Recently, a reader wrote to ask for advice to ensure safe practices while working out in a hotel gym without supervision while traveling. Interestingly enough, another reader asked the same question a few months ago. Last year, in the wake of corruption charges against Luzerne County Judges, Magisterial District Judge James Gibbons was appointed to The Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice and found himself in hotels across the state on a regular basis. He used the hotel fitness centers for exercise and stress release; however, he stated that he was not sure how to properly and safely implement a program.
This column will address the needs of the frequent traveler who does not exercise regularly (3-5 days per week of aerobic and strength training). Business travelers often find themselves with more free time in the evenings after a full day of meetings than when they are at home. While the hotel fitness room is convenient, it rarely has an attendant. The traveler has several questions. What is the best method to begin a fitness program? Which exercises are best for the inconsistent novice? How do I interpret the data on the aerobic equipment and apply it to a program? Are there safe guidelines?
Before you begin, discuss your intention to exercise at a hotel gym with your primary care physician. Get medical clearance to make sure you can exercise safely.
While a 60 minute workout would be the long term goal, begin slowly at 20-30 minutes and add a few minutes each week. Make time to warm up and cool down.
Begin with light weights and increase repetitions
First, determine your resting heart rate by taking your HR (pulse) using your index finger on the thumb side of your wrist for 30 seconds and multiply it by two. 80 beats per minute is considered a normal HR but it varies. This is a good baseline to use as a goal to return to upon completion of your workout. For example, your HR may increase to 150 during exercise, but you want to return to your pre exercise HR (80) within 3-5 minutes after you complete the workout.
For those who are healthy, calculating your target heart rate (HR) is an easy and useful tool to monitor exercise intensity.
MET=Energy Cost of Physical Exercise. This is a measurement for those concerned about calories expended during exercise. NOTE: Keep the level at a light/moderate level for the first two to three weeks and advance to the moderate/heavy at week four. The Very Heavy Level is for those who have a reasonable fitness level and exercise 4-5 days per week.
This is a good unit of measure for the cardiac patient on beta blockers.
Always secure physician approval before engaging in an exercise program. If the patient is on beta blockers (Atenolol, Bisoprolol, etc), it is important to use the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE) scale to determine safe exercise stress since exercise will not increase HR as expected:
NOTE: Keep the RPE at 2-3 the first week and advance to 3-4 week two. Levels 5-6-7 are for those with a reasonable fitness level and exercise 4-5 days per week. The advanced levels should not be attained until 2-3 months of exercise.
CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: Brittany Lunney, SPT, is a physical therapy graduate student at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA.
MEDICAL REVIEWER: David FitzPatrick, MD, is a cardiologist at Great Valley Cardiology in Scranton, PA.