Ditch the Hotel Gym and Try These Workouts


Hotel gyms amuse me.  The comically mismatched assortment of equipment always makes me wonder what the person who made the order was thinking at the time of purchase.

“I want two bosu balls, dumbbells from five pounds through 30, a $3,000 cable-pully, six yoga mats, three $1,800 treadmills, a $2,000 elliptical machine, and an ab wheel.”

I have come to find great joy in walking into the “fitness center” at each new hotel I visit because there is simply no rhyme or reason or ability to predict what you might see there.  While always providing a good chuckle, the roulette wheel of equipment can rarely provide a good workout.

On a recent trip I became excited to learn that the resort we were staying at had just opened a BRAND NEW 6,000 square foot fitness center.  Awesome!

Then I walked in.

I saw at least 10 elliptical machines, a half-dozen treadmills, six multi-thousand dollar strength machines, a yoga room, a spin bike room, a mountain climbing wall (I thought this trend died in 2005?), a large pully-station machine and a really good set of dumbbells up to 50-pounds.  All totaled, there was probably over $25,000 of equipment in the building – most of it useless to anyone truly interested in fitness – not counting the multi-million dollar cost of the building.

What I didn’t find was a power rack which was the only apparatus I really wanted to use.

Now what.

Instead of heaping further scorn on hotel fitness centers which we all recognize as a lost cause, let’s start talking about solutions.  With the unpredictable, grab-bag of equipment you’re likely to find, what can you use to get a good workout in a hotel gym?

For starters, as I’ve said before, your best bet is to forego equipment all together and just perform pushups, sprints, stair climbs, jumps, up-downs, and other body-weight conditioning exercises.

At this resort, I did find a good pull-up bar which was a major score.  I pieced this workout together which took just over a half-hour and gave me a good pump and sweat:

  • 10 pullups
  • 30 pushups
  • 20 sit-ups

I did that for 10 rounds, pushing my pace to stress my conditioning

This workout won’t take you to the Mr. Olympia title, but it was a nice, quick, purposeful workout that left me with good lat soreness the next day.

Fortunately, this resort was situated on the side of a fairly steep mountain.  My next workout was based around hill sprints.  Hill sprints kick ass.  I performed 1 short sprint (approximately 20 second work time) followed by 1 medium sprint (approximately 30 second work time), 3 long sprints (just under a minute work time), 1 medium and 1 short.  In between the sprints I did sets of pushups – 30, 40, 50, 60, 50, 40, 20.

The entire workout took between 30 and 40 minutes.  Be careful with this one if you have tight Achilles tendons.  The incline running can stretch them toward snapping.  Regardless of who you are, the chest burn from uphill sprinting is real.

Another circuit I’m toying with at home which can be transitioned to the gym:

100 total of each of the following:

  • jumping jacks
  • up-downs
  • pushups
  • bodyweight squats
  • sit-ups
  • kettlebell swings

Substitute a dumbbell or lunges for the kettlebells if you don’t have one.  You can perform all reps in a row or move back and forth between exercises as I do.  The up-downs are a killer and I do them 20-at-a-time between the other exercises.  This, again, takes me between 30-40 minutes and while not much of a strength builder, will keep your conditioning on point.

No hotel gym will replace where you regularly work out, but if you keep an open mind and get creative, a passable workout can be found there.

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