Away from home? You can still flex your muscles Workouts: Get with the program, wherever you are, by finding fitness centers in or near your hotel.


R. C. Staab never leaves home without the Card -- not a credit card, but his YMCA membership I.D. Staab's card bears a sticker for the athletic club's AWAY program, (an acronym for Always Welcome at the Y), which admits the 39-year-old Philadelphia publicist to most YMCA fitness facilities throughout North America and several foreign countries.

"Staying fit is vital for my mental and physical health and it helps me do my job better, so I make exercise a priority when I'm on the road," says Staab, who estimates he has worked out at 65 Y's around the United States and at facilities in London, Dublin, Toronto and Montreal.

"If I go a week without exercise," he says, "I go into a kind of depression and I'm not as sharp in my business dealings, so when I travel, I'm more concerned with finding a good place to work out than to eat."

Staab is typical of traveling business people (as well as many vacationers) who believe that incorporating exercise into their trips helps keep them at the top of their game and combats the debilitating effects of long hours in planes or cars, jet lag, heavy -- meals, diverse climates and altitudes and other travel stresses.

"Exercise is the single biggest step we can take to feel better under the pressures of travel and doing business away from home," says Bill Haverland, a former corporate financial executive who had so much trouble finding good places to swim laps during business trips that he finally wrote his own book on the subject: "Swimmers Guide: Directory of Pools for Fitness Swimmers" ($16.95, ALSA Publishing Inc., [800] 352-6657).

"You sleep better, perform better and tend to eat and drink healthier if you're in sync with your body, yet many travelers drop their normal fitness routine exactly when they most need its energizing effects," says Haverland, whose guide lists 3,300 hotels, private clubs and public pools that admit visitors for free or at a day rate.

Unlike most vacation travelers, a business traveler's personal time is at a premium, so exercise options need to be readily available with no hassles. Increasingly, reports the American Hotel and Motel Association, business travelers are choosing hotels at least partly on the basis of their fitness facilities (or courtesy arrangements with nearby private gyms) or their proximity to walking or jogging trails.

The association estimates that about 40 percent of U.S. hotels have some kind of fitness facility, with more properties adding or updating exercise equipment each year.

Use your imagination

Business travelers are finding other innovative solutions for working out on the go:

Most cities have fitness clubs that welcome drop-ins for a fee. Check the Yellow Pages for listings or ask the hotel concierge for suggestions.

In New York, for example, World Gym's Lincoln Square and Greenwich Village clubs offer day-passes for $17 and $15 respectively. Show a room key from any New York City hotel and you get $5 off at either location. In Beverly Hills, take a class at diet-and-exercise guru Richard Simmons' Slimmons exercise studio, where $10 buys you a vigorous workout -- often led by Simmons himself when he isn't traveling.

A good sourcebook is "Working Out on the Road: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to Health Clubs in 25 U.S. Cities," by Jim Morelli ($11.95, Hunter Publishing; [908] 225-1900).

Got a longish layover at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport or Chicago O'Hare? Take the free five-minute shuttle bus to the Hyatt airport hotel at either location and you can use the hotel's gym and pool for a mere $5 in Dallas, $10 in Chicago.

The health club at O'Hare's Westin Hotel charges $7 for drop-ins who show their airline ticket. At San Francisco International Airport, take the free two-mile shuttle bus to the Westin airport hotel and cross the street to a gorgeous jogging trail along San Francisco Bay.

Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in North Carolina provides a three-mile outdoor landscaped walking trail, and at Houston Intercontinental Airport, passengers can hike three miles of subterranean tunnels connecting the terminals.

At other airports, stash your carry-on gear in a locker and use the airport corridors as an indoor walking track, logging as many laps as time permits.

Instead of holding a business discussion (particularly one that is predominantly social in nature) over lunch or drinks, propose a walking chat at a nearby park or along a quiet street.

Bad weather? Take to adjacent exercise machines in the hotel fitness center. This approach gets in an aerobic workout, cuts down on opportunities to eat and drink too much and may build a bond beyond the usual business-lunch superficialities.

If you anticipate a chunk of free time, check local newspapers or magazines at your destination for scheduled hikes or other outdoor excursions -- especially if your visit includes a weekend. Most cities have Sierra Club or other outdoor recreation programs as well as local walking and/or cycling tours designed to get residents and visitors out and about.

Planning is key to staying in shape on the go.

"Leaving home with the vague intention of doing better this time won't solve your travel fitness problems," says Bill Tulin, an attorney and personal trainer who is co-author with his wife, Rebecca Johnson, of "Travel Fitness: Feel Better, Perform Better on the Road" ($14.95, Human Kinetics Press; [800] 747-4457).

"You need a specific plan for staying fit on the road," says Tulin, who logs more than 100,000 miles a year in business travel. His book provides resources for exercising in different cities, illustrated instructions for easy in-room workouts, and a packing list of clothing and other gear to facilitate fitness away from home.

Favorite cities

It also addresses health concerns such as altitude and humidity factors, offers tips for exercising on airplanes to keep muscles from cramping in tight seats and lists favorite North American cities for runners based on their abundance of easily accessible trails. (The top 10, according to Tulin's source, Runners World magazine, are: Portland, Ore.; Washington; San Diego; San Francisco; Vancouver, British Columbia; Minneapolis; Honolulu; Boulder, Colo.; Atlanta; and Boston.)

Key to maintaining a mobile fitness program is treating your commitment to exercise as something that is as important as your other responsibilities.

"Many of our business guests schedule workouts on their daily to-do list -- usually first thing in the morning -- along with business and social commitments," says Kerman Beriker, general manager and CEO of California's swank Beverly Hills Hotel.

The hotel's recent $100 million renovation included the construction of a high-tech fitness facility overlooking landscaped gardens, and the placement of treadmills in the top-of-the line suites.

Guests in other rooms can request a treadmill in their rooms at no fee if the machines are not being used, or, for a $65 rental fee, treadmills, stationery bikes or other exercise machines can be stocked in-room along with fresh juices in the mini-bar.

Personal trainers also are available (at a fee) for in-room workouts or to jog around Beverly Hills with guests who want more company than the hotel's courtesy running map. The concierge also can provide exercise videos to play on the room VCR.

Of course, not every business traveler can afford to shell out $300 to $3,000 for a room of the Beverly Hills Hotel caliber.

No problem.

At the other end of the price scale, Budgetel Inns, a national economy lodging chain with 120 motels in 28 states, recently introduced an in-room exercise program that provides free booklets outlining an easy 20- to 30-minute "Express Hotel Room Workout" that is performed with readily available objects such as chairs for balance and briefcases for weights.

(Free copies of Budgetel's "Tips for Healthy Travel," which includes the workout, are available by calling [800] 428-3438).

In addition, guests staying at Budgetel Inns can join the American Running & Fitness Association (ARFA) at a reduced rate of $15 a year, $10 off the standard fee. Membership benefits include a monthly fitness newsletter and free trail maps for dozens of cities around the United States and in several foreign countries. Or call ARFA at (800) 776-2732.

Roll with the punches

While planning for exercise opportunities is important, travelers also need to be flexible when schedules change or anticipated options fall through.

"Be creative," says Doug Crowell, fitness director of the Life Enhancement Center at Tucson's Canyon Ranch health spa, where guests spend big bucks for an intensive week learning healthier eating, exercise and stress reduction behaviors.

"Bring along a favorite exercise video if your hotel has room VCRs, borrow a step stool from housekeeping or use two stacked phone books for an instant step workout, pack a jump-rope and Dyna-Band (a taut length of stretchy rubber that provides resistance in lieu of weights), and use the stairs rather than the elevators.

"If a hotel's so-called fitness center turns out to be one rusty stationery bike, or torrential rains wash out your outdoor run, you can always go to Plan B," says Crowell.

"Just knowing you've got a fall-back plan is a bonus stress buster," he says.

Staying fit while you travel

1. Pack with exercise in mind: workout clothes, athletic shoes, a bathing suit and goggles, perhaps a rain slicker or jacket.

2. Try to stay at a hotel with a fitness facility, since you're most likely to exercise with a gym on the premises. Second choice is a hotel with guest privileges at a nearby gym. Or, ask the concierge about private clubs that admit drop-ins for a fee.

3. Consider a resort hotel. These usually have fitness facilities, landscaped walkways around the grounds, and often tennis and/or golf.

4. Join your local YMCA and sign up for its AWAY privilege, which lets you use other Y's throughout the United States and abroad for free or at a small fee. Many private clubs are affiliated with the International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association ([800] 866-8466), whose Passport program grants reciprocal guest privileges around the United States and abroad. Other clubs that offer reciprocal deals, sometimes at a fee: Gold's Gym, Bally's clubs and Jewish community centers.

5. Call the visitors bureau at your destination (written queries often aren't answered for months) and ask for information on parks and recreation facilities as well as self-guided walking or cycling tours. For example, the Toronto Convention and Visitors Bureau publishes free city guides for walking and cycling, the Los Angeles Visitors Bureau lists places to hike and cycle, the New York State Division of Tourism describes outdoor adventures and park areas around New York City, and Philadelphia's Convention and Visitors Bureau has running maps that take in historic sites as well as pastoral expanses.

Farther afield, the Hong Kong Tourist Association lists routethrough rural areas. Other foreign tourist boards provide similar guides. Bookstore travel shelves abound with walking tours of cities worldwide, and magazines such as Outside, Backpacker and Runner's World report on outdoor escapes near urban centers. Travel and Leisure sometimes highlights top fitness clubs and hotel gyms.

6. Check out the Internet: On America Online, for example, type in the keyword Outdoor Adventure, and you'll get a choice of associations, activities and tours around the country.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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