Hold the pillow mint, send up the yoga mat

PHOTO: Hold the pillow mint, send up the yoga mat

NEW YORK - Room service? I'd like to order a treadmill.

Hotel chains are delivering everything from yoga videos to recumbent bicycles to guests who prefer to work out their jet lag, or shape up for that business meeting, in the privacy of their rooms.

"Probably fitness equipment is the biggest request we get from guests," said Vivian A. Deuschl of the The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. "It's the biggest preoccupation of business travelers besides getting their work done, so we try to make fitness available on any basis they ask for."

In-room fitness options aren't limited to Pilates DVDs and yoga mats, although both are in high demand at most of the company's 78 hotels worldwide, according to Deuschl.

"We do folding treadmills and folding recumbent bikes," she explained. "The only things we can't bring to the rooms are heavy weights."

She said women business travelers are particularly keen on exercising their in-room options.

"Just as a lot of women don't like to sit by themselves in a restaurant, a lot of them don't want to work out in a room full of strangers," she said.

Celebrities also tend to prefer their rooms to fitness facilities open to a curious public.

Gym shoes with hygienic, disposable insoles, gym clothes and 6 a.m. staff-led jogs are among the amenities considered standard at most luxury hotels, Deuschl said.

You can even request a personal trainer if you call ahead.

The Kimpton chain of boutique hotels has provided guests in-room 24-hour yoga channel classes and a basket of yoga gear since 2003, according to president and COO Niki Leondakis.

Pilates and meditation classes followed. Hula hoops and jump ropes can be had for the asking.

Leondakis believes the modern business traveler's focus on wellness coincides with the aging of the baby boomers.

"Twenty years ago it was wine, dine and work, not about maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road," she said. "People today are looking at work/life balance in a more integrated way."

She said while yoga draws mainly women, both sexes are drawn to hotel-sponsored group runs and bicycle rentals.

Hoyt Harper, of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, spearheaded Sheraton Fitness, the chain's $120 million (S$148 million) initiative to expand both in-room and gym facilities, after a guest survey revealed increased demand.

"Sixty-two percent of our guests told us they were very interested in staying fit on the road," Harper said.

Sheraton's workout-in-a-bag includes exercise cards, mats, and resistance bands. Harper said the foam rollers, which afford a mini-massage, are among the most popular items.

But he said most guests prefer to use Sheraton's revamped fitness centers.

"Hotel facilities were small and cramped and they weren't well stocked," he said. "Our facility is larger, brighter, fresher," he said.

Deuschl thinks the business traveler's obsession with staying fit on the road reflects the travails of modern travel.

"If you're coming off an 18-hour trip to China, you feel the need to be pampered," she said. "If you're a frequent guest and you ask for a treadmill, after two or three times it will be in your room without having to ask."