Pilates Anytime's co-founder Kristi Cooper and vice president Gia Calhoun curated this short routine just for travel. It requires only a soft surface like a towel over a carpeted floor or a doubled-up yoga mat, and a long Theraband (not the short loop kind). The versatile Theraband weighs less than your skimpiest bathing suit and fits in the smallest of spaces. The entire routine takes less than 15 minutes and can be done in a hotel room or even an RV.
You can purchase a five-foot Theraband at specialty stores or online, as well as from some physical therapy offices. Before each use, make sure your Theraband is in good condition, with no rips or holes that could cause it to snap on you or someone else. Make sure you have clean, dry hands to maintain a firm grip on the band. You can also wrap the ends of the band around your hands, rather than just grasping them. Finally, while this routine doesn't require a lot of room, ensure that you have enough space to move your limbs in all directions without bumping into any furniture or walls.
This exercise is great for tight shoulders. Sit cross-legged on the floor or in any comfortable position and hold the band with two hands, a little wider than shoulder width apart. On an inhale, reach the arms straight out in front of you and then overhead. Exhale, lowering the band behind your head and shoulders only as far as is comfortable. Widen your grip on the band if necessary. Inhale and lift the band back up over head and exhale as you lower it to the starting position. Try to keep your spine tall and your core engaged as you move. Repeat five times. When you are done, your shoulders should feel more open.
Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place the center of the band over the sole of one foot and extend the leg up over your hip. Holding the ends of the band in each hand, bend your elbows and rest your upper arms on the floor by your sides, adjusting to the desired amount of resistance. Extend and bend the leg a few times, taking care that the band doesn't slip off the foot. Hint: keep the band as wide as possible. With the bottom leg remaining bent or, for more challenge, extended with the foot flexed, reach the top foot across the body while keeping both hips and shoulders on the floor. You'll feel a tingly stretch in the IT band of the outer hip. Bring the leg back to center and then let it fall open to the other side, stretching the inner thigh muscles. Finally, position the band across the ball of the extended leg and flex, point, and circle the foot to stretch and strengthen the ankle. Repeat the sequence with the band on the other foot.
This variation on the traditional Mat Pilates exercise called Single Leg Circle challenges your core stability while lubricating the hip joints. Begin lying on your back with the band around the sole of one foot. Hold the ends of the band and bend your elbows by your sides. Bring your top leg across the body, down, across to the other hip, and back to the starting position. Imagine that you are tracing a Magic Circle on the ceiling above you with your toes. Circle the leg five times in each direction, working on keeping the hips on the mat and the core engaged. Repeat the sequence with the other leg.
This variation on a traditional Roll Up works the core and promotes spinal flexibility. From a seated position, place the band around the soles of both feet and extend the legs partly or all the way straight. Holding the ends of the band, sit up tall. Choke up on the band until you feel some tension. Curl the tailbone under and roll back bone by bone until your head is resting on the mat or floor. Use the tension on the band to assist you as you reverse the movement. Curl the crown of the head, the shoulders, the upper back, mid back, and finally the lower back until you are in the seated position. Sit up tall and soften your grip on the band if you feel any cramping. If it feels good, you can look up at the spot where the wall meets the ceiling and do a small spinal extension (backbend) from this seated position. Repeat five to eight times. See if you can rely less on the band and more on your core as you progress.
Sit up with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Pick up the left foot and place the middle of the band around the ball of the foot. Your foot will be pointing towards where the wall and ceiling meet. Choke up on the band with your hands until your arms are straight. You can hold the band lower if you don't need as much help. Curl or tuck the tailbone and roll down to the floor. Roll back up to the Teaser shape, using the band to assist you as you return to the seated position. Try to keep the knees and thighs touching throughout the exercise. When you return to the seated position, lift up tall and bend the elbows, drawing the upper arms towards the sides of the body. This will open the chest and work the arms (think of a rowing motion). Repeat five times with the left foot in the band, then repeat the sequence with the right foot in the band.
Doing these exercises while you're away from home can help you feel better, stand taller, and enjoy more body awareness. Best of all, by staying limber and centered, you'll be ready to jump right back into your regular wellness and fitness routine upon your return home.
What's your favorite way to squeeze in some core and flexibility work while on vacation? Let us know in the comments below.
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