Making It Work On The Road – Travel, Tiny Gyms, And Cable Curls Oh My!

Recently Casey and I were out of town in a hotel for a week looking for a new place to live, and going into it we had planned to keep on top of our fitness by taking advantage of the hotel “gym.” I expected tiny, most likely with some yoga mats, treadmills, and scattering of dumbbells at moderate weights. What we found was tiny, with two treadmills, a recumbent stationary bike, an elliptical… and no weights. None. Not even a pink 3 pound dumbbell. There were, however, an adjustable bench, a partly deflated balance ball, medicine balls between 2 and 8 pounds (some also somehow deflated), and a cable station. I ended up really enjoying our workouts, and they’re helping me bring new variety into my day to day, now, too, so that tiny gym negative turned into a full-size positive.
I don’t think people who primarily CrossFit say this often but three cheers for the cable station. We were able to put together several effective workouts combining the limited tools at hand, Casey’s knowledge of some more traditional “gym” style workouts, and a little creativity. Sometimes when options are limited – such as in a tiny hotel gym – isolation moves people in the CrossFit community don’t often do can be the best way to go. (This worked on deployment too, and following a traditional bodybuilding plan for a while actually did pay off in my WODs for me once I could train however I wanted again.)

When space and equipment are limited, don’t write off the curls and kickbacks! Smaller movements with smaller muscle groups means you can get by with smaller space and smaller weights! The cable station was surprisingly versatile. I regret we didn’t get to test out the ideas for legs we had on it, but I’m sure I’ll be in this situation again and I’ll be ready! Most of what we did could also be accomplished, however, with small to medium dumbbells – the sizes you typically find in hotel gyms when they do have them. It was press, kickback, curl, and fly central with us for a few days, and with higher sets and reps (5×12 mostly, whereas I often work in the 3×5-8 range!) I felt like I got plenty of work in despite the noted lack of barbells.

We split our sessions into chest & triceps,

Back and biceps (yes, seriously),

Probably the most meathead picture that ever has been, or ever will be, taken of me.
Probably the most meathead picture that ever has been, or ever will be, taken of me. Gettin’ my flex on! Must admit I was pretty proud.

and shoulders. (No pics that day, couldn’t lift the camera with my sore shoulders – just kidding. Actually, there were other people in the tiny gym and I didn’t want to be too weird…)

But I DO have pictures of the stationary recumbent bike Sprint Challenge! (Casey won, big time… but I’d say I owned the balance-ball jackknife and decline pushups.)

So, even on the road when things are limited and inconvenient if you keep an open mind you can get it done – and yes, alternating cable bicep curls DO count! Which is the beauty of a changeup to your routine – things you might normally write off or not do (because you don’t like, aren’t used to them, they don’t make sense as a day to day staple move) can take center stage and help keep your mind open when you DO get home, too. Which has been a double bonus for me right now, because I have a foot injury limiting me from my usual staples like running, squatting, and olympic lifting. (Also why we didn’t use the treadmill or come up with a leg day, I’ve been trying to rest it while I wait for a doctor’s appointment). Are bicep curls the be all end all most useful move in my arsenal? No probably not… but at least I know several versions of those, and benching, and dumbbell rows and… anything else that keeps me off my feet, I’ll try it! Unless an exercise is guaranteed to be injurious, they all have their place somewhere, sometime.

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