As a dedicated gym rat, I’ll do pretty much anything to get a workout in—I’ve improvised entire circuits using water bottles for dumbbells when I didn’t have access to a gym. So as much as I love traveling, it does take me away from my beloved weights and go-to cardio machine a bit too long. And sometimes I’m stuck in the airport with a layover or delay and would kill to have to have an opportunity to move my body between long stints in a seat.
That’s why I was excited to hear about Roam Fitness, the full-service gym located inside Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport. It’s the first gym in a U.S. airport inside the security checkpoint, and the company plans to have 20 locations (in both domestic and international airports) within five years. I’ve dreamed about airports having gyms for years, so when I first heard about Roam, my initial reaction was “It’s about time.” My next reaction? Gratitude—their first location was in my local airport. BWI is just up the road from me in Washington, D.C., which meant that I’d have the opportunity to try it soon—and see if it was worth the $ 25 day pass.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Los Angeles with my fiancé. We were on a direct flight, so I decided I’d try to fit in a workout at Roam before boarding my 8:20 A.M. flight. These were my takeaways.
If you think a regular ol’ gym workout takes some planning, wait till you see what you need to do to prep for airport exercise.
The gym’s location really complicated things. Roam is in Concourse D, which is directly connected to Concourse E. If you’re flying out of either concourse, you’re in the best position to take advantage of the gym.
But if you’re in Concourses A, B, or C, well, you’re going to need to budget extra travel time. These concourses aren’t accessible through Concourses D and E, so if you want to use the gym but you’re departing out of, say, B16 (like I was), you’ll have to go through security more than once. If you plan accordingly, that shouldn’t be too much of a hassle, especially if you have TSA Pre-Check, which I fortunately do.
That being said, since I didn’t realize the concourses don’t all connect, I wasted a good chunk of time going through security the first time when I could’ve been working out. If you’re flying out of Concourses A through C and you don’t have TSA Pre-Check, count on an extra 45 minutes just to get back and forth from the gym.
If I were to work out in another airport gym, I’d do some research to figure out where it is relative to the parking lot, my concourse, and my gate, especially if I’ve got an early morning flight. I (wrongly) assumed I’d be able to connect seamlessly between concourses, and sadly that ate into my workout time.
I was really impressed by how nice the space was—it was just missing one of my essentials.
It’s bright, clean, and almost perfectly equipped (I’ll explain how in a minute). I was there a little after 7 A.M. on a Tuesday, and I had the space all to myself. The gym is rather small—I didn’t have any problems because I was alone, but I can see it getting uncomfortably cramped during peak travel times. If there were more than about 15 people, I think there’d be serious competition for machines and weights.
Since I’d lost so much time going through security and was already behind schedule, what I’d hoped would be a one-hour full-body workout ended up being much more abbreviated. I did five minutes on the rower, five minutes on the treadmill, and 15 minutes of weight lifting, primarily targeting my upper body. There was a solid selection of free weights, and all of the cardio machines appeared to be in excellent shape. In terms of equipment, the gym had pretty much everything you could need.
The one glaring exception? A squat rack. As a powerlifter who lives for leg day, a squat rack is my holy grail at any gym I walk into. Without one, a gym just isn’t quite complete in my eyes. That said, not being able to squat isn’t a deal breaker for a gym that I’m probably going to use pretty infrequently. I was still able to get in what I felt was a great, near-complete workout (albeit short).
There were a few key features and thoughtful amenities that can make airport exercising really work.
One feature I really liked was the arrivals and departures screen hanging to the left of the weight racks. It was so helpful to just glance up and see my flight status, instead of reaching to check my phone every few minutes. Lockers are also available to store your luggage and other carry-on items. As an added bonus, the lockers include power outlets so you can charge your devices while you’re working out.
A few of the other amenities, included in the fee, that seemed great: showers with fresh-smelling Malin+Goetz bath products, towel service, and a workout gear rental option (featuring Lululemon apparel and Brooks shoes). I even noticed that they had a TriggerPoint foam roller, which is hands-down my favorite foam roller on the market. (It’s the little things, right?) Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to use any of these—I waltzed into the gym wearing my own workout clothes, and I simply didn’t have enough time to foam roll and enjoy that luxurious shower after.
Now that I know what to expect the next time I fly out of or pass through BWI I’ll be ready to take full advantage of everything that Roam has to offer. Personally, I’d rather squeeze in a couple reps before I board a plane or during a long layover than sit around scrolling through Twitter and drinking overpriced wine at the airport bar.