If you're one of the millions of travelers who pack the gym shoes and exercise clothes before zipping closed that over-stuffed carry-on bag, how many so-called "state of the art" hotel gyms have you sweat in recently? Unfortunately, this pithy characterization has become a convenient euphemism 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 and simply state that their hotels offer art, and provide the antiquated machines' vintage.

Our research and personal experience demonstrates that seven 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.

Recent studies indicate that a little heart pumping during out-of-town sojourns can improve reaction and alertness by up to 61% over non-exercising competitors. Moreover, exercise boosts immunity defenses against airplane, hotel and other pesky germs, reduces stress levels by triggering the release of brain endorphins, and helps capture those often elusive overnight ZZZs. And, of course, don't forget about the calories burned.

Although 55% of business travelers have walked out of a hotel gym due to lousy equipment, according to a survey conducted by Lieberman Research for Westin Hotels, there are, thankfully, a significant number of hotel properties across the U.S. that "get it." The trick is finding the cream while sorting through the rest of the crop. And, don't think that a more expensive room rate will guarantee a better fitness experience. Often a city's best stay and play option for those who enjoy a healthy lifestyle is offered by a budget-priced accommodation. Here are a few of our favorites:


Phillips Club, New York City (phillipsclub.com)

The Lincoln Square address affords New York convenience: subway stop across the street, Balducci's market off the lobby, Lincoln Center around the corner and a host of dining spots within shouting distance. The contemporary, uncluttered guest suites create a Manhattan apartment feel, complete with Frette linens, Aeron desk chairs, full kitchens, refrigerators, and microwaves. And, Phillips goes to bat for its athletic-minded patrons by arranging complimentary guest privileges at the one of the best workout destinations in all of Manhattan--Reebok Sports Club/NY, less than a 3-minute walk away.


Holiday Inn Express, Nashville, TN (hiexpress.com)

Precor and Holiday Inn Express? Who knew that these two brands could come together under one roof? As possibly the best Holiday Inn Express gym in the country, this franchise takes the cake for Nashville travelers in search of a good workout option and budget prices.

All of the Precor cardio machines are new and include two treadmills, one recumbent bike, and four ellipticals. Those in search of a strength session will find a Precor multi-gym and 5-50lb. dumbbells. Insomniacs can find solace here too, as the gym's 24-hour availability creates an opportunity for late night workouts.


Peninsula, Chicago, IL (chicago.peninsula.com)

If you can afford the steep room rates, this unbelievably posh accommodation will spoil you. Built in 2001, the palatial hotel's 339 guest quarters enchant with luxurious décor, contemporary style, and modern electronic gizmos. Like a swank gadget store, the technologically advanced rooms captivated us until we discovered the on-site fitness center and spa.

Exercisers will be delighted to find light hardwood floors, walls of windows with 20th floor views, sparkling new exercise machines and over 350lbs. of free weights--a rare feature of hotel gyms due to liability concerns. Swimmers too will be awed by Peninsula's three-lane, 25-meter lap pool, complete with floating lane lines, kickboards, pull-buoys, and fins.


Fairfield Inn North, Scottsdale, AZ (fairfieldinn.com)

This Fairfield Inn offers nothing but the basics--clean rooms, good service, and standard furnishings. But its wallet-friendly attitude and great location on Scottsdale Road two miles from Kierland Commons are winning attributes. Fairfield piles on the perks, including free local calls, free continental breakfasts, free parking and, most important, free passes to a fantastic 24 Hour Fitness health club--only a five-minute walk away!


RiverPlace Hotel, Portland, OR (riverplacehotel.com)

RiverPlace is a charming and elegant accommodation located along the western bank of the Willamette River with its popular Riverwalk running path. A boutique hotel with only 84 guest quarters, RiverPlace imparts a European flavor with colorfully presented rooms, premium bedding, and 24-hour room service. Staying here will make you feel like a visitor in a friend's home.

This winning accommodation has no on-site workout option. However, if you reserve your room through the hotel's reservation department, your "package" should include free passes to the RiverPlace Athletic Club--a full-service health center and lap pool only a three-minute walk away.

Learn more about these properties and over 500 other hotels, fitness venues, running routes, lap pools, and more in Jim's recently released best-selling book, The Athletic-Minded'„¢ Traveler: Where to Work Out and Stay When Fitness is a Priority (www.socalpress.com). As a first-of-its-kind resource, this 450-page travel guide offers the most detailed and accurate travel information for those who try to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road.