It seems like once you finally get an exercise routine established, a million things come up to interfere. The busy holiday season starts its frantic whirligig or an unexpected business trip suddenly punctures your groove. Once in a while, says Nan Fitzgerald, a master level personal trainer at the Boulder Colorado Athletic Club, it's OK to take a short break from your workouts. In general, however, it's important to stay moving. Having a quick, efficient workout you do on the road—something that's different than your usual routine—can in the long run prove to be more treat than trial.
While walking, running and cardio workouts are all relatively easy to do on the road, don't neglect the strength training aspect of exercise. As we age, we lose muscle—and with muscle loss our metabolism slows down. Resistance training, says Fitzgerald, provides the foundation for good posture, injury prevention and a responsive metabolism. When muscles stop working, atrophy happens almost immediately.
So instead of letting your routine lapse, stay in front of the curve by having a quick and easy hotel room workout you can take with you wherever you go.
Have bands, will travel
Lightweight and easy to pack, resistance bands, made from stretchable rubber tubing, let you travel with your workout gear wherever you go. And unlike free weights, resistance bands exert constant tension on the muscle. This allows you to focus on both the concentric (lifting portion) and eccentric (lowering portion) of the movement.
You might be delighted to discover you get more bang with your bands than you do with your regular weights. The bands come in various color-coded levels, from low resistance (the equivalent of a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell) to high resistance (20 or more pounds). Fitzgerald recommends starting with a level-two resistance band and then proceeding to the next level when you feel the exercises become too easy. Fitzgerald designed this short and snappy band workout to keep you going strong.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and place the band under your feet. Hold onto the bands, with handles at waist level. Move into a squat, sitting back into your heels and pressing through the heels to come up. To create even more resistance, hold the handles up by your shoulders. Try for three sets of 15 to 20.
Strengthens: Gluteus maximus (glutes), quadriceps (quads)
Common mistake: Pushing knees forward and letting heels rise off the floor
Stand on the band, with feet parallel and a few inches apart. Cross the handles and hold them with opposite hands. Take eight side steps in one direction, by stepping as widely as possible, keeping feet parallel, and keeping the band taut as you step back together. One repetition equals eight steps in each direction. Do five reps for each set.
Strengthens: Gluteus medius (outer glutes)
Common mistake: Letting the bands go slack instead of keeping them taut
Step on the band with both feet, reach your hands through the handles (to keep them from dangling), then grab the band below the handles. The further down on the band you grab, the more resistance you’ll have with this exercise. Alignment is the key to this exercise: Fold forward (bending at the hips), keeping spine neutral, knees over ankles and hips back. Focusing on your upper-back muscles, pull band up by bending elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release slowly.
Strengthens: Trapezius and rhomboids
Common mistake: Rounding your back
Lie down on a mat and bend your knees. Keep your spine in neutral and hold the band wide between your hands. Twist your body to one side as far as you can, touching the closest hand to the floor and keeping the other arm extended. Reverse and twist to the other side. Try for 10 on each side.
Strengthens: Obliques and abs
Common mistake: Collapsing your chest
Don't leave town without everything you need to stay fit and healthy while on the road. Here are a few essentials to pack in your bag: