• Photo for The Hotel Workout—Keep Fit on Vacation
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Hotel Workout—Keep Fit on Vacation

By RealJock Staff

If you're serious about your fitness regimen, you make sure you work out regularly no matter where you are. But let’s be honest—unless you’re hoping to meet some locals, spending time at a gym when you’re on vacation can be a major drag.

Helping to save you (and us) from such gym-going drudgery, we asked Mike Clausen, A.C.E., N.A.S.M., and co-founder of the award-winning DIAKADI Body Personal Training and Wellness Center in San Francisco, to come up with a short travel workout program that will keep your fitness intact while you travel without ever stepping into a gym. We call it the "hotel workout" because all of it can be done in even the smallest hotel room, but really you can do it just about anywhere.

"Your top priorities when vacationing should be to relax and enjoy yourself," says Clausen. "But that doesn't mean you can't maintain your fitness. Working out briefly every day will not only keep you in shape, it will also help alleviate stress so you can have even more fun the other 23-plus hours of your vacation day."

Clausen's program is a full-body circuit that focuses on maintaining strength and muscle mass while elevating your heart rate to keep up your cardiovascular fitness. You'll do the entire program in your hotel room, which will save you the time of finding and getting to a local gym. The program consists of a series of alternating upper and lower body exercises designed to give you maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time.

"Alternating your upper and lower body will keep your heart rate up," says Clausen. "This means you'll get a cardio workout while you strength train. Alternating upper and lower exercises will also allow you to keep moving while still providing a little bit of rest for each muscle group. That means you'll be able to pack more workout into a shorter period of time."

Notes on the Hotel Workout
Set aside 20 to 30 minutes everyday for your hotel workout. Yes, every day. Since you're not lifting heavy weights, you don't need to worry too much about muscle soreness or muscle breakdown. Your muscles will fully recover by the next day.

Find a free weight: Now for your props. Look around the room for something that weighs about 10 pounds and that you can hold easily in one or both hands. Be creative—a filled duffle bag, a laptop, a lamp base—just about anything you can lift will do.

One set, keep moving: When you do the workout, you'll do one set of each exercise and move quickly from exercise to exercise with little rest in between. Remember, you only have 20 to 30 minutes before you head outside to start your vacation day! The lack of rest will keep your heart rate up, and the variation between upper and lower body exercises will keep you from overtraining your muscles.

Extra credit cardio: If you have a full hour to work out, follow your 20- to 30-minute workout with 20 to 30 minutes of moderate outdoor cardio. Run on a trail or the streets, hike up into the hills, or swim in the pool. Keep your heart rate up and consistent for at least 20 minutes.

Add some resistance: If you're really serious about staying fit while on vacation, consider buying some high-quality resistance bands like the All Body Express from TRX. These resistance bands can be attached just about anywhere and will enable you to do just about any of the exercises below that require a weight much more effectively. At only $19.95, they're a total bargain.

Exercise (Gym Version) Muscles Reps (Goal) Hotel Modification
Chop Squats Legs, Shoulders 10 to 15 Hold your 10-pound weight in both hands. If you do not have anything to use as a weight, do the exercise with no weights.
Push-ups Chest, Triceps 15 - 20 If you can't do 15 push-ups on the floor, try elevated push-ups with your hands on the edge of the bathtub or countertop.
Full Situps Abdominals 20 to 25 Hook your feet under the bed for added stability. For added difficulty, hold the weight behind your head while do you the situps.
Same-Leg Lunges Legs 12 each leg Raising your arms above your head will work your arms and abs at the same time and also keep your heart rate up. Engage as many muscle groups as possible. For extra credit, do the lunges with your 10-pound weight (such as a duffle bag) held behind your head.
Tricep Dips Triceps 25 Use a chair, table, or the tub to support your arms. For an easier version, place your feet on the floor. For a more advanced version, bring in another chair and support your feet on that. For extra work, place your 10-pound weight in your lap.
Bicep Curls Biceps 20 Using your weighted duffle bag, do 20 bicep curls, holding the weight in both hands and bringing your arms up simultaneously. Keep your feet together; this will engage your core so that you get a good core workout at the same time.
Chop Squats Legs, Shoulders 10 to 15 Hold your 10-pound weight in both hands. If you do not have anything to use as a weight, do the exercise with no weights.
Incline and Decline Push-ups Chest 10 to 15 incline and decline Place your feet on the bathtub instead of a stability ball and do 10 to 15 push-ups, and then reverse position so that your feet are resting on the tub's edge and your hands are on the floor and do another 10 to 15 push-ups. If you can't do the push-ups, simply hold in the down position of the push-up for as long as you can. This will engage your muscles and help you build pectoral strength.
V Situps with Heels on Wall and Legs Straight Abdominals 20 to 25 Take your shoes off for this one so you don't tick off housecleaning. For a more advanced version, start out lying flat on your back and bring both legs and arms up simultaneously in a V shape.
Same-Leg Lunges Legs 12 each leg Raising your arms above your head will work your arms and abs at the same time and also keep your heart rate up. Engage as many muscle groups as possible. For extra credit, do the lunges with your 10-pound weight (such as a duffle bag) held behind your head.
POP Push-ups Chest, Shoulders, Core 10 to 15 Use the edge of the bathtub to do these push-off push-ups. For more difficulty (or if you don't have a tub in your room), do them on the floor.
Standing Row Back, Legs, Core 10 to 15 Instead of a barbell, you'll hold your 10-pound weight in both hands and pull the weight up to your chest. Engage your core to protect your back and your legs for stability.
Standing Shoulder Press Shoulders, Core 10 to 15 each arm If you have two equal-sized weights, press the weights simultaneously above you. If you only have one weight such as a duffle bag, do 10 to 15 single-arm shoulder presses with one arm, and then switch arms and repeat. Keep your feet together throughout the exercise to engage core. Press each weight up until it is fully extended above your shoulder, and then bring it over your head slightly to hit your front deltoid.
Chop Squats Legs, Shoulders 10 to 15 Hold your 10-pound weight in both hands. If you do not have anything to use as a weight, do the exercise with no weights.
Hand-to-Feet Weight Pass Abdominals 10 to 15 Use your 10-pound weight instead of a stability ball. Try to do 15; if you can't do it with the weight, do the exercise without any weights.
Hold Single-Arm Plank Chest 15 seconds each arm If the hold is too easy, try doing 15 one-armed push-ups on each side with your resting arm held against your side.

Exercise (Gym Version) Hotel Version Overview
Chop Squats Hold your 10-pound weight in two hands, with your fingers facing inwards. With your eyes facing forward, your back straight and your legs slightly bent, extend the weight out in front of you, parallel to the floor; do not lock your elbows. Slowly lower the weight. As both of your arms descend, squat your legs and touch the weight to the floor between your feet. This should be done in one fluid motion; practice until you can achieve that effect. Next, reverse the movement and begin to stand. As you stand, raise your arms in front of you and bring the weight back up to the level of your shoulders. Next, you move right into the diagonal chop. This exercise is similar to the center chop above, except that you move diagonally across your body from one side to the other. Lower your arms and the weight to the left of your body. As you lower the weight, pivot your body toward your left, drop your right knee, and pivot your right foot inwards. Your right heel will come off the floor. Bring the weight down to the height of the middle of your shin, or as low as you can go without breaking your form or losing your balance. When you have lowered the weight to the level of your mid-shin, reverse the movement and begin to stand, straightening your right leg and dropping your right heel to the floor. As you stand, bring the weight up in front of you to starting position. Next switch sides. When you have done one center dumbbell chop and press, and then the diagonal dumbbell chop and press on each side, you have completed one rep.
Push-ups Position yourself on the floor in a prone position (face down) with your legs together and extended straight behind you and your arms slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Support yourself on your toes and your hands, with your palms down on the ground. Your arms should be straight but without locked elbows. Your spine should be neutral with no arch. Slowly bend your arms and descend toward the floor. Keep your neck in line with your spine throughout the movement; do not jut your chin out towards the floor at the bottom of the movement. Stop when your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Reverse direction and push back up to the starting position. Do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement. Without pausing at the top, immediately descend into your next rep.
Full Situps Lie flat on a floor mat with your legs straight out in front of you, flat on the floor with your knees straight. Place your arms over your head flat on the floor behind you, palms facing up. From the starting position, lift your arms over your head in an arc and then follow with your upper body. Be sure to tuck your chin hard to your chest throughout the movement to prevent neck injury. Your arms will help propel your body through this movement. Touch your fingers to your toes, or as close to your toes as you can get, then reverse the movement and, again keeping your chin tucked, go back down to starting position. As soon as your back and arms are touching the ground, reverse the motion and start your second repetition.
Same-Leg Lunges Stand upright with your back and shoulders straight and your feet almost shoulder-width apart. Clasp your hands behind your head with your elbows in line with your shoulders. Next, step your right foot approximately two feet in front of you. Don't overdo the length of your step; keep your steps short enough to maintain control and balance. When your right foot is place, lunge forward with your right leg until you have a 90-degree bend in your right knee, staying light on your back foot. Your upper body and right knee should not move forward as you lower and raise your body. Make sure your right knee does not go beyond a 90-degree angle. Reverse direction and return to the starting position. To fully isolate your hamstring, glutes, and quad muscles, avoid putting any weight on your left leg as you come up from the lunge position. Perform a full set repeating with your right leg forward, and then turn switch legs and do a second set with your left leg forward.
Tricep Dips Sit on the edge of a chair or the bathtub with your hands at your sides holding the surface you're sitting on and your fingers facing away from you. For the less-advanced version, place your feet out in front of you with your legs straight. For a more-advanced version, place a chair about three feet in front of you and, with your legs slightly bent, rest your heels on the edge of the chair. Grip the tub or chair you are sitting on with your fingers. Next, engage your arms and lift yourself up so that you are being held up by your hands and your heels. Drop your body down to perform a triceps dip, making sure to keep your hips as close as possible to the surface your hands are resting on. Keep your elbows in throughout the movement. This will help focus the effort on the triceps and will prevent injury to the shoulders. Keep a tall posture through the movement; do not hunch over or drop your head. When you reach the bottom of the dip, reverse the motion and push your body back up to starting position. When you reach the starting position you have completed one repetition.
Bicep Curls Stand with feet together, abs engaged, and knees slightly bent. Hold your weight with palms facing inward; do not lock the elbows. Using a scooping motion, lift the weight toward the shoulders. Try to keep your elbows steady in a position that is slightly in front of your body. Continue the motion until your hands are up at your shoulders. Fully flex your bicep. Use your biceps to resist the force of gravity as you return toward the starting position. Do not allow your bicep to rest at top or bottom of movement.
Incline and Decline Push-ups Place both hands on a chair or on the edge of the bathtub and position your body in an elevated plank or push-up position, with your feet on the floor behind you and your back and your legs straight. Your abdominals should be held in so that your stomach does not dip, and your back should be flat so that your buttocks do not come up. Perform a push-up, lowering your chest until it touches the edge of the bathtub, and then press yourself back up. As you lower yourself, your elbows should come out to the side as you press down, and your shoulder blades should come together. After you have finished 10 to 15 push-ups with your hands on the tub's edge, reverse your position so that the tops of your shoes are resting on the tub's edge and your hands are on the floor. You will again be in the plank position, but with your head lower than your feet. Your shoe laces will be on the tub's edge; keep your toes pointed so that you avoid perching on the tub with your toes. Again perform a push-up, lowering your chest to the floor and pressing back up. Repeat for a total of 10 to 15 push-ups with your feet elevated.
V Situps with Heels on Wall and Legs Straight Lie on your back on the floor with your feet resting on a wall such that your legs are at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Flex your feet and rest only your heels on the wall. Your legs should be straight and your arms should be extended overhead. From the starting position, begin by bringing your arms up and forward as you tuck your chin down toward your chest. Engaging your abs and exhaling as you lift, bring your upper body off the floor as your arms come forward. Keeping your heels on the wall, try to touch your toes at the top of your lift. Slowly uncurl and lower your upper body back down to the floor, bringing your arms back overhead as you lower down. Keep your chin toward your chest until your shoulders are touching the floor.
POP Push-ups Stand in front of the hotel bathtub. Place your hands flat on the edge of the tub about shoulder-width apart and walk your feet back behind you until you achieve an elevated plank position, with your weight on your toes and hands, your back flat, and your shoulders directly over your hands. From the starting position, do a standard push-up, bending your elbows to lower your chest to the tub's edge while keeping your back flat and a straight line from the top of your head to your feet. Lower down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. From the bottom of the push-up, push up with fast and explosive power so that your hands momentarily come entirely off the bathtub at the top of the push-up. When your hands land back in the starting position, immediately descend into the next push-up. As you push up and descend, engage your core so that your hips never dip below level with your back. For a more advanced version of this exercise, or if your hotel room doesn't have a good bathtub, try the exercise on the floor. To perform the floor version of the exercise, do it exactly as you did on the bathtub, but use extra care to keep your center engaged to help you land lightly out of the pop-up; if you land heavily, or with your arms locked, you risk wrist injury.
Standing Rows Start in a modified squat position, with your body bent at the knees and hips, and your back flat. Your shoulders should be directly over your knees or only slightly in front them, and your upper body should be at an angle slightly less than 45 degrees. Hold your 10-pound weight in front of your body with your palms facing inward and your hands shoulder-width apart. Next, lift the weight up to your sternum by bringing your elbows back and your shoulder blades together for each rep. Keep your lower back and abs stable and engaged so that you maintain your back's normal arch; make sure your back doesn't become rounded. At the top of your range of motion, your elbows will be behind you and your shoulder blades contracted. From this position, lower the weight back to the starting position, keeping your back flat throughout.
Standing Shoulder Press Stand with your feet together and toes pointing forward. Engage your abs. Keep your head and back straight, knees slightly bent and the core of your body tight, while relaxing your chest. This keeps the focus on your shoulder muscles while you lift. After your body is in proper alignment, hold weights of equal weight in each hand at should level. Next, extend your arm or both arms by straightening your elbows directly over your head to full flexion of your shoulder muscle. Keep your elbows slightly bent at the top of the movement to avoid locking your joints. Without stopping, and while maintaining the flexion in your deltoids, keep your arms wide and slowly bring the weights down until your arms are bent at nearly 90 degrees. Note: If you only have one weight in your hotel room (such as your duffle bag or a lamp), do a full set of single-arm shoulder presses with one arm, and then switch and do another full set with the other arm.
Hand-to-Feet Weight Pass Lie on the floor on your back. Hold your weight between your hands with your hands extended over your head. From the starting position, raise your legs quickly up over your body as you raise your arms quickly to meet your feet. At the top of your motion, where your hands meet your feet, transfer your weight to your feet (if your weight is not something you can easily hold between your feet, set it gently on your shins as a "table"). Quickly lower your legs as you lower your arms back to the floor behind your head). Continue to transfer the weight between your hands and feet as swiftly as you can for 10 to 15 repetitions. Do not go too fast; only go as quickly as you can while maintaining form and control. Breathe regularly throughout the movement; exhale as your legs and arms rise, inhale as you lower them. Your lower back should remain against the mat throughout the exercise.
Hold Single-Arm Plank Take up a push-up, or plank, position on the floor: face down with your weight on your hands and toes, hands under your shoulders, and back and hips flat. Stabilize your core and engage your butt muscles to ensure proper form. The closer your feet are together the more difficult the exercise; to make it easier, take your feet wide. Next, take your left hand off the floor and hold it lightly along your side while maintaining the plank position, with your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor. Continue to engage your core, keep your hips square, and do not tilt. Hold this position for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, bring your left hand back to the floor and switch sides, bringing your right arm up and holding it along your side as you maintain your plank position. Hold for 30 seconds on this side as well, and then return to the starting position.