You can trace the idea for this book back to my 1999 workout at what may be the world’s most inadequate gym, located in the basement of an overpriced hotel in Marrakesh. In the ten days I’d been touring Morocco, I hadn’t managed a decent session of exercise. When I wasn’t slouched on a train or a bus, I was trudging in 97-degree heat to a famous tomb, or lying under a hotel-room fan and whining about the weather. The only time I’d gotten my heart rate near the aerobic zone was during an argument with a lunatic rug salesman.
The lack of exercise was making me feel grumpy and rundown, so when I happened by a hotel that advertised its FITNESS CENTER on a large sign, I was thrilled. Air conditioning! A stairclimber! A rack full of dumbbells! Alas, what I found — after handing over my credit card — was a small stuffy room with a collection of America’s most disgraced infomercial exercise gadgets. There was a plastic, triangular abdominal gizmo that resembled a model of the starship Enterprise. There was a ThighMaster. There was a treadmill with a belt that did not move unless you propelled it yourself, a very scary piece of machinery that would have collapsed under the weight of Kate Moss.
My instinct was to blow off the workout. Between the flimsy equipment and my general feeling of lethargy, I had a couple of decent excuses. But then I rallied. I figured, Better to make do with a lousy gym than to spend yet another sluglike day gorging on honey- coated pastries. There was a mat on the floor, so I did crunches and pushups. I used the gym’s only set of dumbbells for squats and lunges. I sprinted up and down the basement stairs. I stretched. Afterward, I felt much, much better.
You always do when you work out on the road. You feel rejuvenated and more equipped to tackle the day, whether it involves bargaining at Moroccan rug shops or attending business meetings in Miami. You sleep more soundly, even on a saggy mattress in a motel room that overlooks the freeway. You have more strength for schlepping your luggage. You gain less weight from your airport eating splurges. You’re more relaxed and cheerful — and less prone to a meltdown when the rental-car agent informs you that the last available vehicle just drove off the lot.
But staying fit on the road isn’t as easy as spotting a FITNESS CENTER sign. It can take ingenuity, resourcefulness, and an extra dose of motivation — even a new set of skills and a whole new mindset. On all these fronts, Fitness for Travelers comes to the rescue. This book is for everyone who ever takes a trip: business travelers and vacationers, fitness novices and veterans, tourists going the four-star route or those venturing around on the cheap. You’ll find this book useful if: • You have trouble sustaining a routine on the road because you’re too busy, exhausted, or stressed. The book answers your pressing questions: How can I muster the incentive to exercise when I’d rather crash on my hotel bed and watch HBO? How can I minimize jet lag and maximize sleep? How can I possibly fit in exercise when I’m working twelve hours a day? Can I maintain my fitness on two workouts a week?
• You don’t have the skills or confidence to exercise in unfamiliar surroundings. Maybe you’re comfortable at your local gym but need help adapting your routine to the machines or dumbbells at your hotel. Or maybe you wonder: Can I get a decent strength workout in a motel room? How can I get my heart rate up if the neighborhood is unsafe for jogging? How can I burn calories in a hotel pool that’s barely bigger than a hot tub?
• You don’t have access to — or interest in — a hotel gym. What’s the best way to find a nearby health club that welcomes visitors? How much can you expect to pay for a workout? Which Web sites can help you find a local running route, hiking trail, or Olympic-size pool? What are the best gadgets to pack so you can exercise away from a gym?
For help in answering these questions, I turned to the world’s largest organization of fitness professionals, the American Council on Exercise, which has certified more than 100,000 trainers in 77 countries. The workouts in this book were designed by some of ACE’s most accomplished, creative, and well-traveled trainers.
But Fitness for Travelers gives you more than guidance from the experts. You’ll also find useful tips and instructive tales from some of the country’s busiest travelers, including touring musicians, commercial pilots, newspaper correspondents, business executives, and political campaign consultants. I spoke to Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Michael Cartellone, who performs an elaborate strength routine in his hotel room every mornning. “I’ve never let traveling get in the way of my workouts,” says Cartellone, who’s been known to do pushups on the floor of a moving tour bus. “I’m ssssso focused that I probably get a better workout on the road than I do at home.” Mike Feldman, the traveling chief of staff for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, told me he’d often drag himself out of bed at 5 a.m. to jog. “There was never a time when I finished a run that I wasn’t happy I did it,” said Feldman, who traveled to four, five, even seven cities a day. “It changes your outlook. It makes you feel healthier and clears your head. I spent all my time in hotels, minivans, and the same airplane, constantly protected by armed federal agents. Jogging was my only chance to get out of the bubble.” Whether you’re traveling for business or for fun, exercise is a great way to escape your own bubble — of business meetings, conventions, or sightseeing tours. And who knows what strange and remarkable experiences may await. At a gym in the Russian Far East, I lifted steel weights shaped like bowling balls and clothing irons. At a club in Kenya, I found gigantic handmade weight plates that were so thin they looked like oversize LPs. While on business in Thailand, controller David Negus found an elaborate gym set up in a downtown park. “There were cable pulleys nailed to the branches and weight bars resting on stakes that had been pounded into the trees,” says Negus, who has exercised in more than sixty countries while working for international nonprofit organizations.
Sometimes it’s not the machines that are intriguing but the people. Once, before visiting Iceland, I used the Internet to track down Albert Jakobsson, president of that country’s only road-cycling club. Albert, a thirty-eight-year-old computer technician, kindly offered to lend me a bike and take me on a ride upon my arrival in Reykjavik. He was eager to chat about road-bike racing, a sport that has aroused the passion of exactly seven of his countrymen — cyclists who train year-round, even in subfreezing temperatures, even in the dark, even in the snow.
The day Albert and I rode, temperatures barely topped 30 degrees, winds blew hard, and it rained nonstop. We cycled all of nine miles on a bike path before coming to an abrupt halt where the pavement ended. I was ready to turn around; my clothes were soaked, my toes were numb, and I’d had more than my fill of the Icelandic cycling scene. As we made our way back, I asked Albert why he bothers to ride a road bike in a country that has no decent roads, no road- bike shops, no daylight half the year, and almost no good weather.
“We are Vikings!” he said.
I’m no Viking. I’m just a person who thrives on the energy I get from exercise and the adventure that’s often involved in breaking a sweat on the road. I hope this book infuses both energy and adventure into your own travel workouts.
Copyright © 2002 by Suzanne Schlosberg. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.