy down, up on your forearms and toes. Tighten your tummy by pulling your bellybutton in towards your spine, then slowly lift your hips up off the bed so that just your forearms, knees and toes are the only bits in contact with the bed. If this position is comfortable enough then you can bring your knees up off the bed as well, forming a nice straight line through your back, hips and legs. Hold for 20 slow breaths, then gradually lower knees and hips back down again.
4. What - Luggage Squats
Why - Squatting is one of the best exercises for working multiple joints and muscles at the same time, especially those important leg, glute (backside) and back muscles. Not only does it save time as it moves pretty much the whole body at once, but it can also be done in the limited space of even the smallest Paris hotel room.
How - Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and tighten the core muscles again. Keeping your back straight, start to bend at the hips as if you were sitting back and down. Transfer a bit of body-weight back to the heels as you go down then drive back up through the hips. Depending on your ability you can simply squat down to the level of a chair or, to advance it you can add some weight by holding a small to medium travel case to your chest throughout or even held high overhead. Remember to keep that back straight and tummy engaged. 12 to 15 repetitions should get those thighs nicely warmed.
5. What - Bed Push Ups
Why - Like the squat, this is a great exercise for hitting many muscle groups at once, but with more emphasis on the arms, chest and upper body. It can also be done in a small space and can be easily tailored depending on your ability level.
How - This can be done either fully on the floor, or with part of your body up on the bed. Similar start position to the plank except this time you’re up on your hands, with hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping core tight and back straight, as always, start to lower your chest down by bending at elbows. Breathe in as you lower down, exhale as you push up. To start with you might want to keep your knees down in contact with the floor or bed, at a more advanced level - keep just your toes up on the bed (or chair) with hands on the floor. Do 10 to 12 controlled repetitions.
6. What - Anti-Sit Glute Bridge
Why - We all spend far too long in the seated position and none more so than when travelling. Planes, taxis, meetings, dinners, sit, sit, sit… One of the several issues this causes are weak and inactive gluteal muscles - these are the muscles in your backside that, all too often are compensated for by those overworked lower back muscles. Strong glutes can help overcome back problems and improve all-round posture. In addition, the seated position can shorten and tighten the hip flexors at the front of your hips, causing an unhealthy tilt of the pelvis (bad back central again). This exercise helps improve both these areas.
How - Lie on your back on the floor. If you’ve got nice carpet, great, alternatively you may want to lie on a towel for extra comfort. Bend your knees up so that you bring your feet back close to your bottom. Lift your toes so you’re basically up on your heels. Now raise your hips up off the floor by using your glutes. Squeeze them as tight as you can at the top as if you were really pushing your hip bones up to the ceiling. Then slowly lower until just above the floor and raise back up again. Repeat 20 times, making sure your glutes do the lifting (rather than your back).
7. What - Flexing Heel Taps
Why - When your stomach muscles are switched off you’ll end up slouching in your meeting chair, so this one works the front and side muscles whilst limbering up your spine with some side-flexing action.
How - Stay in the same start position as you did for the Glute Bridge but with feet flat on the floor. Curl yourself up into a ‘crunch’ position so that just your head and top part of your shoulders are off the ground. Keep your head as upright as you can with chin tucked down and arms straight by your sides. Now flex to one side so that you can touch your heel with your hand, then flex to the other side to tap the other heel. Keep flexing from side to side, tapping those heels 30 times.
8. What - Child's Pose Stretch
Why - Stretching relieves stress and tension and this one nicely opens out your back and allows you to relaxes those big muscle groups. Oh and everyone likes to curl up into a ball sometimes :-)
How - Roll over onto your knees and lie down with your legs folded under you. Similar to curling up into a ball but this time you’re going to reach your arms out on the floor in front of you. Keep
your hips back and down over your heels as you slowly creep your hands out in front, letting the shoulders relax as you exhale. Slow deep relaxed breathing is a must. Hold for at least 10 deep breaths.
9. What - Hamstring Towel Stretch
Why - Calf muscles get very tight from lots of walking or standing (especially if you’ve been wearing those killer heels!) and hamstrings get short and tight from, yep, sitting for long periods.
How - Sit upright on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Get a towel folded lengthwise - the longer the better - and hook it around the balls of your feet. Now, gripping the towel near to your feet, gently pull the towel back so that your feet flex up towards you. Keep your knees down flat so that you feel a nice deep stretch along the back of your legs. Let your back relax too as you hold this for 15 deep breaths.
10. What - Shoulder Towel Stretch
Why - Nothing tightens up the shoulders and neck better than a few hours hunched over a laptop. You’re so focused on that email that you don’t even notice you’ve got your shoulders up round your ears whilst your head stoops forwards. Time to loosen them up with your trusty towel.
How - Holding the towel in one hand, reach it up, over and behind your head so that it dangles down level with your spine. Reach your other hand around your back so that you can grab hold of the towel as high up as you can. Now alternate between gently pulling the towel up with your top hand, holding for 10 seconds then relaxing before gently pulling down with your lower hand. One shoulder gets stretched in one direction, the other in another. Do this 3 times, then switch it round and repeat.
Repeat 3 to 7 a couple of times, before easing into the stretches at the end. Remember to keep drinking plenty of water too!
Article by Graham Sears, GATE8 buddy & Fitness Expert at Halo Health