Work hours in the hospitality industry can be long, involving plenty of hours on your feet, so why not try and add a session of Pilates to your workday when there’s a breather? Cape Town based Lisa Palmer, owner of The Movement Lab, has been an integral part of the Merrithew Health and Fitness team since 2004. She is a STOTT PILATES Lead Instructor Trainer in Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Stability Chair, Barrels, Injuries, Special Populations and Zenga™.  She is the most highly qualified STOTT PILATES Instructor Trainer on the African continent and this is evident in the classes that she teaches. She shares some of her travel workout tips with us.

Lisa is used to putting together customised workouts for many hotel guests who still wish to maintain a level of fitness, or maintain their injury rehabilitation, while on holiday. Take a page from their book, find yourself a quiet space (or empty hotel room) and use the following exercises for strengthening, pain relief and stress reduction.

  • Lay on the floor, if there is space in the hotel room, and simply breathe and relax. Focus on ‘3D breathing’ into the sides, front and back of the body (not the shoulders and neck). Think of a gentle pelvic floor and abdominal contraction (20% or less), like a spiral upwards, to engage the deep stabilisers using the breath.
  • Then gently imprint your lower back, sacrum/lumbar, into the floor on an exhale and then release back to your own neutral spine on an inhale. Do this to relieve stress or even lower back pain, especially so if you’ve been carrying heavy luggage.
  • This can then progress to a full ‘Hip Roll’, roll through the spine one vertebra at a time to a neutral bridge position. This will also allow the hip flexors to open after a long flight.
  • Another great way to lengthen and relieve tight hip flexors is to simply stand in a lunge position (front leg bent, back let straight) to open the front of the hip after sitting for extended periods.
  • To mobilise the shoulder girdle, remain on the floor and take the arms over head, as far as you can maintain a neutral ribcage, don’t ‘pop’ the rib cage in order to take your arms back as this will cause unnecessary stress. Once arms are overhead, circle them around to the side and repeat. Repeat both directions.
  • Lisa recommends using a tennis/spiky ball to ‘roll your feet out’ – this rolls out the fascia/connective tissue and feels like a massage/reflexology!  Simply place it under the arch of the foot and you will be sure to find one or two areas that may feel tight, simply roll them gently away! It’s a great way to relax the feet and the fascia while keeping blood circulation flowing.
  • When seated, roll your ankles in small circles, inwards and outwards to alleviate any tension in the ankle joint, especially after being on your feet all day.
  • Place a magazine between your knees and gently squeeze. This will activate your inner thigh muscles and also aid in blood circulation.
  • To alleviate neck tension, nod the head gently to lengthen the back of your cervical spine and relax. Repeat as often as required – up to five times should do the trick. Now turn the head, right to left several times to release stress in the neck and shoulders and move on to the shoulders. Lift the shoulders towards the ears and gently relax them down to their neutral position. From there, protract the shoulders/scapula forward then return to neutral several times. Repeat but this time retracting the shoulders/scapula and returning to their neutral position. These are great exercises to relieve stress after perhaps a day carrying heavy suitcases.
  • For a nice ab workout, simply by sitting upright and engaging your abdominals and obliques and holding for 5 counts, then releasing – this will also aid in digestion.
  • An effective gym can be created with just the purchase of a theraband, which can be found at any sports shop. It won’t take up any space or weight and there are dozens of great exercises you can do with just this one elastic band. Remember the elastic bands have varying strengths for resistance, so shop wisely.
  • Hold the band in both hands above your head and simple pull down, and slightly out to the side, like at the gym, to work the shoulder girdle, deltoids, pecs and lats. You can also stand in front of a mirror to ensure you are working in the correct form. Don’t let the shoulders raise but rather keep a nice neutral position to avoid stressing the shoulder area further.
  • Place the band securely under one foot, standing, and do several bicep curls or even triceps to add to the upper body workout. Wrap the band around the waist, holding both ends, and simply open the forearms and return for a great shoulder girdle workout working with resistance. It’s great for working the internal and external rotators of the shoulders.
  • Holding on to the back of a chair, or sideways, bend the knees, keeping the heels grounded, and straighten. It’s a good way to wake up the thighs, Achilles and hamstrings. Separate the feet to be in line with your sitting bones and repeat the bend and stretch. Add a rise up on to your toes for a nice calf activation. Face the wall, place one foot back in to a lunge and stretch out the Achilles. Go gently at first to wake them up, especially so if you have been sitting for long periods. Then, you can use a chair for some tricep dips.
  • To counteract bad posture, it is a good idea to do some back extensions. Lie on your stomach with your legs slightly apart, your arms long next to you, palms facing in, and simply lift your spine and legs into extension (to where you feel comfortable) to strengthen the back and hip muscles.
  • Lying on your back and placing your legs up on a chair (and just breathe) is a great way to reduce the blood flow to the ankles, which tend to get sore and swollen when you’ve been walking and standing for long periods of time.  Then bring your knees to your body, gently holding knees or shins and rock back and forth for a nice spinal massage and release of the lower back.
  • Last but not least, drink plenty of water to hydrate!

Pilates is an incredible way to strengthen, lengthen and repair the body and the exercises can be adapted for everyone’s body type. For a comprehensive and intelligent workout, find out more from any local STOTT PILATES® registered Pilates studio here or abroad. Remember this: You are only as old as your spine!

For more information, click here to visit The Movement Lab.