No Special Gear + Minimal Time: The Ideal Travel Workout

Here’s a workout that only takes seven minutes and is hotel-room friendly.

When it comes to exercise on the road, I get bogged down easily. Special gear, sneakers, appropriate clothing to sweat in: They can all seem like insurmountable hurdles when I’m packing. Most of the time, I’m traveling carry-on, and I simply don’t have the room for exercise shoes and clothes. And even if I do manage to bring the right gear, I often don’t have time when I’m on the road to get in a full workout.

But about six months ago, I downloaded Seven, a seven-minute workout app that works perfectly without special gear and is well suited to a typical hotel room. The idea of the seven-minute workout got a lot of buzz last year. But it wasn’t until I started using it on trips that I really understood its value for well-intentioned travelers like me, who want to maintain good habits but aren’t part of that exercise-above-all tribe of athletes you see running full-tilt on hotel treadmills at 6 in the morning.

There are a bunch of seven-minute workout apps to choose from; some are a few dollars, others are free. They all follow the same pattern: Do a certain exercise intensely for 30 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then do a different exercise for 30 seconds, and so on, until seven minutes have passed. The combination of movements (jumping jacks, squats, wall sits, crunches, push-ups, and so on) is meant to work the whole body over the course of the workout.

I opted for Seven, one of the many free versions. It gets a little repetitive as a daily exercise regimen, but for travel, it’s just about perfect. It doesn’t take much time, it requires no special gear beyond a chair with arms and a floor you’re willing to lie on to do crunches, and it gets the blood pumping.

The only downside is that, because I tend to do the workouts early in the morning (shortly after waking up and before showering), I worry about the noise. Sure, the jumping-jacks portion of the workout only lasts 30 seconds, but the entire time, I’m trying to land lightly for fear of waking up a blissfully slumbering downstairs neighbor.

When I pack now, I no longer have that lingering guilt about not lugging workout gear. Instead, I make sure I have my phone and charger, and I know that a quick workout is waiting for me whenever I’ve got seven minutes to spare in my hotel room.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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