The Hotel-to-Gym Makeover

I was running late for a flight to Rome from Dublin’s International Airport. I passed through the terminal’s metal detector and reached to retrieve my freshly x-rayed carry-on from the conveyor belt, when a security officer stopped me.

“Miss, can you step over here please?” He motioned to a small area nearby that was partitioned off, where there stood two travelers being patted down.

“Sure,” I replied, twisting my hands in the pocket of my sweatshirt. Wearing gloves, he hoisted my suitcase onto a table, unzipped it, and flipped it open, immediately wiping around the inside edges with two fingers “for bombs,” he remarked.

I stood there hopping from foot to foot, ruminating on what I could have possibly brought with me that was prohibited. He didn’t seem nearly as concerned as I was, whistling and rummaging through my clothes. Finally, he gripped something firmly, smiled, and extracted a dumbbell.

Oh, that. I blushed.

“Miss,” he giggled (along with several other officers watching over his shoulder), “you can’t fly with this.”

I gave him permission to throw it out and ran to catch my flight, mentally bidding farewell to the healthy, toned figure I’d recently achieved with months of committed exercise.

But you know the saying; “necessity is the mother of invention,” and while I toured Ireland for the next month I honed a system for creating a makeshift gym anywhere I went–using only what was in my carry-on. It’s a system that I will now share with you (plus some added tips for someone who is not me and has the good sense to plan ahead) in the hopes that you can save yourself the embarrassment of trying to sneak heavy weights onto a plane.

Buy a resistance band.

The mother of all portable equipment, a resistance band weighs next to nothing, fits anywhere, and can be used to intensify almost any kind of strength or stretch movement. I suggest buying one ahead of time so you don’t have to use your bathing suit top (ladies), which works but is afterwards no longer a viable swimwear option.

Buy or make a jump rope.

Jump rope is amazing cardio that you can do literally anywhere. Just tie your socks together (and underwear if needed) to your desired length, et voila! You might feel like a complete idiot but I swear it works. I’ve done it.

Alternatively, you could just purchase an actual jump rope.

Do your push ups.

Nothing needed here but your own determination. I like to do these with my knees down and a sweatshirt underneath them to take some of the stress off of my wrists. You can isolate different muscles by moving your hands closer together, or farther apart.

Sit ups with a twist.

I have a level-up challenge for you: empty your suitcase of everything and do your sit ups while holding it in your arms. It will force you to raise yourself up off the floor by only a few inches (which is harder than all the way up), and it will add some extra weight and resistance. Six-pack, here you come.

Squats and shoulders…at the same time.

A similar principle applies here–empty your suitcase of everything and do stationary squats WHILE keeping your suitcase raised up over your head the entire time. Woof.

Insanity Max:30

Nobody wants to spend more time working out when traveling than they absolutely have to, so last but not least, I recommend you invest in the Insanity Max:30 DVDs from Beachbody. Having completed this program myself I can attest to its legitimacy–you get ten different workouts that you can do in any room using only your body (and some kind of DVD player), and they’re each only 30 minutes long. Fair warning; these workouts are extremely difficult and not for people in ill health.

Photo courtesy of Quartier Hostel.