Hotel-Friendly Exercise Ideas for Travelers

By , Lauren Sesselmann, Olympic athlete
Starting to think about your summer vacation plans? Let's talk about how you might be able to keep your workouts from falling by the wayside.

As a profesional and Olympic soccer player, you'd think that I work out all the time but the fact is, it's not that easy. I'm on the road about 15 nights each month. Often we go from the airport to practice to bed to the game to the airport. Gym? When's that supposed to happen? I've had to figure out how to get my workouts in any time, anywhere. No space? No time? No excuse in my book! It's really not as daunting as you think.

Here are some of my favorite exercises that can be done without any equipment—right from a hotel room!

On-the-Go  Cardio
I'll often créate a quick cardio circuit by choosing three of my favorite moves. I'll run through them for one minute each, repeating the circuit three times. Here's one to try that's quick and takes up very little space. You can even do them in your hotel room.
  • Jump rope: You don't even need an actual rope! Just pretend by mimicking the same motion you would if you had one. Try to push yourself and go as fast as you can. Switch it up by doing either one foot at a time, both feet, skipping, or any other foot pattern.
  • Star jumps: From a standing position squat down and the explode into a jump while sweeping your arms out to the side and up and sending your legs out wide.
  • Thigh slap jumps: Keeping your feet parallel and your hands out in front of you, jump up bringing your knees up towards your chest and slapping them with your hands. Go as quickly as you can while keeping control. For a lower-impact alternative try a high-knee march (or jog) in place.
If it's nice out and I'm in a time crunch you might catch me doing parking lot relays. I'll race from end to end of the hotel's parking lot. Do I get some odd looks? I don't even notice. It's more important that I'm healthy and fit. Nothing's going to get in my way.

When you have downtime at the airport, forgo the moving walkways and walk as briskly as possible once you're in the airport. If I've got time to kill before or between flights, pace around the terminal as much as possible. You're about to sit on a long flight anyway, so get those steps in while you can!

Turn Your Hotel Room into a Gym
I'm used to living out of a suitcase. I've learned how to turn any hotel room into my own personal gym. My "Fit As A Pro: 10 Minute Workouts for Small Spaces" DVD includes some of my favorite do-anywhere moves. (Here's a preview.) And here are a few you can try right now (or the next time you're traveling):

Shoulder Catches
This exercise helps strengthen and define the arms and shoulders. Grab a bottle of water (often supplied in your room!) or light hand weight.

Extend that arm straight out in front of you. Making sure your core and upper body is tight, release the water bottle and quickly catch it, then raise it back up to complete one rep.

Repeat for 12 reps on each arm.

Bird Dog
A classic core stabilizer that strengthens the core and glutes, this exercise also helps improve your balance.

Get on all fours and distribute your weight evenly throughout your hands and knees. Contract your abs as you extend the right arm and left leg. The goal is for length from fingers to toes, not height. You want to imagine you've got a glass of water on your back and you don't want any to spill. Keep everything steady as you bring the arm and leg in. Pause then repeat on the other side to complete one rep. Repeat for 12 reps on each side.
Knee Raise & Leg Lift
Most hotel rooms have a desk or sitting chair, so I'll use that to work my legs ballet-style. While standing behind the chair with feet shoulder width apart, place your hands on the back of the chair for balance.

Lift your left knee toward your chest (not pictured), then extend it behind you to work your glutes, hips, and hamstrings, as well as your balance. Do 10 reps on each leg and on the tenth rep pulse the leg behind you while lifted for 10 reps to work the glutes even more.

No matter where you are in the world or how busy your day is, getting a workout in can be easy. Take a walk to see the local tourist attractions. Swim while checking out the beautiful fish in the sea. Enjoy a romantic stroll on the beach. Run after your children. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or simply just do some squats or leg raises while brushing your teeth. Pick a few exercises or things you like to do and start there. If you can't do them all at once, split them up throughout the day. Setting goals whether they are big or small is a big step towards a healthier lifestyle. No more excuses: Get out, get moving and have fun! 

Do you exercise while on vacation or while traveling? What are some of your favorite travel-friendly workouts?
About the Author
Lauren Sesselmann is an American-born, Canadian-international professional soccer player, actor and model. Playing defense for the Canadian national women's soccer team, they placed gold in the 2011 Pan Am Games and bronze in the 2012 Olympics. Lauren will also be playing for the new Houston Dash of the NWSL. She stars in the two Fit As A Pro workouts DVDs and will be appearing in her first feature film, "Dark Awakening" later this year.

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EVILCECIL 3/9/2021
Great. Thx Report
Thanks! Report
CECELW 12/17/2020
I use a resistance most of the time nowadays. I still use weights but not nearly as much as I used to Report
ROCKRS 10/18/2020
Thanks Report
CHERYLHURT 5/16/2020
Excellent Report
PATRICIAANN46 5/15/2020
Thank You for the great suggestions. Report
LEANJEAN6 5/10/2020
really good reminders to exercise no matter where I am! Report
Good ideas. I do some of these regularly at home. I add a pretend punching bag to get arm movement in too. Report
There's always a way! Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Wonderful suggestions! No equipment, no excuses not to do them! Report
thanks Report
Thank you for the information Report
Some great ideas, I now pack my tension bands and take them with me Report
Great tips. Report
This is very useful, thanks. BUT I would add that when you get down on the floor, put a towel or something down, those floors/rugs at even the best hotels are FILTHY! Report
Good ideas! Report
thanks Report
very helpful Report
My husband and I like to go walking when we are on vacation. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
Printing these out and putting them in my suitcase so they are handy Report
Good to know, definitely will be trying these out Report
Good to know, definitely will be trying these out Report
Nice info. Report
Great article! Thank you! Report
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues
have never been discovered.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson Report
another great travel-friendly exercise in my suitcase item is a suspension trainer--very light weight--takes next to no storage space up--and offers a very effective workout. Report
All good ideas Report
EXCELLENT article! Report
You can make exercise out of any normal activity.. Report
Thank you for the tips! Report
The last picture has some good photo shopping! Report
Great info Report
thank you as I will remember these Report
good points Report
great ideas! Most of the hotels I stay @ do have a small gym, too. So . . . no excuses not to get exercise in! Report
Good, but I am rarely in a hotel. Report
if i'm there for a week i use the gym 3-4 days in the morning since i'm an early riser and may disturb others Report
On the plus side: Tabata workouts are great if you are a runner with nowhere to run. Keeps the cardio up until you can get home!

On the minus side: I *wish* I could PhotoShop myself to look the the about-the-author photo! And smiling during workouts: Yes I could...but all my half-marathon pics have grimaces. If you're working hard, it's hard to smile!
take an exercise resistance band... doesn't really add bulk or weight to suitcase Report
Works great for dorm room workouts too! Report
I suspect that anyone in the room beneath you would not appreciate your jumping rope or doing jumping jacks. Other than that, there are some great ideas here. Report
I don't travel much, but these are great, simple excercise ideas. Thanks! Report
For the past 6 years I've been taking my resistance band and Coach Nicole's 20 min resistance band workout printout and doing it 3 mornings a week just sitting on a chair. My cardio is walking around the cities I visit or walking around the deck for 30 min when cruising.
I never put on weight while on holiday, I do it when I get back home, lol. Report
Make a list of exercises you can do without equipment and take it with you. Then rotate the list on different days. Report
I would like to be able to stay in a hotel room that looks like that. As SOCALDEBBIE said- now days most hotels have gyms I would think the one she was in would too.
However- I am thinking motels are really nice too- if your on the main floor- you can park right near your room. Which is really wonderful for people that are disabled. Report