Five ways to survive an unplanned trip to the hotel gym

On a rainy Thursday morning in San Diego, I and a roomful of fellow conference goers tucked in our wicking gear and trudged to a place no recreational athlete wants to go – the hotel gym.

I tried not to think about the view I would have enjoyed had the weather been more accommodating – blue water, white yachts, pink sunrise – on my planned jogging route along the Embarcadero.

I also tried not to think about the view I did enjoy –a wall mirror in front of an elliptical.

Thanks to sheer determination and increasing near-sightedness, I survived my morning workout, and if you follow these five tips, you will too.

1)      Go for the wipes first. Ignore the fool-hardy reflex that tells you to claim the nearest open treadmill as fast as you can. Oh sure, you may out-sprint the tax-season-pale-accountant and triumphantly stake your claim, but if you haven’t stopped for some sort of anti-bacterial cloth to wipe down the equipment first, you’re going to spend your whole workout wondering whether that deep, juicy hack you hear reverberating through the gym belongs to person who used that treadmill right before you. Nothing says petri dish like a hotel gym. Protect yourself, man. Take 30 seconds to find the wipes before you jump on. (As a courtesy, you should also wipe it down after you’re finished.)

2)      Breathe through your mouth if necessary. Strange noises echo through any full gym. You’ve got the loud grunters, who are either motivating themselves, which is cool, or trying to get you to look at them, which is incredibly uncool and inspires unkind thoughts like, “Stick a few more weights on the barbell, buddy, if you’re looking for applause.” The real noises you have to protect yourself against, though, are the ones accompanied by strong gaseous odors. Neither stern look, nor eye roll, nor pointed throat clear, work to stop this kind of behavior in a hotel gym. Your only recourse is self-preservation and that means breathing through your nose. In extreme circumstances, a delicate positioning of the sweat towel against one’s face can mitigate the discomfort.

3)      Compromise. In a packed gym with limited equipment, you may have to forego your treadmill work out in favor of an elliptical machine, a Stairmaster, or recumbent bike. All you’re really looking for is a good sweat to keep you sane through the next nine hours of seminar presentations, so, instead of standing next to the one piece of equipment you covet, glaring at the poor sucker lucky enough to have jumped on first, try something new.  If every single piece of equipment is occupied, head out to the oldest and most reliable Stairmaster in the world, the hotel stairwell. Sure, you’re on security cameras huffing up and down steps and the view normally is pretty stale, but, again, you’re just looking to stretch out a little, burn a couple of calories and get the heart-rate flowing, all of which you can easily accomplish on the hotel stairs.

4)      Don’t judge. That lady in the corner with the pink shoes and biker shorts working her way through a solo kick boxing routine might be getting a better workout than you are. The tiny man on the exercise mat working out in thick white socks probably have had to file a lost luggage report and may never see his running shoes again. A little empathy is in order here. And, remember, judge not lest you be judged is not only Biblical, it’s also elliptical.

5)      Distract yourself as pleasantly as possible. For this I’d like to give a quick nod to the young man who included five handstand push ups and 16 chin-ups in his very thorough workout. Yes, I counted. Thanks for the gun show, my friend.

Apparently, it does rain in Southern California and, when it does, everyone heads into the hotel gym. Even this especially nice gym requires certain survival tips.
Apparently, it does rain in Southern California and, when it does, everyone heads into the hotel gym. Even this especially nice gym requires certain survival tips.
View from the window
That’s me in the reflection of the hotel window, and that’s the sad view of a soggy San Diego Embarcadero.
Sad pool
How sad is this empty swimming pool area? Everyone fled inside to the gym.
First stop, cleaning wipes.
First stop, cleaning wipes. Alarmingly, no one knew where these were when I asked for them.

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