gym equipment inside room
You will know by the end of this article how to spot a good hotel gym and work with what you got. Photo by Risen Wang

The Best Hotel Gyms and How to Work Out in Them

What do you look for when you choose a hotel for travel? Thread count of the sheets? Size of the room? Enhanced Wi-fi availability? One thing you also need to stay connected with is your health. If you have not already, check out my post on how to fit in workouts when you travel. In this post, I will give you a complete guide to finding the best hotel gyms and how to work out in them.

Why working out in hotel gyms is an adventure

Everywhere you go is a new experience, and the hotel is no exception. Constantly mixing up your workout like experts recommend is not just about the type of workout. It also includes the environment and the necessary adaptation both your mind and body need to make. So working out at hotel gyms can give you that excuse to try out some new moves and/ or equipment. Not to mention, some of them have amazing views! Here is an exammple of some of my adventures in hotel gyms.

From left to right: Sofitel in Mexico City, Astroturf floor gym in Milano, Luxury gym in Tokyo, Excellent view in Geneva, Outdoor Gym in Cannes, France, Cave gym in Chateau, and finally, Hotel Gym in Amsterdam.

How to spot a good hotel gym

Do your research

It pays to do your research beforehand! I was staying at the Impreial Hotel in Tokyo for a conference in 2018, when I was checking out the hotel website in advance. The website indicated that you needed to sign up for a membership club to use the gym (and there was no fee for this club). I did so and unknowingly I was put on a VIP list – which meant that I was greeted upon arrival, taken to the master suite floor, upgraded and checked in while I was in my room so I would not have to wait in line. I had 24/7 butler service and compliemnetary breakfast – just from researching what I needed to do to use the gym! In some cases, you can pick your hotel, in others, you are bound by what the client or company may choose, So look at the options once you know where you are headed and plan from there. If the hotel has a puny fitness center, or none at all, plan on working out in your hotel room or at a local studio. You can check out my blog posts below for more info on those topics:

Look at the hotel’s own advertising

Look at the landing page of the hotel website. Most hotels have a list of their amenities, including gym or fitness center A hotel that has both a fitness center and a spa is a good sign because commonly those are all in the same floor and will have locker rooms available for use of both It just indicates a more sophisticated infrastructure for a more sophiticated clientele.

Know the patterns of how hotels prioritize fitness centers

Big box usually means big gym. Most big chain hotels are likely to have fitness centers, So the bigger the chain, the bigger the chance you will have of a fully-equipped gym.

If on the other hand the hotel is a small, boutique-y one in the city center or a bed and breakfast, the chances of a full gym or having a gym at all can be more dicey. These hotels are more about the unique experience boutique hotels and B n B’s have to offer, so they will not be as invested in making sure there is a more mainstream amenity like a gym that isn’t necessarily going to be in demand by the type of clientele these hotels attract.

Top hotel recomendations for the best gyms

Here are my top hotel gym recommendations: The Marriott, Westin, The W, Hilton, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and the Fairmomt. For more low-budget hotels, the Radisson and Sheraton also do a very nice job.

You can also find a complete list of all hotels with Peloton bikes on the Fittest travel blog.

woman standing surrounded by exercise equipment
Dumbbells are a pretty big staple at hotel gyms. Photo by Danielle Cerullo

Tips on using hotel gyms

Have an idea of what to expect, and adapt accordingly: At the very least, a hotel gym will have a decent selectio of dumbbells, a bunch and a few cardio machines. So tailor your resistance training workout to those elements as a baseline. For example, if you normaly do barbell squats or deadlifts, you can easily do the same movements with free weights. If you normally use a stairmaster at the gym, be prepared to adjust by using the treadmill at a high incline. About 50 percent of the time a gym will have a Swedish exercise ball, so you can plan on doing a great ab circuit like this one that works the entire body:

YouTube player
You can access this workout on my YouTube channel, under DAOFitLife Travel workouts.

Case the joint: Take some time after you check in to understand the layout of the gym so you don’t waste time figuring it out when you actually want to go there and work out

Choose less busy times: Go in off-peak hours if possible. Sometimes you have some additonal time between when you check in and settle in to when you may have to go to your evening plans. Usually around 4/5pm, the gym is not in high demand. This is a great time to go and workout, as opposed to 7am in the morning when it is likely to be more crowded. And as you know, a crowded hotel gym can be awkward!

If it is crowded, do abs first. Usually it is pretty easy to grab a mat and a small area of floor. Do one of DAOFitLife’s 10 minute ab workouts on the below playlist. Then by the time you are done the people on the machines or hogging the benches will usually be gone.

Understand the metric system: If you are not in the US, the treadmill speed will be in kilometers/hr and the weights will be in kilograms. Here is a quick conversion tool for both:

  • 1 km = .6 miles, so a treadmill walk at 6 km per hour is about 3.7 miles per hour (a moderate to brisk walk). 9 km/hr = 5.6 mph, a brisk jog. 11 km per hour is about 6.8 mph, running speed.
  • 1 kg = 2.2 pounds. Therefore you will want to take whatever weight you are used to lifting at and cut it in half. So if you curl 15s, then reach for the 6 or 7.5 kgs. Sometimes this is a good way to up your game in the weight room. Because of the rounding, you may be lifting slightly heavier than what you are used to. But stay on the safe side, because there are usually no trainers around to help you if you bite off more than you can chew in a last minute spot!
barbell on rack
Photo by Jelmer Assink

Don’t have impossible standards

Hotels are for comfort, but they are not the same comfort as home. And that includes amenities. So while you may have a fancy hotel/Air bnb condo gym situation, you could also have 1980s machinery and not a lot to work with. This is where you have to tap into your creativity and make lemons out of lemonade. Remember that people in prison get into the best shape of their lives and they certainly do not have high status gym equipment, so use this opportunity to get back to basics and work on your form, stride, or just even have some time to yourself. Some of the best times on trips I have had is a hotel gym all tto myself, where I feel like I am in my very own world. And maybe just do a little dance in front of the mirror:)

You will not regret taking advantage of whatever workout you can do so you can return home healthier and happier.

A great workout you can do in 20 minutes with just a set of dumbbells

Check out this article in Men’s Fitness Journal which has a step by step bodyweight and free weight circuit will get you in and out in under 30 minutes. The workout goes like:

  • Dumbell goblet squat
  • Plank
  • Dumbbell row
  • Dumbbel romanian deadlift
  • Russian twist
  • Dumbbell Bench Press

Repeat 2-4 times, depending on how much time you have, and do 10-15 reps each.

More resources:

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