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The Healthy Traveler

Workouts on the Run

August 27, 1995|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Before his clients travel, Todd Person sometimes gives them a stack of snapshots. Call it his bon-voyage-but-stay-in-shape kit.

The photographs show the client in several yoga postures, a popular workout at Person's Metabolic Project training facility in West Los Angeles. Tucking the photos into a suitcase can motivate travelers to work out while on the road. No excuses are allowed about cramped hotel quarters. "You basically need a four- by four-foot space to do yoga," Person said.

This is just one of the tricks and techniques that can make workouts on the run easier, according to Person and other exercise experts.

First, find out what equipment the hotel has. Hotel fitness facilities have improved in recent years and many will "now bring fitness equipment right to your room," Person said. If the hotel is well stocked with equipment, there may be no need to take anything, short of exercise clothes, along.

On the luxury end of the scale, for example, the fitness center at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan is open 24 hours and stocked with treadmills, stair climbers, weights and other equipment. But the facility is open only to guests, who pay $390 and up per night for a room.

But even in hotels lacking a fitness facility, there are ways to tailor the environment to individual workout needs. Use hotel stairwells to take the place of stair-climbing machines if you have no history of back or knee problems, Person said.

Explore the hotel and surrounding area and create your own workout course, said Rudy Hayek, an exercise physiologist and co-owner of Sierra Health & Fitness in Sierra Madre, a workout facility. "Use planters and low walls [as support devices for] stretches. Talk to the concierge or person at the front desk. Perhaps there is an empty room for [working out]."

Ask hotel employees about the location of the nearest park or walking path, said Kathy Smith, a Brentwood fitness expert and star of 20 exercise videos. Smith also points out that parks are likely to have chin-up or monkey bars.

"Try to combine exercise and sightseeing," Smith said. In historic locales, for example, try to connect with a walking tour or an audio tape that explores and explains the area. Find a city map before setting out.

Use the hotel room as a workout space too. Use chairs to do leg extension exercises, Hayek said. A balcony railing is ideal to help with stretching while exercisers enjoy the view, he added.

"Plot out a circuit that takes 20 or 30 minutes," Hayek advised. The workout might begin with in-room stretches, proceed to the stairwell for some climbing exercise and then outside to a walking path, for example.

Grab a towel, one end in each hand, and use it as a tool to help perform upper body stretching routines, Smith said. "People always forget about stretching when on the road," but after sitting in a plane or car for several hours, stretching can be more beneficial to the body than strength-training, she said.

If the hotel or its surrounding area aren't conducive to workouts, "find the best health club in town," Person said. Many will sell one-day or weekly passes; they may even have reciprocal agreements with a traveler's home health club.

Upgrading to a club better than one's own at home can be motivating. Among the best, Person said: the Equinox in New York City (three locations, $26 per day, 212-721-4200); Australian Body Works in Atlanta (12 locations, $5-10 per day, 404-365-9696); Pro-Robics in Seattle (three locations, $8 per day, 206-283-2303); Gold Coast Multiplex in Chicago ($12 per day, 312-944-1030). While you're visiting, ask health club employees for referrals to restaurants with nutritious menus, too, Smith said.

Taking along one's own portable fitness equipment is another option. A tennis ball is versatile and takes up little space, Hayek noted. "You can squeeze it for a tension release exercise. Use it to stretch the bottom of your feet, before or after a workout [by rolling it underneath the feet]." Take along an audio version of an exercise cassette or a cassette of favorite music to stay motivated while walking or running.

Resistance bands can help travelers keep up strength-training exercises. Tunturi's latex workout bands, for instance, are about $10 a pair at sporting goods and fitness stores and are compact to pack.

Jump ropes are inexpensive, often under $5, but not recommended for everyone. "Not a lot of people can jump rope well," Smith noted. "It's very intense and pretty hard on the knees." Many exercisers she added, can manage only about three or four minutes of rope jumping.

The Healthy Traveler appears the second and fourth week of every month.

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