4 Ways to Use Your Hotel Room to Stay Fit

Back view of young woman stretching doing morning workout at luxury hotel resort with a great view. Female model doing side bending exercises and looking at poolside scenery in the window

When you're traveling, working out is often the last thing on your mind. And with good reason. Hotel gyms are typically crowded closet-sized spaces packed with creaking treadmills and bikes that don’t exactly get you excited to work out.

Even if you do have a full gym at your disposal, you may not feel like doing a full workout after a long day of sightseeing or client meetings. However, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your fitness routine completely. You can perform a quick, muscle-building, fat-torching workout using the contents of your hotel room — or a poorly appointed hotel gym.

What can you take advantage of in your room? You can always benefit from any kind of chair or cushion. If you give me a chair, I can make it super hard for you... or super easy.

—Mike Wunsch, performance director, Results Fitness, Santa Clarita, California

1. Get creative with the furniture.

Push-ups, lunges, squats and other moves don't require a shred of equipment. But you can use the hotel furniture to make any exercise easier or more challenging to accommodate your fitness level, says Mike Wunsch, performance director at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, Calif.

1. The Bed: Use the bed as a landing pad if you're practicing single-leg squats, says Craig Ballantyne, creator of the Turbulence Training system. He also suggests using a chair or the armrest of a couch to elevate your hands for incline push-ups.

2. Pillows: Use cushions or pillows from your bed to create instability for planks or squats. Simply put your hands on the pillows when you perform a straight-arm plank or stand with your bare feet on the pillows to perform body-weight squats.

3. Chairs: Wunsch suggests positioning your feet on the chair for decline push-ups or doing Bulgarian split squats by placing one foot on the chair behind you while you squat.

You can also use the chair for an inverted shoulder press. Place your feet on the chair and your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Raise your hips so your body forms a 90-degree angle, with your hands beneath your shoulders. Lower your head toward the ground by bending your elbows. Press back to start.

The only movement that's tough to train without equipment is pulling — the stuff you get from pull-ups, pull-downs and rows in the gym. But Frisch offered a solution: Grab a pair of chairs. Put the chairs at your sides, and place a hand firmly on each to perform push-ups.

"The chairs allow you to sink down between, so you get a much bigger range of motion," Frisch said. "At the bottom of the move, your chest is stretched out like crazy. You're between two chairs, and your back musculature is turned on. You have to squeeze those muscles to stabilize your shoulders."

2. Create your own in-room workout.

To build your own hotel room workout, Ballantyne suggests picking two lower body exercises (lunges, Bulgarian split squats or body-weight squats), two upper-body exercise (push-ups or inverted shoulder presses) and a core move like straight-arm planks.

Choose exercises that challenge you in 15 reps or less, and perform them for rounds in this order: lower body, upper body, lower body, upper body, core. Repeat this entire sequence three times or more, then perform Ballantyne's four-exercise conditioning circuit.

  1. Close-Stance Body-Weight Squat: a regular squat performed with your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Split Shuffle: from a lunge position, quickly alternate your legs like scissors
  3. Jumping Jacks: an old-school favorite 
  4. Full-Body Extension: act like you're going to jump, but just go up to your toes, not into the air

In the conditioning circuit, perform each of these exercises for 30 seconds then move to the next exercise without resting. Complete the entire sequence of four exercises for three total rounds.

If you're really tight on time, Frisch suggests a three-move workout. "The way I do it when I'm busy is try to do 300 body-weight squats right in a row," he says. "Just do one big set. Stop when you have to stop, shake out your legs and keep going."

After your 300 bodyweight squats, perform 300 bodyweight lunges — 150 on each side — and 70 to 100 chair push-ups.

"Go until you're exhausted, gather yourself and then keep going," he says. "It's an unbelievable strength and cardio workout. It's such an efficient way to train."

Young People - group of women and men - doing sport biking in the gym for fitness

If you're on the go, put your hotel room to work for you as an impromptu gym.

3. Don't slog through cardio.

Even if your hotel does have cardio equipment, don't just hop on and start pumping — your time is too valuable to spend 60 minutes pedaling. Instead, integrate the equipment into a full-body conditioning and strength circuit, says Jared Meacham, owner and personal training director at Precision Body Designs.

After a quick warm-up, start with a sprint on the treadmill or bike for two to three minutes. Hop off and perform a set of eight to 10 reps of a lower body exercise like squats or lunges. Then move to an upper body exercise like push-ups or inverted rows. To do these without a bar, lie beneath the handles of a treadmill and grab the heart-rate monitor handles from below. Pull your body up as you would in a normal row.

After your upper body move, choose a total-body conditioning exercise like a squat thrusts, vertical jumps or bear crawls. Then do an ab exercise — but choose one that's on the easier side, Meacham says. Good choices for the core move include lying leg raises, crunches and slow, controlled mountain climbers.

Repeat the cycle, choosing a different exercise for each category in each round — or if that's too much variety, stick with the same moves. Continue going through the circuit to complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

Young sporty woman practicing yoga at home after waking up, doing asana paired with Cow Pose on inhale, Cat exercise, Marjaryasana pose, working out, wearing white casual clothes, indoor full length

If you're on the go, put your hotel room to work for you as an impromptu gym.

4. De-stress with hotel room yoga.

When you're walking around all day and you feel like your legs are going to give out on you, don't work them harder. Chrissy Carter, a yoga teacher and trainer at YogaWorks in New York, recommends that you undo the tightness from a day of walking — or sitting in meetings — and get rejuvenated by following her hotel yoga sequence.

  1. Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): Lie face up on the floor with your butt close to the wall, your legs stretched up straight against the wall so that your body forms a right angle and the bottoms of your feet face the ceiling. This pose "helps to drain some of the lymphatic fluids from the lower extremities," Carter says. Hang out in this pose for five to 10 minutes.
  2. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana): When your feet start to tingle, bend your knees into your chest, opening your knees wide so the soles of your feet touch and your knees are spread wide like an open book. This stretches the inner thighs.
  3. Hip Flexor Stretch: Return to the first pose, then bend one knee and bring the outside of your ankle down to rest on the shin of your opposite leg, just below the knee. In this position, slide your straightened leg down the wall by bending your knee so that your crossed knee is pressed toward your chest. "This is great if you've been sitting down all day -- your hip flexors get so tight," she says. This pose will stretch the outer portion of your hip.
  4. Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana): To assume Carter's final pose, assume Baddha Konasana — the second pose — again. From here, straighten your legs so they rest against the wall again, this time in a large "V" shape. This pose will open the inner thighs, which tighten after a day on your feet.