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Hotel Room Exercise Hacks: If gym’s not an option, do this instead…

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You’d like to go to the hotel gym, but it’s cramped, crowded, and smells like a three-week-old pair of dirty gym shorts. Or maybe you simply don’t like being the only female in a hotel gym loaded with muscle men. What’s a weary traveler to do? No worries – return to your room and follow these simple, yet effective steps to get a quick workout in before you set off to explore.

Before we start, let’s state the obvious. Hotel rooms are not the best place to exercise, but with a few simple hacks, you can get your blood flowing, your muscles warmed up and stretched, and your lungs expanded and ready to breathe in all the fresh air outside.

Keep a few things in mind – if you are above the first floor, doing jumping jacks is likely to disturb those rooming beneath you, so be neighborly and choose a low-to-no-impact way to warm up. Next, you might want to put that “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, so the cleaning crew doesn’t awkwardly surprise you while you’re exercising.

Let’s get the blood pumping! Try these simple warmups to start:

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips, bring your left knee up to meet your right elbow by twisting slightly at the waist. When your foot returns to the floor and you are facing forward again, follow this up with a deep squat, then return to the starting position.

Do the same on the other side – take your right knee up to meet your left elbow, with a slight twist at the waist. Follow this with another deep squat. Do ten of these, and you’ll start to feel your blood pumping and your muscles warming up. 

COACH TIP: If you have trouble with the deep squat, you could position a chair without wheels behind you, or even use the edge of the bed as a prop, so you don’t squat too far or lose your balance. 

Next, go grab an extra bath towel from the bathroom and lay it out on the floor next to the bed. (If you’re anything like me, you wonder what is lurking in the carpet, so the towel provides you with a layer of assured cleanliness for this next hack.

If you choose not to use one, that’s fine too.) Get down on your hands and knees, in yoga’s tabletop position. When you’re completely balanced, straighten your right leg behind you, level with your back, toes pointed at the floor.

Now reach your left arm out straight, at shoulder height. Stretch both your arm and leg out as far as you can, to get a deep stretch. Keep your abdominal muscles tight, to assist in balancing. Hold for ten seconds, then return to the tabletop position.

Now do the opposite side, again holding for ten seconds. Once you’re adequately stretched on both sides, continue this exercise but pick up the pace. You can even pull your elbow and knee in under your belly and meet the two, before pushing back out again.

Try to get about 10 on each side. I love this particular exercise because it provides both stretching and low impact cardio while requiring you to use those core muscles to balance. If you’re able, do two or three sets. 

Now on to a little strength building!

When you’re done, grab the towel and head back into the bathroom. Fold the towel into quarters and place it about 3 feet from the edge of the tub (you can adjust as necessary). The towel is going to support your knees, while you use the edge of the bathtub to do knee-assisted pushups. If you’ve got great upper body strength and don’t need to be on your knees, just use the edge of the tub as your support and do full angled pushups instead.

Do ten of these, then turn around and use the same edge of the tub as support for triceps dips. Lower yourself to just shy of sitting on the floor, then push up to straighten your elbows at the top. Do ten of these and alternate between pushups and chair dips. (Who knew you could use the tub for anything other than holding water?) 

COACH TIP: If the tub in your room has a track for a sliding glass door, just use a hand towel to place over the top of the track, so it doesn’t hurt your hands. If there’s no bathtub, you can substitute a chair without wheels. Look around, get creative! Always make sure whatever prop you use will support your body weight – you don’t want to accidentally damage any furniture. 

After at least two rounds of pushups and triceps dips, leave the bathroom and go find your suitcase. For this one, you’ll have to experiment and use your best judgment as to how heavy you want the suitcase when you lift it. Take items out or put items in, to your preference, but the goal is to use your suitcase for shoulder exercises.

Place the suitcase in its closed and upright position in front of your legs and stand up straight. Grabbing from the sides, lift the suitcase from the floor straight out in front of you, with arms at shoulder height. Hold at the top for two to three seconds, then gently return the suitcase to the floor. 

COACH TIP: Try this first with an empty suitcase. Most suitcases are heavy enough while empty to accomplish a great front shoulder exercise, without the extra weight of clothes that could potentially hurt your back. If you feel any low back pain, stop immediately. 

Always finish with stretching!

Once your muscles are thoroughly warmed, and you’re about to end your hotel room workout, go grab that towel again. Place it on the floor in an area where you can sit up straight and easily put your legs completely out in front of you. Bend slowly at the waist, gently walking your hands down toward your ankles.

Hold this stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, if you can. You should feel your hamstrings stretch, and it should slightly open the space between each vertebra in your spine.

Allow the weight of your head to drop toward your legs. Gently return to sitting up straight and take a deep breath – filling your lungs completely full. On the exhale, walk your hands down towards your ankles again, this time trying to gently go a bit deeper in your stretch, if possible. Repeat these two to three more times, each time being sure to breathe deeply in between. 

COACH TIP: By keeping your hamstrings stretched, you can avoid low back pain, tightness in the hips, and hamstring injury. Always let your body be your guide – don’t ever push to the point of pain. 

If you’re not going to be doing a lot of walking or exploring during your trip, you may want to get some cardio exercise as well. Taking a long walk from the hotel to a scenic view is the best option, but if time is short – or the weather is bad – you can still get some cardio in without waiting in line for the hotel gym treadmill. 


Grab your room key and put it in a secure pocket. Close and lock your door behind you, then head down the hall to the stairs. Depending on how many stories high your hotel is, doing the stairs up and down at a quick pace can be a great workout.

If it’s only two or three stories, you can run the stairs to the top floor, exit into the hallway and walk briskly (don’t run) all the way to the opposite stairwell, and return down to the bottom floor. Repeat as many times as necessary to get a great cardio workout. 

COACH TIP: Always be aware of your surroundings. If you are disturbing other guests by doing this or feel uncomfortable being in the stairwells alone, consider other options – again, get creative but always be respectful of other travelers.

Far from glamourous, hotel room workouts are sometimes a necessity. If you travel for business, attend conferences where you’re seated most of the day, or find yourself at a quick overnight stop – these exercise hacks can work wonders. Look at it this way, if you work out in your hotel room, at least you don’t have far to go for your post-workout shower!

Featured Image by Ryan McGuire



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About the author

Colleen O’Neill Mulvihill is a certified health coach and avid travel writer who is always on the lookout for the best places to visit while feeding the mind, body, and soul. And, if she can take her Great Danes with her, bonus! You can follow Colleen on Instagram @holistichealthtraveler or follow her and her husband (who is a travel photographer) on Facebook @Holistic Health Travelers

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