My gym is a SCENE. My neighborhood in Baltimore is basically the polar opposite of what you've watched on "The Wire." It's a WASPy mecca for privileged kids in their late 20s and early 30s who spend their summers fist pumping along to the dulcet tones of the world's worst DJ at the pool, drinks in hand, as if they're at a swank hotel in Vegas and not just a pool in the middle of a parking lot in Baltimore with the odor of this season's fish kill floating in from the harbor.
And where is this pool? At my gym, of course.
My gym, the epicenter for all of Baltimore's tightest, tannest asses, clad in Under Armour, of course. My gym, where I've spotted on more than one occasion knee-high socks that say "SEXY" and t-shirts that say "I don't sweat, I sparkle," all worn without a hint of irony. Perfect makeup, perfect hair, cool Maryland flag shorts, brah.
My gym is a fucking toned and tucked scene.
No, I don't go for the "scenery," if you will. If I'm working out on my own, I will glare at anyone who tries to talk to me. (Sidenote, ladies: Never go out with a guy who hits on you at the gym. You'll end up on a date eating Subway that you paid for yourself while he uses a coupon to buy himself a $5 footlong. True story.) I bitch about everything -- the dues, the DJ at the pool, whenever my favorite classes get switched, the people. UGH, the people.
All this said, I love you, Canton Merritt. I miss you when I'm away, which I guess is a good thing since I spend about 10 hours a week there (don't judge). The instructors are awesome, the equipment is (mostly) pretty great, and yes, I like having a pool to go to in the summer.
But the thing is, when I'm on vacation, I'm on vacation. I don't typically work out. Yes, we eat our faces off, but we also tend to walk for miles when we inevitably get lost, so I don't really feel too bad. Usually on sightseeing trips, parts of me that I never knew I had become sore without a standard workout, and as far as I'm concerned, chiller beach-type trips aren't meant for working out either.
Still, I hate it when I can't work out for other reasons. For instance, if I'm sick or if another polar vortex comes to ruin our lives and shut down the gym. Or, god forbid, if I have to travel for work. Because you know, chances are the gym at the hotel where you're staying is a piece of shit, and if it's not a piece of shit, you probably have to pay extra for it, and if you have to pay extra for it, your supervisor will give you that LOOK when approving your expense report. (But BIG shoutout to Westin, because if you're lucky enough to stay there, they will lend you gym clothes and shoes for only $5...I mean! They'll also give you running routes, and if you hate running like me, you can pretty much count on a good gym in the hotel.)
But basically, unless you're staying at a Westin, who knows what's in store for you as far as the gym goes? Luckily for you, I've devised some workouts you can take with you on the road.*
PULL A JEN, AND GO FOR A RUN
This is pretty much a no-brainer. As long as the weather is at least semi-decent, and you're not staying in a city like, say, Detroit, you can run anywhere. That is, of course, if you're a runner. I am decidedly NOT a runner. I hate running. I am running a 5K next weekend. Pray for me.
ANYWAY, if you ARE a runner, check out Jen's tips for planning your runs on the road.
"SWEAT IS YOUR FAT CRYING" (CARDIO)
Do you like the "motivational" quote I pulled from a flier I saw at a gym once? Pretty great, huh? So even the most bare bones of hotel gyms probably have a couple treadmills and ellipticals, but if you really want to get your heart rate up, look for the stairwell. Your hotel is probably several stories high. Find the stairwell. Run it. Two steps at a time. Thank me later when your lungs have stopped exploding.
Oh that sounds like hell to you? Guess what? It's nothing compared to Tabata. Have you heard of Tabata training? THAT is hell. But! It's only four minutes of hell, so if you only have a short period of time to work out, this is a great option for you, and you don't even have to leave your room. In fact, you can do several cycles of Tabata all in the period of time between when you order room service and when it actually gets there.
Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which (if you can't figure it out from the name), is alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest. This does all kinds of great things for your body because science, and it will improve upon all sorts of athletic performance. So, for instance, if you run like an elephant, like myself, and you want to get faster, intervals are the way to train.
The way Tabata works is you do 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise and 10 seconds of rest eight times for a total of four minutes. It sounds easy, but once you're about halfway through, you want to die. The cardio can be anything -- burpees, jumping jacks, high knees. Get creative and make your fat cry.
"PAIN IS WEAKNESS LEAVING YOUR BODY" (RESISTANCE TRAINING)
How about THAT motivational quote? Huh? HUH? So good, I know.
If you're looking to get toned or if you need something to do in between Tabata cycles, you don't need hand weights, kettlebells, or barbells to get in a good weight-bearing workout. You can do nearly everything using just bodyweight. Work your triceps with dips off the edge of a chair, do wall sits to crush your legs, hold a plank as long as you can to tone your abs...you can find ways to work nearly everything. Google it.
I also am a fan of working with a resistance band, which I've told you about before. This is a great option for workouts on the road because it'll take up hardly any space in your suitcase. Look, they're even pretty cheap as far as workout gear goes, and you can get them in a number of different levels. Even if you only have one, you can adjust it in order to make it harder or easier. They're kind of genius. Stand on them and do bicep curls, sit down and loop it around your feet to do rows for your back, kneel on it and hook it around your foot to do a leg extension and work your butt...again, endless options.
SALUTE THE DAMN SUN
So a yoga mat takes up a little more space than a resistance band so you might not be able to pack it, and if you're squeamish about your skin touching the hotel room floor (like I am), just put down a towel. Look, if I can do wheel on a Baltimore city sidewalk, you can do yoga on the floor of your hotel room.
If you don't do yoga, that's cool. This one probably isn't for you. But I've been doing yoga for years and I swear by it. Admittedly, it's not as great of a workout when I try to do it on my own, but it's still better than nothing. A few sun salutations will get your heart rate up, clear your head, and stretch and tone your muscles. Alternative: Pilates. These are both great workouts for the road because you don't need anything with you but your hot bod.
BRING THE GYM TO YOU
When I first moved to the city, I was already working out regularly, so I forced myself to join the Merritt in Canton because it was in walking distance from my house. I say "forced" though because the atmosphere intimidated the hell out of me. And group fitness classes intimidated me even more.
But I started slowly with spin, where I could sit in the back of the dark room and get my sweat session in. I had been doing yoga for a few years at this point, encouraged by the fact that I knew no one would be watching me because everyone else would be twisted up into their own pretzels of isometric pain. Soon I added more classes in and before I knew it, this was practically all I was doing. And at sick quantities too. (I even won a gift card one year for having done the most classes...I won't tell you how many.)
Merritt offers a number of classes like boot camp (my very favorite) and spin (love me some hip hop cycle). They also offer the Les Mills classes, which are choreographed classes that offer cardio, weight training, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Les Mills kinda seems a little bit like a cult ("We are one tribe!"), but the classes are legit. I am partial to CX Worx (core training), Body Pump (weight training), and Body Combat (mixed martial arts-inspired HIIT).
Combat is my favorite. I don't know what this says about me, but I get the same euphoric rush out of it that I get after a good yoga session. There's just something about visualizing certain people and punching and kicking the hell out of the air. Of course it's great for your body, but I also find that it is great for me mentally. Without it...well...
I've never actually done this myself, but another Monday night regular once asked the instructors to tape themselves teaching the class so that she could take the recording with her on an extended business trip and still get her Combat workouts in. They did that for her, and I thought that was just the raddest thing. So when all else fails, if your instructors are as awesome as mine are, you can bring the gym with you.
What do you do to keep in shape on the road?
*I am certified in absolutely nothing. Exercise at your own risk.