Hit the Road Running

Don't sweat that impending trip — it's easy to keep in shape away from home

Fifteen or so years ago, at the height of my "career" as a dedicated, middle-of-the-pack 10k runner, I arrived rather late in a midwestern metropolis and was greeted by pouring rain. The automaton within chanted mercilessly, "Must run." My corporeal self was numb, laden with airplane-air-induced sluggishness, and was lobbying hard to click on HBO. But compulsiveness reigned, and I plunged into the teeming urban wilderness — for about three blocks. Shivering but not defeated, I returned to my hotel and, ignoring askance glances from civilized folk in the lobby, proceeded to bound up and down a dozen flights of stairs until my quads burned, my shins nearly splinted, and at last I was satiated.

Since then I've become more creative about working in a workout when I'm out of town. For one thing, I'm less monomaniacal about running: I've come to see time away from my routine as time to mix things up. Still, athletes and trainers who know the physical cost of racking up frequent-flier miles hold that it's actually quite doable to stay in shape on the road.

Short of shelling out for a health-club session or dealing with your hotel's likely-to-be-decrepit Universal machine, there are three good ways to maintain fitness when traveling: exercise in your room, hit the pool, or head outside. But you need a plan. To that end, we've culled advice from seasoned road jocks that'll keep your muscles from shriveling. These options should keep you busy each traveling day. At the least, they'll satisfy your habit, root out that sludgy road feeling, and leave you peppy for whatever has you away from home in the first place.

Option 1:
Turning Solitary Confinement into Serious Training

Option 2:
Taking Advantage of Your Hotel's Pitiful Pool

Option 3:
Getting Out

Routines
A Balancing Act for Shoulders

Standards
Round Out Your Workout

Prescriptions
Magnet Therapy's Strong Attractions

Turning Solitary Confinement into Serious Training

Option 1

By dint of a late arrival, lousy weather, or disorientation, you might opt to venture no farther than your own hotel room. Don't worry: It could be a good time to let go of a full-blown cardiovascular workout and concentrate on strength training. And if Gene Coleman, strength and conditioning coach for the Houston Astros, has his way with you, you'll be, as the Texan charmingly puts it, "sweating like a pig."

First, decide you're going to take this jail-cell session seriously: Set aside 30 minutes to run through Coleman's full-body routine, which requires no weights, though a metropolitan phone book helps with executing some of the moves. Coleman suggests interspersing crunches of your choice between upper-body and lower-body exercises. Throw in a minute or two of skipping rope at an even pace between exercises and your body will never miss the health club.

One-Legged Squats
Place a chair to the right of where you're standing and hold the back with your right hand to steady yourself. Tuck your right ankle behind your left leg. Now lower your weight slowly until you can touch the floor with your left hand, and be sure to keep your back straight and your head up. Slowly stand and repeat. Do one set of ten with each leg.

Calf Raises
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower, your feet flat, and your arms straight in front of you for balance. Raise all the way up on your tiptoes and lower slowly. Do a set of 20.

Dips
Start your upper-body routine with triceps-blasting chair dips. Position yourself with your hands holding the edges of a chair, your legs straight out in front of you, heels resting on the bed. Lower yourself until your upper arms become parallel with the floor, and then push back up. Do two sets of ten.

Lateral Lunges
To keep from going bonkers, try this variation on the familiar lunge. Stand with your feet together, your back straight, and your hands on your hips. Step your right foot one full stride straight out to the side, pointing your toe that direction rather than straight forward. Keeping your left leg straight, with the toe pointed forward, lower your right leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Repeat ten times on each side.

Hamstring Lifts
Lie flat on your stomach with your hands folded under your chin. Position yourself so that your left leg is straight and your right is bent at the knee with your lower leg pointing up, foot parallel to the ceiling. Slowly raise your right knee as far as you can, and then lower it. Do a set of 15 on each side.

Trunk Rotations
To balance the benefit of crunches, you'll want to do something for your back. This is where the phone book comes in handy. Stand with your back about six inches from a wall, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your knees slightly bent. Hold the phone book straight in front of you with both hands. Holding your arms straight, slowly twist and touch the book to the wall in each direction, pivoting from the waist and keeping your feet planted. Do ten complete reps.

Diamond Push-Ups
Place your hands on the floor beneath your sternum, form a diamond with your thumbs and forefingers, and look straight down. Do two sets of 15 push-ups. Be sure to keep your body plank-straight. For a more difficult exercise, elevate your toes (the phone book again), which puts more weight over your arms. Another option is to do step-ups with your hands: Get in push-up position, phone book just in front of your fingertips, and alternate placing hands onto the book. Do 20; it's more difficult than it sounds.

Towel Twists
Roll up one of those lovely hotel towels and, gripping it with your arms extended before you, give it a twist. Do a set of ten, twisting harder and rolling the towel tighter with each rep. Repeat in the opposite direction.

Taking Advantage of Your Hotel's Pitiful Pool

Option 2

There's always the pool. If nothing else, you posit, I'll get in a swim. Problem is, the shimmering, Olympic-size pool you imagine is seldom the one you'll get: a kidney-shaped tub that requires all of three strokes to cross. Swimming two jillion 25-foot laps is no one's idea of a good time, let alone a good workout. But with a small bag of tricks, you can find rigorous exercise in a pool of any dimensions.

Going Nowhere
Perhaps the best alternative is simply to swim in place. Scoff if you will, but Stanford men's coach Skip Kenney recommends it to his swimmers when they're marooned without an Olympic-size pool. The key is Strech Cordz, a device comprising a nylon belt and latex tubing that you attach to a fixed object. "Just tie yourself up to the ladder and swim for 30 minutes," says Kenney, who admits this can be "boring as hell." It's not really all that bad, though, as the cord's elasticity affords a sense of movement, so you can perform your stroke naturally.

Stifle It
If you're dying to break loose from your tether and stroke across the pool, Kenney suggests employing breath control to increase your effort: "Breathing every fifth stroke will get your heart rate up as if you were swimming in a regular pool."

Freedom of Expression
As an alternative or adjunct to conventional swimming try a buoyant water belt, such as the AquaJogger, that lets you work out vertically in the deep end. You can, in effect, run or cross-country ski, taking advantage of water's resistance — 12 times that of air, yet joint-friendly. Do a 30-minute workout that begins with water-running for 15 minutes, divided into segments of five, four, three, two, and one minutes. Between segments, do 20 seconds of sit kicks: Position yourself as if you're sitting in a chair and, alternating legs, kick out from each knee with toes pointed. Now do 15 minutes of cross-country skiing in five segments, as before. Keep arms and legs straight and scissor them forward and back. Cupping your hands increases upper-body resistance. Between segments, do 30-second bouts of modified jumping jacks, jumping your legs out to the side as you would on land and sculling your hands back and forth at shoulder height, like you're treading water. Travelers will appreciate that these belts weigh less than a pound and lie flat in virtually any suitcase.

 

Gear to Go
American Running and Fitness Association membership, which includes maps, personalized schedules, and medical advice, $25; 800-776-2732

AquaJogger buoyancy belt from Excel Sports Science Inc., $40; 800-922-9544

Bike Friday and travel case, from Green Gear Cycling, $1,183; 800-777-0258

Speedo Fit-Rope jump rope, $18; 800-547-8770

Strech Cordz swimming tether, from NZ Manufacturing, $41; 800-886-6621

Xertube stretch tubes, from Spri Products Inc., $6; 800-222-7774

Getting Out

Option 3

Effective though it is, most of us can take only so much of the hotel workout, and after several days you'll be craving the outdoors. The trick is to find friendly pastures for your chosen pursuit. Know that exercise may require a compromise in your normal routine. "The key thing," says triathlete and frequent flier Ray Browning, "is to leave the compulsion at home and enjoy the chance to see someplace new." Here are some strategies to help you get your running, biking, and skating fixes while in foreign places.

Score a map. You won't be the first jock to ask, and your hotel may keep on hand maps that include nearby running, cycling, and skating routes. The American Running and Fitness Association also offers maps of runs in more than 200 cities.

Get the local scoop. Bulletin boards at coffeehouses and sporting goods stores are great sources for club events and races.

Mix it up. If you're running at a track, alternate laps with bleacher-running. If you're winging it on the streets, follow an out-and-back strategy to avoid getting lost.

Think time, not distance. Without your familiar landmarks, you probably won't know how far you're going, so use your watch to gauge your workout.

Pack it. Traveling can be hell for cyclists who dare bring along their equipment. The Bike Friday, however, is a blessing: a high-performance folding bike that packs neatly into an airline-checkable suitcase, preventing extra charges and risk of damage.

Rent and ride. Big bike shops rent bicycles — usually mountain bikes, which means riding knobbies on pavement. The shop can steer you to good routes, however, and it'll rent you a helmet.

Skates fly free. If you're checking luggage, skip the rental grab-bag and tote your own in-line skates. You might avoid slaloming crowded sidewalks by cabbing it to your destination.

A Balancing Act for Shoulders

Routines

Terry Schroeder's shoulders have carried the weight of three Olympic water polo performances and inspired the official 1984 Olympic statue, cast in his likeness. That they are still intact — nay, formidable — after 25 years of playing a brutal sport is due chiefly to his strength-training approach. "Like most athletes, I have the tendency to become unbalanced," says Schroeder, 38, who now coaches Pepperdine's squad. "Too much chest strength causes your pecs to work more, leaving your shoulders undeveloped." The result is susceptibility to injury, not to mention a resemblance to Quasimodo. Schroeder's routine helps prevent such things and builds impressive shoulders. Do three sets of 12 repetitions of the strengthening exercises, three times a week.

Doorway Stretch: After a jumping-jack warm-up, stand in a doorway and grab the doorjamb at shoulder height with your right hand. Slowly walk through the doorway until your arm is straight and your chest tightens. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Seated Row: Sit with your legs in front of you, feet flat against a wall, and knees slightly bent. Holding two five- to eight-pound weights, place your hands alongside your toes and then pull them toward your chest in a rowing motion. Lean back simultaneously, and keep those elbows in.

Water Pump: Place your right knee and hand on a bench beside you and, with your back flat, grasp a five- to eight-pound weight in your left hand. Slowly draw the weight up to your armpit, keeping your elbow tucked in to your side. Switch sides after each set.

Wing Pull: Tie one end of a five-foot-long surgical tube to a fixed object at elbow height to your right, and stand perpendicular to it. Hold your right arm straight out from your shoulder, elbow bent and lower arm pointing up, and grasp the other end of the tube, which should be taut. Now, keeping your arm rigid, fold it across your body at the shoulder, pulling the tube tighter. Switch sides after each set.

The Shrug: Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasp a barbell with little or no weight and hold it at your thighs, palms facing in. Keeping your arms and back straight, shrug your shoulders up and back, then release.

Round Out Your Workout

Standards

The Greeks were on to something 2,500 years ago when they tossed around a prop akin to the medicine ball, that sand-filled leather or vinyl orb that remains a key piece of equipment at boxing gyms. "The medicine ball lets you work muscles from all angles, so you can isolate particular muscle groups even better than with free weights or a machine," says Donald Chu, president of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and author of Plyometric Exercises with the Medicine Ball.

Medicine balls range wildly in size and weight, but for starters, moderately fit women might try a six-pounder; men, an eight-pounder. You can use it for partner exercises, but to work it solo, try the giant circle, which taxes both the lower and upper body. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold the ball directly overhead. With your arms straight, slowly sweep it to the right in a full circle, keeping it close to your body. As the ball comes down, bend into a semi-squat, and straighten as you reach 12 o'clock. Do ten in each direction.

Magnet Therapy's Strong Attractions

Prescriptions

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't approve magnets for therapeutic use, but Dan Marino does — as do plenty of the Miami Dolphins quarterback's peers. And when you've mended your sore joints and muscles, you can use them to post your grocery list on the refrigerator. For decades, so-called therapeutic magnets have enjoyed a vogue among certain ailing athletes, and now their popularity is burgeoning. Nikken, the McDonald's of magnets, reported worldwide sales (including nutritional supplements) of $1.2 billion in 1996. One eighth-inch-thick magnet costs between $20 and $100.

So how are magnetized wafers said to work? "Magnets stimulate electrical fields in the body," says Dr. Ted Zablotsky, president of BIOflex Medical Magnetics, "which increases circulation, thus relieving pain." Many who've strapped magnets to sore spots — from shinsplints to bad backs — swear by them.

Predictably, the medical establishment remains more reserved. "Increased circulation would reduce inflammation and possibly hasten healing," admits exercise physiologist Richard Cotton, a vice-president of the American Council on Exercise. But, he adds, nothing's been done to prove that magnets affect circulation — yet. The National Institutes of Health deemed the trend important enough to grant $1.1 million to a University of Virginia medical researcher who's planning an independent study on alternative methods of healing, including magnets, this fall.

Meanwhile, magnet makers stand by sales figures, steering clear of direct medical claims and thus the wrath of the FDA. "They're an excellent relaxation system," says Clifton Jolley of Nikken. Indeed, one of their more popular offerings is the magnetic mattress pad (a whopping $690 for a king size). We can't verify its healing powers, but the firm foam egg-carton surface sure is comfortable.

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