Peninsula Hotel, Chicago
Attention frequent fliers and road warriors! Before you zip closed that over-stuffed rolling carry-on bag, be sure to pack in a few articles of exercise clothing and your gym shoes.
Recent studies indicate that a little heart pumping during out-of-town sojourns can improve reaction and alertness by up to 61 percent over non-exercising competitors (Hilton, 2003). If this fact alone doesn't persuade you to pack the sweats, also consider that exercise boosts your immunity defenses against airplane, hotel and other pesky germs, reduces stress levels by triggering the release of brain endorphins, and helps you capture those often elusive ZZZs during the overnight hours. Oh, and by the way, don't forget about the calories
Finding Fitness Focused Hotels
If you're one of the millions of diligent travelers who pack the gym shoes and exercise clothes--a recent Marriott survey showed 51 percent of business travelers do--you know that bringing the gear does not guarantee an adequate place to use it. How many so-called "state-of-the-art" hotel gyms have you sweat in recently...or walked away from? Unfortunately, this pithy characterization has become a convenient euphuism for workout rooms that tend to make me cringe like a marathon runner with an agonizing side stitch.
It's not rocket science, for Pete's sake. Only hotels sporting a well-designed fitness facility equipped with recently purchased, top-of-the-line exercise equipment (no more than four to five years old), and modern audio/visual entertainment should advertise their facility as state-of-the-art. All others should rearrange the words of this misused term, simply state that their hotels offer art, and provide the antiquated machines' vintage.
Our research and personal experience demonstrates that six out of 10 hotels alleging state-of-the-art onsite gyms fail to deliver the goods. Sadly, many don't even come close--unless a closet-size room with a few machines bearing the look of M*A*S*H leftovers qualifies. The abundant online, in print and over-the-phone misrepresentations amount to nothing short of blasphemy for athletic-minded travelers, and rightly so--exercise can be crucial to a successful business trip.
Although 55 percent of business travelers have walked out of a hotel gym due to lousy equipment (Lieberman, 2004), there are, thankfully, a significant number of hotel properties across North America that get it. The trick is finding the cream while sorting through the rest of the crop--and not spending hours on the task.
Here are a few of our favorites from all price ranges:
Le Parker Meridien, New York, NY
With a mix of business and leisure clientele, the LPM's "uptown, not uptight," theme shows throughout. Only blocks south of Central Park and near Times Square, this hotel provides ergonomic rooms at moderate Manhattan prices. The smallish guest quarters are accented with cherry and cedar woods, Aeron chairs, 32-inch televisions and low-lying platform beds. Think Scandinavian design. Technologically savvy, the hotel offers patrons free high-speed internet access and CD/DVD players in every room.
Guests also receive complimentary access to the chic Gravity Health Club on LPM's lower level. A separate bank of elevators transports you to this impressive 15,000 square foot spa and gym. Inside, the floor space is loaded with new equipment of every brand and model. (www.parkermeridien.com)