How I Got Over the Gym & Stayed Strong in Seattle

Photo: Sarah Brink

Photo: Sarah Brink

Throughout my three years of regular work travel, my approach to fitness was pretty regimented. No matter where I stayed, from New York to San Francisco, I always made sure my hotel had a solid gym.

Despite meticulous research, I made a few selection mistakes here and there. For example, the “fitness center” located within my most recent Midtown Manhattan hotel turned was a room occupied by a vending machine and a few weights and treadmills - very sad. Nonetheless, it didn’t matter if the duration was one night or a whole week. To me, the gym was my life raft when work travel got particularly hectic. It was definitely my “non-negotiable.”

When I left my corporate job at the end of 2017, I expected my travel schedule to change depending upon where I chose to plant my feet, career-wise. But when I joined a tech start-up in early 2018, I had no idea just how much it would change.  The company was confirmed to start the prestigious Techstars Seattle Accelerator program, located at the University of Washington, in late January. So in late January I packed my bags and headed west for a three-month stay - my longest business trip yet.

Getting Over the Perks

I knew that as an early-stage start-up, the travel and living situation wouldn’t have the bells and whistles that I had become accustomed to at my corporate job. Most Techstars companies lived together in rented homes, and my company was no different. Adjusting to the thought of having roommates again wasn’t that difficult.  However, planning my fitness regimen proved to be a challenge. Sadly, a Google search revealed few affordable gyms in the area, and the Intramural Sports Center at UW wouldn’t be available to Techstars companies for at least two weeks.

This meant I had to do something I had to exercise two muscles I hadn't really dealt with in the past - improvisation and flexibility. 

Getting Over the Hills

At first, the running part seemed like it would be a breeze. After all, I was heading into more temperate weather, which meant more enjoyable outdoor running. Say what you will about Seattle's constant rain, but it certainly beats the freezing temps and snow that grace winter in Chicago! 

With that spirit, on my first morning in Seattle I laced up my running shoes and practically skipped out into the 40-degree balmy darkness punctuated by drizzle. (Because, of course it was.)

But my joy was short-lived. Within two minutes, I made a “wrong turn” and ended up spending SEVEN minutes climbing a very steep hill. I immediately missed the tiny hills (otherwise known as bridges) I always dreaded when running in Chicago. 

How did a woman who managed to avoid running San Francisco’s infamous hills on plenty of occasions make such a mistake? Because in Seattle, you can’t avoid the hills. Trust me, I tried four different routes and each one simply revealed four different types misery. So I had to get over it…literally.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about hills and getting over tough moments, etc., which I can appreciate. However, I really appreciate the more defined muscles I began to see in my legs - muscles I hadn’t seen since my marathon days. Those hills have been just the challenge I needed, and I think I might actually miss those steep inclines when I return home. 


My Seattle Running Route: Madison Street  takes you through many of Seattle’s scenic neighborhoods like Downtown and Capitol Hill, and it is also the only street that draws a direct line between the Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east. If you find yourself heading west from Lake Washington, you’ll hit the toughest hill I’ve ever encountered in my life for a good four or five blocks before you hit 23rd street. You’ve been warned!


Getting Over Myself

With running covered, that left me with three days a week for resistance training, sans weights. Yes, I know plenty of strong, healthy people  use just their bodies and minimal equipment to power through Pilates, outdoor bootcamps, and Insanity workouts. But for years, I was convinced that I could not be one those people. I told myself, without any solid evidence, that my body would not respond to anything less than a set of dumbbells.

That's why I always scoffed at the bodyweight and “hotel room workout” videos I saw on social media - but during those three weeks without a gym, I didn’t have a choice but to put my old resistance bands, and my body, to work.

I hunkered down in the tiny shared kitchen and through minimal trial and error,  learned that most of the moves I had been doing with weights could be modified for resistance bands. By alternating resistance bands and body weight moves with HIIT moves like skaters and burpees, I found myself working just as hard as I ever did with weights.

Three weeks later I finally entered my new gym eager to hit the weight rack. I grabbed my regular set of weights and after the first set realized they were too light. I hadn't lost my strength, as I had feared I would. Instead, I became stronger.  


My Resistance Workout: I did all of the following with bands for two to three rounds, alternating with a minute of cardio between sets. Unless specified, all of the below are performed while standing in the middle of a resistance band, with the ends in each hand.

  • Single leg dead-lift and row combo (15 reps)
  • Stationary lunge and reverse fly combo (10-12 reps each side)
  • Lateral raise and side leg raise combo (20 each side. Place one end of a long resistance band under one foot and tie another around both ankles. Raise opposite arm and leg for full rep count, then switch to the other side.)
  • Squat and hammer curl combo (15 reps)

After completing the above, I would run through this great ab workout from Well + Good, again alternating each set with a minute of cardio.   


The road throws us a lot of curve balls and it can be difficult to change things up when we’ve maintained a certain pattern for so long. But this road warrior lifestyle is actually a great catalyst for changing perceptions and actions. It certainly has been that for me, and I have Seattle to thank for it.

- Tanya Rose