Home-to-Hotel: Take Your Handstand Practice Anywhere!

For most of us it is difficult enough finding time and space to work out during a normal week, but when you throw travel in, especially business, it can become almost impossible.  Spending long days in airports and planes, rental cars, meetings, eating out for every meal, only to finish the day in a strange room with a bed you know will upset your sleep.  You’re tired and the thought of finding a local gym or yoga studio is not on the top of your list.  You consider using the Hotel gym, but having been disappointed with too many of them in the past you instead lay down on the bed, turn on the TV, and blow off exercise.

Scaling Handstand Practice for your Environment

Sound familiar? It was a constant battle for me too.  But today, I take my handstand practice with me and scale it down for the environment.  Now when I return to my hotel I do so knowing I will catch up on the news or ballgame (programs I can listen too) while focusing on some handstand fundamentals.  And knowing that I will get a productive workout already puts me in a positive mind set, which as we all know can be at least half the battle.

The first thing to do is recognize that a hotel room is not typically very spacious and therefore you need to modify your workout to match your space.  To do this I focus on a couple things: 1) Extend my warm-up and cool down periods. 2) Focus on the fundamentals and using the wall.

Starting with my warm-up, I will make it about twice as long as I typically do.  The fact is, my regular workouts could benefit from a longer warm-up, as I am sure most of ours can, but I tend to rush through it so I can play! I will do this using several adjustments.  The first and most obvious is to simply do more or hold a longer than I normally would.  If I typically do 10 arm swings in both directions I would increase to 20 or 30.  Stretches that are normally 20 to 30 seconds I push to a minute.  The second thing I do to extend my warm-up is to slow some of my drills down vs. doing extra. This is a technique I learned from Yuri Marmerstein (@yuri_marmerstein) a few months ago when I hosted him in Denver.  One evening we were doing a quick garage workout and I watched him do a squat/horse pose, push-up, and pull-up in very slow motion (of course you probably won’t have a pull-up bar in your hotel room but apply the same concept to any drills/exercises).  His goal was 2 minutes in each; he would slowly squat into horse pose and hold before slowly rising and take 2 minutes for it.  Same with his push-ups and pull-ups; as slow as possible he would raise and lower himself with his goal being 1 minute raise and 1 minute lower.  Sounds easy...wrong! Trying to do a single push-up with a 1 minute lower and 1 minute rise rate is extremely difficult. While extremely difficult, the slow movement does allow you to notice and focus on your form. For example, try the push-up and notice your elbows and if they are staying tight to your side.  Are you keeping your shoulders protracted/rounded throughout? Core engaged? Working slow gives you time to notice these details and the details are what improves our practice.

Now warm, I am ready to move onto some fun time and get upside down.  Once again, working in a tight space will limit my options and freestanding work is probably not the smartest in the tight confines. No one wants to fall out of a handstand and kick the TV and try to explain that to the company boss! Instead, take it back to the wall. I know for me, as my practice has improved, I have a tendency to spend most my time working drills while freestanding.  Especially when in the gym or with friends. But now you are alone and it is a great time to improve those areas you’ve been putting off.  No matter where you are in your practice, there is always something with the wall that can be worked on.  I am currently working on weight shifting and taking it to the wall lets me focus on a couple things.  First, since I don’t have to fight for balance I can work on technique and really focus on hip shifting vs. rotating and pushing through the shoulders as I move side-to-side. Second, I am also able to work endurance since I have the wall spotting me.  In addition to improving my technique I am doing it for a longer time (sometimes I will sacrifice form for pure endurance).  This of course builds muscle memory so when we move back to the freestanding work our body is better prepared to react on its own instead of having to think about the adjustment needed.

And last but not least, which is easy to do when at home or the gym, is the cool down period.  With limited floor space some of our typical floor stretches may not be possible so again take it to the wall.  Most the shoulder openers we do on the floor can be done along the wall.  If floor space is limited and you can’t get into your pancake, try a variation with your legs up the wall and let gravity work with you. As with your warm-up, try to hold your stretches twice as long as you typically would.

And remember to get creative. The good thing about hotel furniture is it is pretty durable.  Use the desk chair for L-sits, elevated push-ups, and even stand on it for some Jefferson curls. The small space between the bed and wall may work perfect for elevating your legs and working on your pike or straddle press.  Most important...have fun!

Author: Daniel Barpal