Fitness-oriented road warriors often fantasize about jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn and rushing to a gleaming hotel gym for a pep-inducing workout.
The reality is that the crack of dawn arrives way too early. And the hotel "gym" often turns out to be nothing more than a wobbly stationary bike, a worn treadmill and a mismatched pile of free weights.
If your travels take you to the right place, the airport could turn out to be the place you get your dream workout on the road.
About half a dozen airports have fitness clubs either right in the terminal or in hotels attached to a terminal. Offering day passes at $15 or less, these clubs can include everything from the latest workout equipment to lap pools, whirlpool tubs, saunas and spa and massage services.
All have showers and a few sell T-shirts, shorts, swimsuits and other items travelers may need for their workouts.
Right now, Las Vegas McCarran seems to be the only airport in North America with a stand-alone on-site gym.
Accessible via elevator from above the baggage claim level of Terminal 1, this branch of 24 Hour Fitness has an extensive workout area as well as saunas, showers, lockers and occasional classes and massage services.
Business traveler Chris Costakes, 31, a software consultant from Birmingham, Mich., once used the Las Vegas gym during a six-hour layover. He says the gym was uncrowded and the workout great. As a practical matter, though, Costakes says he rarely has time to fit in a workout at the airport.
"I head to the client right after I land," he says.
If you're not lucky enough to land in Las Vegas, don't worry.
Hotels attached to airports in Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver, B.C., sell day passes to their fitness clubs as well. (See chart.)
At Miami, the eighth-floor fitness center that had been accessible to air travelers at the Miami International Airport Hotel is closed for renovation, and no announcement has been made about a re-opening.
In Boston, the Hilton Boston Logan Airport Hotel is accessible from the airport via sky bridge or free shuttle bus. The hotel's 6,600-square-foot health club and spa has a fitness center, indoor lap pool, whirlpool, massage and tanning services and locker rooms with steam room and sauna.
Mike Harrington, a certified personal trainer who works at the club, says that on an average day about a dozen travelers with long layovers find their way over from Logan.
And not everyone is there for a workout. Says Harrington: "The showers, steam room and sauna are especially popular first thing in the morning for folks who've just arrived on a red-eye flight and need to freshen up before heading into town for meetings."
Dragan Petrovic, a United Express pilot employed by Mesa Airlines, says he tries to get in a 90-minute workout at the O'Hare Hilton whenever possible.
"The staff is great, and the gym is really good," he says.
Some hotels allow guests to check in at reduced day rates, allowing access to fitness clubs even if they don't sell day passes. Hotels at or near airports often allow usage of the hotel in the late morning and afternoon for about half the nightly charge.
So, for example, checking into the Hyatt Regency at Orlando International at a day rate would permit use of its gym and pool.
But that can be a pricey way to get a workout. A less-expensive option is a day pass at a fitness club at a hotel near an airport and accessible via free shuttle van or short cab ride.
For a list of options, consult Airportgyms.com. The site relies on financial contributions from users and seeks input from users on gyms that should be included. Call ahead, though, because some of the information on this site may be out of date.
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