Monday, January 12, 2015

Westin Workout: Borrow Some Gym Clothes

The workout clothes at the Westin
Nothing is worse than carving out time on vacation to exercise - and then realizing that you left your gym clothes home. I of course NEVER forget anything when I pack (!) but for journalistic purposes wanted to test out the Westin Hotel program, where for $5 you get work out clothes (and keep the socks).

I was a little grossed out by the idea - I approach rental bowling shoes with trepidation - but the clothing I got was completely clean and hardly used. Plus, the sneakers get new insoles after each use, so there's no weird sweat smell.

The lending program is a partnership with New Balance, so all the gear is their brand. And it comes in a mesh laundry bag to leave in your room. I tried out the program at the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where I was staying for the North American International Auto Show.

New Balance running shoes and laundry bag
I was very happy with the capris, short sleeve shirt and sports bra, which all fit perfectly. The running shoes were not so great - they fit, but I buy sneakers that my feet need and these were not right. But for working out in the fitness center, and even for using the elliptical machine, they were fine.

The socks were another matter. I like that you get to keep the socks - but why send a woman men's socks? They were too big and not very padded.

One thing that I really loved - I didn't have to bring home gross sweaty clothes.  Not that MY clothes stink, but my husband is one of those guys who is just dripping after a few minutes of exercise and even when he puts his gym clothes in a plastic bag, the whole suitcase reeks.  It's lam sot worth the $5 to save our luggage.

If you are a serious athlete, you will want your own workout clothes, but for almost any causal athlete, these are a great solution.

My only question is - how about a swimsuit rental program? There was an empty pool, and I had no suit...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Staying Fit: Easy at the Omni Hilton Head

Omni's new sunny fitness center
I was intrigued when I heard that a CrossFit program was coming to the Omni Hilton Head. This beachfront resort has so many opportunities to stay fit that the new CrossFit partnership is icing on the (low cal, gluten-free, sugar-free) cake.

First, the Omni has a new fitness center. The bright, spacious gym overlooks the gorgeous landscaping, and wooden walkways leading to the new pools and beach.

Plenty of weights
The fitness center has plenty of treadmills, stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines. There are stability balls, a stretch area with mats, and plenty of mirrors so you can watch your form. 

There are also soft towels, earbuds for those who forgot, and a water cooler.

If you prefer to exercise alone, Omni offers free Get Fit Kits, which can be sent to your room. The kits contain weights, a mat, a stretch band and water.

Stability balls in the gym
And if classes are your thing, there are free yoga classes Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But the resort offers so much more than the fitness center. the Omni is in the Palmetto Dunes area, which has 11 miles of lagoon for kayaking and canoeing. 

A spot to finally relax
You can rent bikes right on property, and ride them on the hard packed sand. When I heard you could bike at the beach, I assumed there was a boardwalk, but the one speed beach cruisers that we rented, with fat tires, could be ridden right on the sand. Within Palmetto Dunes, there are miles of traffic free bike trails, and even when you go out into the rest of Hilton Head, there are wide, safe bike paths everywhere.

If you need more activities  there are 25 tennis courts and three golf courses. Plus a large playground, a basketball court and a volleyball court (you can borrow equipment from the Omni).

This is one vacation spot where you won't sit still!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Colorful winter vegetarian sandwich

I won a gift pack of spreads from HerbNZest and Nextdoorganics. I was inspired to create this sandwich, which is healthy, filling and a delicious alternative to a basic cheese sandwich. OK, my kids thought squash on a sandwich is weird, but they are also repulsed by our pickles and peanut butter sandwiches, so go figure.

Amazing squash sandwich

Acorn squash
olive oil
4 oz brie 
8 leaves radicchio, torn
2 T HerbNZest caramelized apple champagne mustard 
8 slices sturdy multigrain bread (I baked my own sourdough bread, but anything from Bread Alone would work)
Makes 4 sandwiches
Preheat oven to 400
Cut squash in half from top to bottom. Put a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet with sides) and put the squash halves, flesh side down, on the oil.
Roast for 35-40 min, until squash is tender - pierces easily with a fork - but not mushy.
Scoop out seeds and discard. Scoop squash flesh out, discard skin.
Spread mustard on 4 slides of bread. Load up roasted squash on top. If you have leftovers, save for squash pancakes, muffins, risotto, etc. 

Slice brie thinly and top the squash. Tear up the radicchio and add, top with remaining slices of bread and serve.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fitness on Vacation: Now the Kids Hit the Gym

The fitness center at the Embassy Suites in Savannah
Time was, the first thing my kids checked out at a hotel was the pool. Before we'd even memorized our room number they'd pulled out their bathing suits and asked to go swim.

Not the prettiest but it was functional
Now, they want to keep to their exercise regimens. One daughter is captain of her college's Ultimate team, another is on he high school track and Ultimate teams and the other just works out regularly. So  when we stayed at the Embassy Suites Savannah recently, we all trekked down to the fitness center to get in our regular exercise.

Treadmills waiting for us
What I love about Embassy Suites (besides the room for a family of 5) is the free full breakfast - and the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee and a banana before working out, then eating more after we worked out and showered. (Note: breakfast only goes till 10, so you have to time this right. But we had full days planned in Savannah, so we made sure the girls got an early - ish - start).

A surprise - the outdoor pool was warm enough for winter swimming
The gym had everything we needed; treadmills, with individual screens, stability balls, weight benches and yoga mats. There were foam rollers, free weights, and a bosu ball substitute that worked just fine.

Healthy breakfast options
About the only problem was the empty cold water dispenser. Perhaps since we were in the south we were supposed to bring in some sweet tea.

We had great weather for December - 70s during the day and warm enough to swim in the heated pool.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hotel Monaco: Staying Fit While Eating Around Philly

The well equipped gym at Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has become a foodie paradise, and vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of places where they can fill their bellies.

The pulley machine
But what to do about belly bloat? If you stay at the Hotel Monaco, you can work out at the excellent gym. The bright, spotless gym has state of the art cardio equipment, all with their own television screens - or you can watch the hive of activity below around the Liberty Bell.

There are also stability balls and a bosu ball, hula hoops, free weights and weight machines and weighted balls. The large pulley machine intimidated me.

Cardio machines at Hotel Monaco
The gym also keeps in mind creature comforts, with a water cooler, soft towels - and chilled ones - ear buds if you've forgotten, newspapers - even fresh fruit so you don't hit the mini bar and negate all that exercise.

If you are shy about your workout, you can use the yoga mat in your room.

Gym amenities include chilled towels
Group fitness fans can take one of the free weekly classes; cardio sculpting at 6:30am on Wednesdays, or cardio boxing, also on Wednesdays at 6pm. Of course, that cuts right into the free daily cocktail social hour...

If you prefer to get your cardio outside, take one of the free bikes for a spin. The hotel is right on a bike lane and you can easily zip over to Fairmont Park.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stay Awhile, Stay Fit - Extended Stay America

The exercise room at Extended Stay America
People stay at Extended Stay America hotels for a variety of reasons: price, convenience, the full kitchens, the huge discount for long stays.

But just because you are at a budget hotel, it doesn't mean you don't want to ignore your fitness routine. In fact, if you are at the hotel because you are relocating, on a long business trip, or renovating your house, you may NEED to exercise.

Breakfast is included
The exercise room at the Extended Stay America in Secaucus, where I recently spent a weekend, won't win awards, but the facility did let me continue my marathon training.  There were 2 treadmills and an elliptical machine and while I was disappointed that they didn't have individual screens, there was a television on the wall, and there wasn't anyone else using a machine while I was there.

The outdoor patio where I completed my exercise routine
I wanted to run outside, but the office park location was not conducive to an outdoor run.  There is a pretty enclosed patio, though, where I was able to go through a routine of squats, pushups and burpees.

There is also an indoor pool where you can get a decent workout.

The breakfast was also a good post workout touch: there were granola bars, packs of unsweetened instant oatmeal (alas, no milk to make them, though) and whole pieces of fresh fruit.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Working it in Louisville - Fitness at the 21C

Staring at a stone wall can be a little claustrophobic
On a recent work trip to Louisville, Kentucky, I stayed at the 21C museum hotel, a cool boutique hotel downtown. I was excited to hop on one of the free bikes, but the only ones there after breakfast had flat tires, so I had to use the fitness center.

That is not a problem for me, but this basement space had a dungeon-like quality; it was cramped and windowless (of course - as was my room, which was a surprise).

This tiny space was where you could use the stability ball
But the fitness center did have a large flat screen television, which I was able to tune into a food show; I like to watch cooking while I burn off calories. And there was a mirrored wall so I could watch my form.

The compact space had a couple of stability, free weights, a yoga mat (not much room to stretch) and towels. Normally, I wouldn't mention the fact that there were towels, but I just returned from another business trip where the much larger fitness center had no towels. So I won't take those for granted any more!