My favourite 15 minute hotel room workout

Updated to Habits on January 23, 2023.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

When I’m at home there’s usually lots of time to enjoy an hour on the trail, or interval training on my surfski. Not when I’m on the road.

When I’m travelling to speak at conferences, my morning is when I do my final preparation. That’s precious time I need for last-minute changes and to rehearse. So time is limited for exercise.

But I need something physical to energize my body for the day. Sound familiar?

I used to pack my running gear and try to get to the hotel gym or head out for a run. But, more often then not I would arrive on a late flight, be bushed from a long day of work and travel, and not have the time or energy for a proper workout.

The 15 minute hotel room workout is the perfect solution if you  don’t have a lot of time, want to enjoy some exercise, and don’t fancy trying the rusted treadmill in the hotel ‘spa’.

The 15 minute hotel room workout

The last thing I do, before heading to the shower, is set the countdown timer on my watch for 15 minutes. My plan is to get the maximum workout possible, in exactly 15 minutes and only using what’s available in my room.

Each set (I usually do three sets) depends on what’s available, but typically looks like this:

  • 20 step-ups onto a foot stool or chair (10 leading with each leg).
  • standing side stretch with arms stretched out over head
  • 20 inverted push-ups, with feet on a chair (I usually lay a towel on the floor where my face will be.)
  • 10 squats, or step forward into squat, alternating on each side
  • forward bend – hold for 30 seconds
  • side plank – 30 seconds each side (body rigid, like a plank, balanced on side of feet and one elbow, hold). More advanced – change to 10 one-arm push ups.
  • back bend – hold for 30 seconds
  • 10 Burpees (stand with hands stretched above your head, drop to a crouch position, then hop into a plank, push up, and spring to feet again.)
  • repeat.

By the time I’ve gone through three sets, I feel great—my heart is pumping, my muscles are awake, and I feel alert (regardless of how short the night was). I’m not getting the aerobic workout I get from long run, but I feel fit, wide awake, and full of energy for the day. See also How to be a road warrior (without getting beat up)

In only 15 minutes I got everything I need and I’m on time with my Morning Club routine. Awesome!

Tell me what you think.

What could you do in 15 minutes that would get your energy up?


jointhemoringclub 3D coverThis post is an excerpt from my free ebook Join The Morning Club. It’s a quick (24 pages) read that shows you how to create extraordinary results while the rest of the world sleeps. Get it here.

Hat tip to fitness expert Craig Ballatyne for this one