execercise bandsThere’s an exercise gadget for every activity, but all a busy traveling mom needs to stay in shape on the road is a slice of time, a pair of sneakers and a few stretchy bands.

“If you are determined, then you can get a good workout in with just about anything,” says Charles Schaal, a personal trainer at the West Cook YMCA in Chicago. “And resistance bands are great if you’re a busy mom on the go and have no access to a gym or free weights.

Exercise bands are light-weight, easy to pack, inexpensive and allow you to get a variety of strength training moves in when you check into a hotel with a crummy fitness options or just don’t feel like leaving your hotel room. Schaal says that by doing a few simple moves, the bands can keep you toned and help keep those unwanted pounds at bay.

“If you couple the bands with a solid nutrition regimen, then they play a part in weight loss and maintenance,” Schaal says. “They are a great start to a regular strength training routine or a way to maintain the progress made with free weights in the gym.”

Tips for Exercising with Bands

Schaal offers these tips for getting the most out of your work out in a suitcase:

1. Go for variety

Buy bands with at least three different tension levels–easy, medium and difficult—so you can gauge your progress and so you have the right resistance for the muscles in your arms vs. your legs. Schaal says to shoot for 3 sets of 12 repetitions of each muscle group.

2. Get your heart rate up

Schaal says you can do more than just build muscle. Use the bands to elevate your heart rate, pump up the fat burning, torch calories and count as your cardio for the day by stepping with both feet on a long band then moving from a squatting or lunge position to a shoulder press over head, which will cause the heart rate to surge and the fat burning to begin.

3, Get creative

Look around the hotel room for ways to intensify your resistance band workout. Doorknobs, chairs and even a partner can all add a variety of moves that will intensify your workout. To attach the band to a doorknob, hold the ends of the bands with your back towards the knob and start slowly twisting, working your obliques and core. If you have a partner and enough bands you can use each other’s resistance to do a row or triceps press.

4. Rehab

Unlike free weights that can overload the muscles, bands are a good way to extend range of motion and activate muscle fibers without adding insult to injury, Schaal says. “The bands offer resistance from different angles than you can get from free weights.”

5. Watch out for the snap

“You’d be surprised how much a snap can sting,” Schaal says, so just take your time and make sure you have a good grip on the bands.

6. Have realistic expectations

If you don’t typically strength train, starting a resistance band regiment may not give you a six-pack or banish your baby belly, but it can keep the weight you’ve lost from creeping up while you’re traveling, when it can be tough to eat healthy meals and your regular workout routine is miles away. “A progression of consistent band use might not get you ripped, I would say bands are more to maintain fitness and for rehab,” Schaal says. “But it’s a great way to mix up your workout, stay consistent when traveling and practice good form without overworking your muscles or burning yourself out.”

Photo from familymwr on Flickr.