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Road Warrior Training

February 2, 2009 12:36 PM

0500, Meridian, Idaho

I know its 5 AM, the monotone recorded voice on the other end of the phone notified me, "This is your 5 AM wake up call." I'm pretty sure it's Meridian, Idaho, as I can see a sign outside my hotel window telling me that "Meridian, Idaho Welcomes Business!"

I get up, grab some water, and look out the hotel window, down in to the parking lot. Great, it looks like Meridian, apart from welcoming business, has also welcomed an early season winter storm. Two feet of snow blankets the lot, and nothing is moving out on the streets. The gym I'd seen coming in to town last night, just a few miles away, is now as distant as the moon, and about as convenient as a dentist's appointment.

Ten days ago, when I got on the first leg of this two-week road trip, I'd carefully laid out how I'd keep training while on the road. For a lot of us, strength training is part of our job. The salesperson who stays fits projects a positive image, exudes an aura of confidence that attracts business his or her way. Individuals in personal protection have to keep in shape while they shepherd their clients from one town to the next, meeting after meeting. Whatever the job, living on the road and staying fit is a day-to-day reality and challenge for some of us.

Gyms are an obvious choice, but what if there isn't one near your hotel, or it doesn't open until 8 AM, or worse, you're surrounded by snow in Meridian, Idaho?

Turning your hotel room in to a gym

With a few minutes of preparation, you can set up a very effective strength circuit in your own hotel room. Each muscle group can be worked, and although it's unlikely you'll win any power lifting competitions, you can still maintain an extremely strong and fit body using items within easy reach.

Chest/Triceps

Obviously doing push ups is pretty natural. Whether it was the Marine Corps, Army, Navy or Air Force, we all learned the effectiveness of doing pushups…in some cases over and over and over. The thought of doing 400 or so push ups might appeal to a few, but some of us have a snowy road to get out on to, a sales call to make this morning, something a touch more pressing.
Decline Pushups Most rooms have at least one chair. Elevate your feet and do decline pushups. Remember to maintain a flat back, avoiding the temptation to relax your midsection and sag (picture 1). It's not just an exercise to work your chest, you're also strengthening your lower back, your abs, and, dare I say it, working your core. You'll notice that your elbows should stay tight to your body, if possible scraping your sides as you descend (picture 2). Avoid the temptation of letting your elbows flare out. Not only does a wandering elbow make your form weaker, you can't effectively activate and recruit your lats that can aid your press, but you also expose your shoulder to unnecessary strain. Pull yourself down to the floor; don't let gravity do all the work. Press the heels of your hands in to the floor, actively pull your body toward the floor, and feel your armpits thicken. You'll notice when you push up, your body almost explodes off the bottom, the lat and tricep acting as a watch spring, winding tight on the way down, exploding with energy on the way up. Do five sets of twenty reps, or as many reps as you can until you feel your form has fallen below 80 percent of perfection.

If you want to get more of a pump in your tri's place your hands near each other, directly under your sternum. I like to form an equilateral triangle, my index fingers forming each of two sides and my thumbs forming the base. Press in to the floor using the heels of the hand, and keep the elbows tight against your sides. Do as many as you can, until your triceps scream for mercy.

One Arm Assisted Pushups The lowly ice bucket. Ever wondered how many things were put in that thing EXCEPT ice? How can a piece of plastic, less than 12 ounces in weight help with strength training? Turn the bucket upside down. Many of us use a kettlebell when we're learning one arm pushups. The ice bucket in your room can be just as effective. Now, I'm not going to go in to tremendous detail about actually doing OAPU's, The Naked Warrior covers it best. Assume the proper push up position, your right hand sternum high, fingers pointed forward, hand placed close enough to your body so that your elbow should touch your side as you descend to the floor. Place the ice bucket to your left, in line with your right hand. Gently place your fingers on the ice bucket's bottom (see picture 3) remembering that your left hand is only providing a small amount of support to the rest of your body. Inhale, then slowly lower yourself, feeling your body drawn in to your right lat. Maintain a flat back (no hip sagging allowed), then press in to the heel of your right hand and push, as if you were pushing the floor away from yourself (see picture 4). Do as many as you can, but remember, if your form starts to suffer, stop, there's no need building up bad muscle memory.

Dips. If you're lucky enough to have two chairs in the room, there's nothing like doing dips to work your tris, lats, and chest. Place the two chairs slightly wider apart than your shoulders (picture X). Keeping the chairs close will prevent you from the giving in to the temptation of flaring your elbows, putting unnecessary stress on your shoulders. Inhale, and push through the heels of your hands as you actively lower yourself (picture Y). Pressing through the heel of your hand will do three things. First, pressing there will activate your triceps and lat more effectively. Second, pressing through the heel of the hand prevents you from hyper extending your wrist which leads not only to weakness in your technique, but to very sore elbows later on. Lastly, pressing through the heels of the hand allows you to press with the skeletal strength of your forearms, just like an overhead kettlebell press.


Shoulders

Handstand Shoulder Press. Probably, one of the best body weight exercises you can do is the handstand press. For some of us, the idea of throwing our feet up against a wall and pressing can be pretty daunting. One of my favorite shoulder drills is a jack knife press. I can rep out more of these than a regular handstand press, and if your upper body strength isn't ready, it's a good way to learn. You're going to elevate your feet. Obviously, the higher your feet go, the more difficult the press, so you can start with something a small as a couple of phone books, or as high as a chair or even a desk. Place your hands as close to you feet as you can, creating a jack knife posture (see picture 5). Be careful don't put your hands so close that you topple over, but it's important to get them as close as you can. We want this to be a shoulder press, not a push up, so your body mass should move down in a straight line as opposed to moving down and forward. Inhale, and slowly lower yourself to the floor, keeping your elbows in tight, you should be able to see them as you descend. Once again, get the feeling that you're really pulling yourself down, not surrendering to gravity. Stop before you jam your head in to the floor (picture 6), and press up. Repeat until your form starts to falter below 80 percent perfection. Do five sets.

Back and Biceps

Towel Hang Pullups/Chinups. I admit it, I love working my back and biceps. Call it vanity, whatever, it just feels so darn good. I've tried hanging from open doors to do pull ups, with two unfortunate results. The first is that the top edge of the door digs in to my fingers, and makes it hard to concentrate on pulling with my back. The next reason, well, check out picture 7. As construction costs go up, several newer hotels hang doors with screws as short as one inch. Two hundred pound guys, hanging from doors attached with tiny nails? Do the math, it's not pretty, just ask the desk manager at the Ritz Carlton, Battery Park, New York.

Hang one end of a towel over a door, hold it in place while creating a loop, and place the other end of the towel on the opposite side of the door. Carefully, close the door. Now, you have a structurally sound pull up/chin up platform. Grab the towel with the palms facing toward the door, activate your lats and pull with your back. The combined effort of grabbing the towel, along with pulling makes this one of the most intense in room exercises. Flip your hands, palms facing toward yourself and you have the best bicep/forearm cooker I know of.



Towel Rows. I've seen pictures of guys looping a towel around either side of a doorknob and doing seated rows. Again, I refer you to the equation Heavy Guy+Small Screws=Call to Front Desk Manager. Try this instead. Close one end of a towel in a doorframe. Carefully place both feet in the corner of the door and test for towel strength (picture 8). Flatten your back, pull your elbows in close (picture 9), then draw the towel toward your chest (picture 10). It's a great row, provides you with a great grip enhancer, and avoids a door moving at high speed toward your groin.


Legs

Doing heavy deadlifts in your hotel room probably isn't going to happen. Imagine the complaints from the occupants of 405 when you start deadlifting and dropping the sofa in 505. There are some very effective exercises you can do in your room, not only to stay fit, but to increase your heart rate as well.

Hindu Squats. Hindu Squats are a terrific way to strengthen your legs and increase your heart rate. For the uninitiated, a Hindu Squat starts with your feet about shoulder width apart. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight, and drop down while lifting your heels and rolling up on your toes. As you reach the bottom of the movement, let your knuckles lightly brush the floor and swing your arms out in front of your body. Stand straight up, bringing your arms back to your side and pressing through your heels as they come back in contact with the floor. Start the drop again, repeating the arm motion toward the front of your body, rolling up on your toes, scraping the knuckles, exploding up, pressing through the heels. This is a high rep exercise, and requires a breathing pattern so you don't get lightheaded. Exhale on the way down, as you come up, inhale. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you think about it, your body is compressing on the way down, a perfect position for exhalation, and opening as you stand up, expanding the chest and providing a wonderful chance to breath deeply in to the diaphragm. Try 100 repetitions, if you can, and forget about asking if the hotel has a treadmill.

Pistols. Pistols, the dreaded one-legged squats, can provide the room-bound trainer with a terrific leg developing exercise. If you aren't "all the way there" yet in performing pistols, there's a great way to aid in your progression and make sure you avoid a few of the pitfalls from bad form.

Open a door, preferably an interior door, like the one to your bathroom, and place the door down the center of your body, with one hand on either doorknob handle (see picture 11). Place the leg you want to perform the pistol on against the edge of the door and slowly lower yourself in to a pistol. Do not "hang" off the doorknob (remember picture 7) but instead, lightly place your fingertips on the top of the knob. Doing these two things, placing the leg against the door, and touching the knob will re-enforce two important components of the pistol: first, you'll keep your leg properly aligned with a straight edge, the door, and lightly touching the knob will keep your weight focused forward and remind you to stay tight. Do 5 reps, each leg, 5 sets…and put the sofa down.

Watch Your Mouth

Dave Whitley, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet once told me, "You can't out-snatch a donut". Truer words were never spoken, but also they go unheeded by the average road warrior. Along with the 5 AM wake up call, I was reminded that my hotel featured an "All You Can Eat Fat and Carbohydrate Trough". Oh course, the hotel had tactfully renamed it, "The All American Breakfast Buffet". I know it's easy to fall in to the trap of eating whatever is closest at hand, but eating "dirty" will do two things to you on the road. You will be subject to peaks and valleys in mood and performance, and there is some evidence that eating garbage may make you succumb to illness more easily as when we fill ourselves with trash, we're less likely to seek out healthier alternatives.

Always pack a few good protein/supplement bars in your bag. Protein powders are also an excellent alternative to the deep fried French toast sandwich that lays waiting for you under the heat lamps downstairs in the lobby. Watch the sugar content of some bars though. There's a reason some of them taste as good as candy; they have as much, if not more sugar than your average Hershey bar.

If you live on and off a plane, drink plenty of fluids. Ask for hot tea while on the plane. I know several flight attendants, and they all tell me that if threatened with their lives, they wouldn't be able to tell you when the last time the coffee pots were cleaned. Drink tea, the water is generally cleaner. Avoid anything else if possible. When you're on the ground, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Early To Bed…

When you land, take advantage of the time you aren't eating dinner with a client or escorting someone to a meeting to GO TO BED EARLY. Avoid the temptation to have just "one more" before leaving the restaurant. The last drink, glass of wine, or beer represents several extra calories you don't need, and hours of sleep you'll never get back. When you get to the room, don't turn on the television. Yeah, the HBO is free, but resist staying up to see the Sopranos for the 67th time. It's out on DVD anyway, you'll see it at home.



Mark Toomey, owner of Steel Will Training, is an RKC Team Leader living in Reno, Nevada.

During his twenty-year career in corporate security and compliance, Mark worked with and trained executives from companies such as Chase Manhattan, Commonwealth Assurance, Washington Mutual, Deutsche bank, and GreenPoint/Capital One.

Mark blends his training from the RKC, military, and martial arts to help busy people both in and out of the corporate world, stay fit and get stronger.

Mark teaches kettlebells, body weight and non traditional weight training to individuals, corporations, community colleges, and active duty military personnel. He also produces workshops for personal trainers.

Mark can be reached at 1-888-482-4470, or by e-mail at toomm@att.net.
 

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