Thankfully, for travelers, hotel gyms have steadily improved in the last decade. Still, many hotel “fitness centers” (we stress the quotes) are little more than dark, cement cubes with rusty free weights, a flickering TV perpetually tuned to Days of Our Lives, and a treadmill papered with a handwritten “Out of Order” sign. If you value your fitness routine, even when miles from home, it pays to be prepared with a compact yet versatile workout kit. Here is the best portable fitness gear to stay fit, even from the comfort of your hotel room while traveling.
Fitness experts have championed the utility of resistance bands for years. They’re a godsend for fitness-conscious travelers as they’re ultra-compact and lightweight — perfect for tossing in a suitcase. is 12 inches long by two inches wide and folds completely flat. The best part, however, is that they’re incredibly versatile. Easy-to-read diagrams printed on the bands, coupled with step-by-step instructions via the company’s free app, provide everything you need for full-body strength-training on the go. For a more full-featured alternative, TheFitLife’s Exercise Resistance Bands are part of a comprehensive kit that includes large handles, ankle straps, and a door anchor attachment.
The jump rope hasn’t changed since the earliest days of Double Dutch. For fitness enthusiasts, jumping rope is a simple yet practical addition to any cardio regimen. Just about any length of rope will get the job done. However, if you want to up your rope-jumping game, invest in a well-made jump rope kit. Crossrope’s jump rope kits are made from durable, braided steel with pro-grade handles that feature ball bearings and ergonomic grips. The interchangeable ropes are sold in varying weights designed to personalize your particular workout based on whether your goal is getting lean or getting strong. The accompanying free app also features dozens of targeted exercises to keep things interesting.
It might look like yet another as-seen-on-TV exercise gadget, but ab rollers are a great addition to any portable workout kit. The low-tech device disassembles in seconds for easy packing into even a carry-on suitcase, then reassembles quickly when you’re ready to roll. Many ab rollers are bulky and heavy, but the Fitnessery Ab Roller weighs only 1.5 pounds. The steady, repetitive back-and-forth motion is surprisingly effective at strengthening your core, lats, and triceps.
The idea of packing any kind of “ladder” might seem counterintuitive to travelers. But, agility ladders like the Speed and Agility Ladder from SKLZ are ideal for on-the-go workout enthusiasts. They work by creating a defined floor grid to practice footwork and coordination, whether as part of a warm-up routine or as a full-body cardio workout unto itself. Rob Gronkowski swears by them: “Agility ladder drills are a MUST before all my workouts. They work to strengthen my joints, ligaments, and tendons while improving my pre-workout coordination and focus.” They’re packable, inexpensive, and can be unrolled and used almost anywhere, including most average hotel rooms. An even cheaper and more portable alternative is to pack a roll of masking tape and line out a makeshift agility ladder on the floor of your hotel room.
Unless you want wheeling your suitcase to be an actual workout, free weights might be the least realistic piece of portable workout equipment for travelers. Water-filled dumbbells, however, take the “dumb” out of dumbbells by relying instead on water weight. Aquabells’ Dumbbells are a simple, all-in-one kit that includes the horizontal bars and fillable, sealed, donut-shaped reservoirs that serve as the weights. The design also allows you to dial-in the exact weight needed for your personal workout regimen.
Exercise sandbags are among the most basic, yet effective fat-burning, strength-training workout tools. They’re essentially ultra-durable duffel bags with inserts designed to be filled with sand (or, for travelers, water) and used for HIIT workouts. Each of the kits from Ultimate Body Press — available in two sizes — packs down to about the size of a medium-sized shoe box. When you’re ready to work out, simply fill the inserts to the desired weight (up to 105 pounds) using any standard faucet and get ready to lift.
Actively protecting your joints is critical to any fitness routine. Unfortunately, more and more hotels are ditching traditional carpeting for laminate flooring. Those hard surfaces can be brutal for your extended morning yoga sessions. The Jade Harmony Mat is a lightweight, portable solution. At 24 inches wide by 68 inches long, it’s roomy enough for almost any stretch. Most importantly, the 3/16” thickness is enough to cushion your knees and elbows, yet firm enough to provide adequate stability for standing poses.
Core sliders are deceptively simple, but they’re a near-perfect portable fitness tool. The flat plastic discs are typically sold in pairs that can be tossed into a carry-on while taking up minimal space. The dual-sided versions like those sold by Synergee can be used on both carpet and hardwood flooring, so they’re ideal for use in almost any hotel room. They help facilitate a wide variety of full-body exercises to strengthen your core, back, legs, and joints. Plus, they’re also one of the cheapest pieces of portable
Stability balls — also known as yoga balls, Swiss balls, or just exercise balls — work by providing a round, unstable surface designed to target a wide range of major and minor muscles. The most portable versions pack down flat but inflate with a basic air pump in less than a minute. The GoFit Professional Grade Stability Ball is available in three sizes, depending on the height of the user. An included DVD and printed how-to guide both provide easy-to-follow stretches and exercises to strengthen your core, back, shoulders, and just about every other part of your body.
Like stability balls, foam rollers work by providing a round, rollable surface that targets small and large muscle groups. The design is also ideal for aggressive self-massage of the back, feet, and legs — the most common parts of the body to stiffen and cramp during long-haul travel. It’s a portable, near-perfect therapy and recovery device. Typical foam rollers are solid and occupy a lot of luggage space. As the name implies, the unique design of the Pro-Tec Athletics Hollow Core Foam Roller allows for packing loose bits of clothing or valuables inside the tube.
Collapsible Water Bottle
A reusable water bottle hardly takes up that much space in a typical carry-on or messenger bag. But, if you’re the sort of traveler who values every cubic inch of luggage space, a collapsible water bottle is a great space-saving option. Nomader’s Collapsible Water Bottle is exactly what it sounds like: A flexible, food-grade silicone bottle that rolls up and packs down small when not in use. Once unfurled and filled, it’s leakproof, shatterproof, and holds up to 22 ounces of liquid. It’s also dishwasher safe and handles both hot and cold drinks, in case you prefer to hydrate with, say, a steamy matcha (weirdo) while working out.
Even with a full gym at your disposal, all that equipment is useless if you don’t know how to work out properly in the first place. Having a decent workout app or three can be key to helping you exercise like a pro. Yoga Studio is great for stretching the right way without hurting yourself, while Aaptiv offers expert guidance through a wide range of niche cardio routines built around stair-climbing, rowing, indoor cycling, marathon training, and more. For beginners looking for on-the-go motivation, C25K is a free, tried-and-true system designed to take you from couch potato status to 5K runner in just eight weeks.
If nothing less than a full gym setup will suffice, Zeamo is an affordable subscription-based app that offers travelers unlimited access to more than 25,000 gyms around the country.
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