07/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

No Gym - No Excuse: Part 1

I may not appear to be a gym rat (writers frequently spend hours in the stationary keister position), I don't feel good if I don't exercise. Most hotels offer some semblance of a gym, but they often charge a fee or have limited hours and/or equipment. I asked three trainers from my gym, Spectrum Club of Santa Monica, for some exercises any traveler (at any fitness level) could do in a hotel room without packing a bosu or fitness ball or any other equipment. My next two posts will contain the program they devised: Part 1 -- stretching; Part 2 will get you sweaty using the mattress, chair and floor (clothes on -- this is not a whorehouse aerobic program for which you hopefully require no instruction).

Hotel Warriors' Stretching Program: Part 1

Designed by Serkan O. Yimsel, NCEP Exercise Therapist/CHEK Exercise Coach/NASM, NSCA, UCLA Fitness ( )

Before beginning any workout, it's good to assess your current level of flexibility -- which can vary day by day. Before stretching, you need to do four basic mobility tests to assess your readiness for hotel exercise combat. It's never a good idea to randomly pick muscles and stretch them. First, you need to identify which muscles need stretching and which require strengthening.

Lower Body Mobility Tests:
1. Bend over please (Hip Extensor Test):
Stand with your feet hip width apart and knees straight but not locked. Bend forward as if to touch your toes. Your head and neck should be relaxed.

Notes: There should be no pain or limitation. If you feel stiff in general or your knees start to bend or you realize you are bending from your torso rather than properly bending from your hips, your hip extensors, mainly gluteal muscles and hamstrings are tight. Proceed to gluteal and hamstring stretches.

2. Hug your knees, please (Hip Flexor test):
Lie on a stable table, bench or bed that is high enough so that your feet don't easily touch the floor if you sit on it. Position yourself so that your tail bone is right at the edge. Hugging one knee with your arms (being careful not to pull, holding gently at arm's length), lie on your back and let the other leg be pulled toward the floor by gravity. Repeat the test for your other leg.

Notes: There should be no pain or limitation. If your hanging leg seems to stay above the table zone, your hip flexors for that leg are probably tight. Proceed to the hip flexor stretch.

Lower Body Stretches:

Here's hammy (Hamstring Floor Stretch): Lay on your back with a small, rolled-up towel under your back at your waist (or belt) line. The towel should be about the thickness of your forearm. Keeping one leg straight on the floor, bend the other leg and grab it with both hands just below the knee. Keep the upper thigh bone of your bent leg perpendicular to the floor. Slowly straighten this leg without letting the thigh move in your hands or letting your back come off the floor. Hold a comfortable stretch for 20 seconds, repeat it up to 3 times per each leg.

Sink into a gluteal stretch: Position yourself in front of your bathroom sink. If your shins are sensitive on a hard surface, place a towel over the sink. Bring one leg up and place it over the sink with the knee turned out and shin perpendicular to your body (as if you were sitting down crossing that ankle on top of your opposite knee). Keep your back straight and your knee in front of your hip. Allow your knee drop towards the sink to increase the stretch and hold for 20 seconds, repeat up to 3 times per leg.

Pelvic thrust for flexibility (Hip Flexor Stretch): Assume a lunge position on the floor with one knee on the ground keeping your front foot in front of that knee. You may wish to place a towel under the knee if it feels sensitive. Engage your abdominals and buttocks of the side that is on the floor, gently move your whole pelvis forward, keeping it square to the front. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat up to 3 times for each leg.

Upper Mobility Tests:

1. Up against the wall (Shoulder Flexion):
Lean with your back against the wall, so that your heels, buttocks, mid-back and head are all touching the wall. Raise both arms overhead by flexing shoulders, attempting to touch the wall behind.

Notes: There should be no pain or limitation. If touching the wall is impossible, or your lower back curvature is increasing during this test, your lats and pectorals may be tight. Refer to latissimus dorsi and pectoral stretches.

2. Scratch your own back:
Stand with relaxed posture, bring one hand behind your back and attempt to scratch your opposite shoulder blade.

Notes: There should be no pain or limitation. If your hand cannot touch the bottom shoulder blade or you feel you need to bend sideways or shrug your shoulders in this attempt, your external shoulder rotators might be tight. Refer to the external shoulder rotator stretch.

Upper Body Stretches:

Take a bow and stretch your latissimus dors Position yourself in front of an open door frame, grasp the door knob with both hands and slowly bend over, leaning your weight back towards your heels. Let gravity assist and gently move your hips away from the side you will be stretching. When you do this, your torso will look like a "C" shape. Make sure your hips stay square at all times. Hold the position for 20 seconds, repeat up to 3 times per each arm.

Embrace the corner (pectoral stretch): Find a wall corner and place each arm at about 90 degree angles on each side of the corner. Place one foot in front of the other to do so. Make sure your elbows and forearms remain in constant contact with the walls. Gently move forward, allowing your chest to press towards the corner until you feel a comfortable stretch. Your head should be neutral throughout this stretch. Hold the position for 20 seconds, repeat up to 3 times.

Don't thrown in the towel let it give you a hand (External Shoulder Rotator Stretch): Standing with a relaxed posture, bring one hand to your back around your low back level. With your other arm, hold end of a small bathroom towel and lower it from behind your neck towards the lower arm. Making sure that your chest is up and your head is in neutral, grasp the other end of the towel with your bottom hand. Now using your top hand, gently pull the lower hand upwards. This stretch has two benefits: as the lower arm external rotators are being stretched, the triceps of the upper arm are contracting. Hold the position for 20 seconds, repeat up to 3 times per each side.