HOW TO EXERCISE WHEN YOU TRAVEL
by Carol Milano
"Sometimes my clients panic before a trip, for fear
of losing what they've gained in their regular flexibility and strength
training," confides Joan Welsch, a certified fitness instructor
to disabled adults in New York City.
For a vacation, business trip, or even weekend visit to
relatives, it's hard to pack special equipment. But while you're away,
you can maintain mobility and confidence, with some easy daily activities.
TRY THESE ON YOUR TRIP
Do isometric exercises -- totally portable, as they
use only your own body. "Work different muscle groups by contracting
and holding as long as you can, counting to 10 or 20. Relax, then
do the opposite muscle group," explains Ray Cooper, OTR, Coordinator
of Outpatient Rehabilitation Services at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
"To work legs, you can lean and push against a wall, or push
against a seat."
For good isotonic exercise, pack lightweight resistance
SportBands or Dynabands. Available in different strengths for varying
ability, they allow a full upper and lower body workout, comparable
to free weights. Loop a band around a chair leg and your ankle, to
get resistance for leg-straightening. Welsch suggests Bicep and Tricep
extensions or curls, which can be done seated or standing.
To stretch, use compact, lightweight nylon ropes.
They work especially well for for hamstring and quadriceps, whether
you sit or stand. If you forgot your stretch ropes, use a bath towel
to create a sling for your foot to facilitate a stretch.
UTILIZE YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Use typical guest room fixtures to stretch, tone
and strengthen. If you can't do floor exercises, tie a nylon double
loop (SportBand Door Attachment) "to a dresser or doorknob --
anything at waist level. For lateral pulldowns, hang the loop over
a sturdy overhead pole, like a closet rod or shower. Check the rod's
strength first!" warns Welsch.
Walk around the nearest mall. "They're flat
and level, with good climate control and benches at intervals. Walk
fast enough to raise your heart rate, for about 30 minutes,"
advises Cooper. Tailor your walk to your individual endurance and
Create your own Stairmaster. "Choose a flight
of steps with a railing, in case you need a safeguard. Don't use the
rail to propel yourself -- hover your hand over it. Step straight
up. Using thigh and gluteal muscles, keep your upper body straight.
It's an aerobic workout, with regular breathing and a slightly accelerated
heart rate," says Welsch. Do as many flights as you can without
Do resistance exercise. Did you pack one-pound weights?
Cooper's alternative -- especially when visiting family or staying
at a B&B -- is soup cans, weighing about 16 ounces.
Use a hotel's fitness facilities. "If your grasp's
limited, ask your OT or PT for a cuff so you can hold a Universal
Machine grabbar, barbell, or other equipment," Cooper recommends.
Light, packable flexion mitts, made of soft vinyl with a thumb opening,
take about a week to order. If you don't have one, wrap an Ace bandage
thickly around your hand.
ONE WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE
In July, Welsch's client, Janice Greer, attended a convention
at a Philadelphia hotel with a gym. "I have balance problems, being
deaf in one ear and blind in one eye. Joan told me I could avoid Treadmill
Vertigo by using the lowest setting," reports Greer. She'd never
been on a treadmill before, but lasted 15 minutes. "It was a very
weird experience. At 6am, there was no one to ask for help. Next time
I go to a place with exercise equipment, I'll find out how to use it
before I leave," she declares.
Greer discovered the final tip: plan ahead. First, find
out if your destination has equipment. "If not, what can you reasonably
carry -- don't pack too much! Bands are the lightest gear, but isometric
exercise requires nothing extra. Learn those stretches before you go,"
Cooper urges savvy travelers.
starting any new exercise program, check with your doctor.
To find a Registered Occupational Therapist:
American Occupational Therapy Association (www.aota.org)
To find a certified fitness trainer:
International Dance & Exercise Association (www.ideafit.com)
or American Council on Exercise (www.acefitness.org)
Carol Milano, a New York-based health writer, is a member
of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of three
of these articles appear on the publication's website, which are often
password-protected or members-only. For your convenience, I've gathered
them on my own website.