When I travel, I will take advantage of the hotel’s gym, if there is one. But most of the time, there isn’t. Or the hotel gym is a creepy place in the bowels of the building. Or I’m just feeling too shy. Or something. I can usually count on walking like a maniac to get my bearings in a new city. But if there isn’t time, or the weather hasn’t been hospitable and I can’t get out for a walk or a jog, I know I can at least do strength work.
Now, I can always work harder to get in my cardio. There’s usually a staircase to climb, a nearby mall I could walk in, a video workout to play. I could just turn on the radio and dance. It’s not that hard to exercise if you are determined to, but it’s always easy to make excuses when you’re tired and road weary.
I travel with a no-excuses travel gym that takes up no real space in my backpack or suitcase. The whole outfit is an elastic tube formed into a ring, a small, 12-inch Pilates ball, and a blue Theraband. I blow up the ball, pull out my ring and band and am ready for a serious strength workout that will complement my walk, or assuage my guilt if I didn’t walk at all.
Then I do whatever exercises I can in whatever space I have to work with. What follow are exercises we can do even in that narrow stretch of carpet between the bed and the bureau.
I usually put down a towel for these exercises, if the room has been well used.
Especially when push-ups are too hard, try a simple plank pose. This is the beginning standard pushup posture, up on your toes and the palms of your hands, your arms straight, your neck straight and neutral, eyes a bit ahead of you, body one firm, straight board, bum down. Hence the name – you become a plank. Try holding this posture from 30 seconds to a minute or two, letting first one then the other knee down for little rests as you increase your time. You’ll note what’s working is your shoulders, your arms, sure, but also your lats, your abdominals, your glutes, hamstrings, quads — pretty much everything. It’s an amazing exercise. Don’t be tempted to let your head hang here. Keep it straight, your neck aligning with your spine.
Pushups Standard and Pilates
Try standard pushups, with your elbows poking outward. Then try Pilates pushups, your elbows pulled in tightly to your ribs, fingers pointing straight out ahead of you, lowering slowly by folding up your arms, and then pushing out again. Careful, these are tough.
Pull up the desk chair if it’s really firm, or work from the edge of your bed. Sit on the very edge, your feet flat on the ground. Place the heels of your hands firmly on either side of or just under your hipbones, fingertips gripping the edge of your seat. Push your bottom out over the edge, then bend your elbows to raise and lower your body, working your triceps, the muscles at the backs of your arms. Try a set of 10, a rest, then another set or two or three.
Hold the ring with both hands inside one hand facing the floor, the other facing the ceiling. Hold the ring steady down near your hips with the downward-facing hand, and perform biceps curls with the top hand, pulling against the ring. Try a set of 8, a rest, and then another set or two.
Hold the Pilates ball in front of you in both palms, arms straight but without locking the elbows, shoulders down, neck long, eyes directly in front of you. Squeeze the ball in short squeezes in 4/4 time, 8 squeezes with the ball at hip height, 8 squeezes with the ball at waist height, 8 squeezes with the ball at chest height, 8 squeezes with the ball at head height, 8 squeezes with the ball overhead. Work your way back down, ending at hip height.
Place the Pilates ball against your right hip, holding the ball with your right wrist, right arm straight, but not locked. Squeeze the ball in by engaging your lats, abdominals, arm and shoulder, release, squeeze, release, repeat 10 times, rest, 10 times more, then switch sides.
Band Shoulder Crunches
Stand on one end of the theraband, and wind the other around your right hand. Get a healthy amount of tension, and then raise and lower your arm directly out from your side, keeping tension on the band for the whole movement. 8 times, rest, 8 times more. Switch sides.
Wrap the Theraband around your shoulders and wind it around both hands. Punch your fists forward and then pull back, keeping your elbows in at your side for 10 counts. Rest. 10 counts more. Then alternate arms, 10 punches each side, twice.
Lie on your back, arms overhead with your ball between your hands. Raise your legs straight up to 90 degrees, and then lower them to 45 degrees. Keeping your legs where they are, if you can, raise your body up by curling up one vertebra at a time, keeping your arms and ball overhead. Place the ball between your ankles, and then slowly roll back, one vertebra at a time. Come up again, this time grabbing the ball from between your ankles before lowering back down. If this exercise is too hard, try it with your feet on the floor, and trade the ball from your hands to between your knees as you sit up and lie back. Repeat the trade as many times as you can with grace and a pretty little smile on your face.
Reverse Ball Crunch
Lie on your back with your legs at 90 degrees, your arms lying comfortably at your side. Place the ball between your ankles, and squeeze it in 4/4 time, 8 beats at 90 degrees, 8 beats while slowly lowering your legs to 45 degrees, 8 beats while raising the legs slowly back up to 90. Repeat three times if you can. It’s important to pull in your lower abdomen to paste your lower back to the floor during this entire exercise.
Side Ball and Ring
Lie on one side, propped up on your elbow, your other hand on the floor in front of your ribcage, to keep you stable. Place the ball between your feet. Lift your legs slightly so your lowest leg is an inch or two off of the floor. Squeeze the ball with straight legs, letting the squeezing action start at your bottom and inner thighs. Squeeze for 16 counts. Then replace the ball with the elastic ring, and pull the ring apart with both legs for 16 counts. Switch sides and repeat.
Stand with the ring around both your ankles. Bend at the knees in as deep a squat as is comfortable. Step to the right, and then pull the left foot in to tap the floor next to your right foot. Then step to the left, pulling your right foot in. One and then the other, working against the ring as you go, repeating 20 times.
Ball and Ring Beats
Lie on your stomach, hands folded in front of you, chin on your hands, ball between your ankles. Squeeze your bottom and raise your legs just enough to lift your feet and the ball from the floor. Keeping your legs straight with knees relaxed, squeeze the ball between ankles, beating for 50 beats. Rest by releasing the ball, and curling your back to stretch it up toward the ceiling. Then lie back down onto your stomach and trade the ball for the ring around your ankles. Lie back down and squeeze your legs apart against the ring for 50 beats. By keeping your stomach muscles and glutes very tight during the whole of this exercise, you should not place any strain on your lower back. If you find your lower back hurting, either squeeze your glutes more or omit this exercise.
There. You are a traveler of steel. Now, eat everything in the minibar. You deserve it, honey pie,
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