Okay, so we stuffed ourselves like turkeys over Thanksgiving...and it's not over yet. In fact, the holiday smorgasbord of seasonal meals has really only just begun. What's a traveling (and growing) waistline to do? Well, while we can't argue that your grandmother's pecan pie isn't absolutely delicious and a must-have (two servings...or three?), we can prove that your excuse of having limited space while on the road is, in fact, no excuse at all. Because even if your hotel doesn't have a gym, or you're quartered off in your parents' tiny basement "guest room," you can still get in some great workouts. For on-the-go inspiration, we chatted to a few fitness professionals and came up with four hotel room-ready routines that can help any traveler stay happy and healthy this holiday season.
The Stimulating Yoga Stretch Session
Yoga is a great workout to practice on the road because almost every move can be done in the space of a yoga mat. In fact, you could do probably do both sun salutation sequences in that small area between your bed and the TV. However, instead of getting you prepped for the day, YogaWorks instructor Sarah Bell is sharing poses aimed at boosting the immune system and rejuvenating the body after a long flight, or stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system to “[elicit a] response about resting and digesting — two things many of us do not make time for on holiday!” This is great as a main sequence or as an appetizer to any of the three other workouts below.
Upward Salute. Because you’ve just landed, first try this deeply grounding pose. Stand with your feet together, kneecaps lifted, and heels pushing firmly into the ground. On a full inhale, glide your arms from your sides — flexed fingers reaching out from your body (like a snow angel) — until they are palm-to-palm above your head. Exhale while you stretch up, along your sides, from your center to the tips of your fingers. Hold this pose for two long, stretching breaths. This pose is also great for elongating after a long, body compressing flight.
Puppy Dog. Next up we’re going to help boost that lagging, post-flight circulation and continue relieving some spine compression. Sit back on your heels and extend your hands palms down (about shoulder-width apart) in front of you. Rise up on your knees and then walk them back one or two steps until you feel a stretch. Reach your whole pelvis up and back away from your hands. Maintain the lower back’s natural curve by emphasizing the length from wrist to armpit to hip. Bell stresses that you neither tuck the tail here, nor pull the sitting bones up directly to the ceiling. Rather, enhance the stretch in the sides and breathe fully there. Tip: You can also lift up into a downward dog pose and add an alternating foot pump for some extra fun. Hold for seven breaths and repeat.
Seated Twist. Bell says, “Twists bring circulation to the abdominal region and energize the whole body,” so they’re great for some post-pie detoxing. Start sitting cross-legged (or with a tall spine, abs pulled in. Inhale and, moving from your sides, raise your arms above your head. As you slowly exhale, twist to the left, lightly grabbing the outside of the left knee with your right hand or touching it with the outside of the right wrist. The left hand should be palm down on the ground, just behind your left hip, fingers facing back. Remember to keep a straight spine (so you may be facing off-center) and suck in those abs. Repeat on both sides, holding each twist for 10 deep breaths in and out.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose. This restorative pose is great for digestion, stimulation, and relaxation — and feels awesome before or after a big meal. You’ll need to use four of the firmest pillows from the bed — so you’re lucky if you’re staying somewhere like The Benjamin, which offers a pillow menu. Place one pillow down like you are taking a nap, and then another, on top but going length-ways (to form a “T” shape). Sit down with your back facing the pillows with just enough space in between so that when you lie down, the small of your back is supported by the hotel pillow and your neck is supported by the padding of the top and bottom pillows. Bring the bottoms of your feet together (remember butterfly pose as a kid?) and place a remaining pillow under each knee for support. Lie back and melt into the ground, arms relaxed out to your sides with the palms up, breathing deeply, eyes closed. Remain in this pose for about 10 breaths — or 10 minutes “if it feels awesome.” Spoiler alert: it will.
Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose. This pose is perfect if you don’t have time for napping between festivities or you’re suffering from jet lag. Get on the bed (ooh la la!) or anywhere you can vertically straighten your legs against the wall. Lie on your back, arms extended above your head or at your sides, with your legs flat against the wall. Let your hips sink and absorb the weight from your legs (you can even support your hips/low back with a pillow). Stay here as long as you like! Tip: If your legs or feet start to tingle, this is normal. Slide them down to your bum for a few seconds and move them from side to side.
The Strength-Training Superset Circuit Workout
Based in NYC (and therefore no stranger to condensed spaces), the Quin hotel’s Vitals personal trainer, Andrew Page, believes that “even if you get stuck in an elevator, you can squeeze a workout in.” So for him, curating this workout was a lean, mean piece of cake — the vegan, organic, good-for-you kind. Since your hotel room is hopefully bigger than an elevator, we know you’ve got this travel-sized, strength-training superset in the bag.
Do two sets in-a-row of each exercise, and then, because we are gluttons for punishment (and ham), run through each circuit twice.
Start with dynamic stretches. Do five to 10 minutes of hotel room-friendly dynamic stretches (think: alternating toe touches, hip bends, trunk twists, and leg swings) to warm up the muscles and get your blood flowing.
Circuit One: Push ups & squats. Kick off your workout with some moves to tone and build your upper body: 10 push-ups, 15 squats. Push-ups can be done in a fully extended plank position or a modified version with your knees dropped on the ground. For squats, start standing upright and then sink into a seated position. Legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle, like you’re sitting in an invisible chair. You can even grab a chair to hover over to ensure you don’t sink too low. Return to standing. For an extra burn, hold the squat for a second or two.
Circuit Two: Hand walk & lunge. Next up are triceps, deltoids, and quads: four hand walks, eight lunges. While they may seem simple, hand walks can get a bit intense as its not a movement we often do. Start standing, legs shoulder-width apart, with your arms extended above your head. Slowly bring your hands to the ground and begin tip-toeing (tip-fingering?) toward an extended plank position. Hold the plank for a second or so and then creep your fingers back to your toes before raising your arms back toward the ceiling. Feel free to throw in some vertical spirit fingers on the way back up to help get pumped for the lunges. From this standing position, take one large step forward and sink until your opposite knee is at a 90-degree angle, shin just above the floor. Repeat on the other side.Tip: the key to a successful lunge is to make sure knees are at 90-degree angles (with the extended knee never going past your toes), and that your femur (your upper leg bone) is aligned straight as an arrow from your hip. This is not only crucial for avoiding injury, but it also adds to the burn.
Circuit Three (The Homestretch): Single leg toe touch & Side plank. Now let’s shape that booty and tighten your ham — did someone say ham? — strings: eight single leg toe touches and 12-second holds in side plank. Again, starting from a standing position, bend one leg at a 90-degree angle. Slowly start to hinge from the waist, keeping your spine straight, and try to touch the tip of your toes. If you’ve got shoddy balance (like us), you may want to try this doozy standing next to your bed…juuuuust in case. Switch legs and repeat. For side plank (fabulous for ‘bliques and buns, BTW), start off in a standard plank position, and then slowly rotate to the side so you are balancing on the outside of one foot and have both arms extended. It should look like you are a leaning “T” shape. Tip: Make sure to avoid a “saggy” form by really using your obliques to hold your hips in alignment.
The Cardio Workout Fit For Any Hotel Room
So, you want some cardio up in your workout, but (surprise!) there’s no bike in your room, let alone an elliptical, and the only place to run is back and forth across is the three-foot, furniture-less space in your room. Problem? Not at all. There are definitely some ways you can get your body moving and your heart rate up without taking up too much room in well, your room.
Do each of these exercises for 60 seconds. Repeat the entire set three times with 90 second breaks in between.
Jumping Jacks (or Star Jumps). An oldie-but-goodie, this flailing childhood move is genius. It’s a great plyometric exercise because it involves the entire body, and really gets the blood flowing. Jumping jacks have what is called a stretch-shortening cycle that occurs between the landing and the next jump which not only strengthens bones, but is also known to aid in weight loss. Sounds like a perfectly fun way to get in some aerobic exercise to us!
Butt Kicks. Is it too punny to say that this simple cardio workout kicks butt? Well, it does. Start standing up, and lightly kick (read: tap) your heels to your bum while you run in place. Keep the motion controlled and consistent, springing off your toes, one after the other. It may seem simple at first, but trust us, this gets really challenging, really quickly — that’s why trainers love it. Tip: Try not to be too overzealous when kicking up your heels, as we’ve experienced a bruised behind on many occasions as a result.
Burpees. Oh, burpees, how our body loves to hate you. And then loves you for real once we see the results. For this excellent cardio workout, switch it up and start in a full squat position with your hands, palms down, on the floor in front of you. Psych yourself up, and and then jump directly into a plank position by throwing your feet back. Immediately snap back into the starting position and then stand up. Repeat — while flashbacks of high school gym class flood your head.
To add intensity, switch out one of the above with a round of mountain climbers. Start in pushup position with one foot lunged between your hands and the other extended behind you — keeping everything aligned. Do a quick jump-switch of your legs. Repeat at a rapid pace until you wish you hadn’t exchanged exercises (or for 60 seconds, whichever comes first — we’re thinking the former).
The Pilates On Your Pillow Workout (But No Pillow Is Actually Required!)
One of the easiest workouts to do in your room is a mat Pilates-based core workout. While “Hundreds” is a well-known Pilates move, because most people have back, shoulder, and/or neck tension, Pilates Center of Austin‘s Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle doesn’t recommend it for travelers. Instead, she recommends sticking to a few moves that impose less potential aggravation, but still help solidify a soft(ening) holiday tummy.
Do six repetitions of each exercise, and run through the entire set three times.
Rolling like a ball. Sit on the floor with your feet flat on the ground, tuck your knees to your chest (feet will lift), and place your hands around each shin (or grip the backs of your hamstrings) and extend your elbows out. Round your back, and — looking down toward the floor — slowly roll back to your shoulder blades, and then, roll your body back to the starting position; hold that for three seconds. Avoid rolling all the way to your neck or touching your toes to the ground upon return. Use your core strength to control the back and forth movement. Bonus: the gentle roll creates a mini-massage for your back, while the tuck positioning helps to lengthen your spine — a plus for anyone just off of a long flight or out of a long car ride.
Spine Stretch. Sitting up on the floor, swing your feet in front of you a nudge more than hip-width apart, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Try to sit up as straight as possible on your sit bones without straining your back or puffing out your chest. Extend your arms straight in front of you. Inhale. As you exhale begin rounding your neck and back as you slowly move your head toward the middle of your legs and your fingertips down toward your toes. Shoulders should not extend over your knees. Hold for a few seconds before exhaling; during the exhale, slowly start to straighten your back as you return to starting position. Tip: to avoid the most common flub found in executing this move, keep your attention on your posture. If you feel your spine slowing start to sink while seated, sit up or move against a wall for support.
Saw. This move is done in a slow, controlled manner, always keeping the length and straightness of the spine in mind. In a seated position, extend your legs in front of you, just over shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out in a “V” shape, making sure to press down your shoulders from your ears. Pairing your breath with the moves is key, so here’s a cheat sheet: Inhale twist halfway to one side; exhale reach, placing your opposite pinky to the outside of the opposite little toe; inhale lift to straight spine; and exhale, twisting back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
Swan. After doing so much core work it’s imperative to balance it out with a little lower back building. So, flip over onto your stomach and place your hands flat on the ground just under your shoulders, next to your ribs. Feet should be relaxed and necks lifted to align your ears to shoulder-level — keeping your spine straight. Pressing your palms into the floor, slowly raise your body until you are balancing on your knees and your arms are straight (or stop early if you feel any lower back pain). As you rise, your head should naturally begin to face forward in order to keep your spine straight. Hold this for a couple seconds before slowly lowering yourself back down to starting position.