It’s an age-old problem that many of us who travel regularly for business face on a weekly – if not daily – basis: How to maintain a fitness regimen and eat nutritious food when dashing from airport to meetings to the hotel. There’s no question that it can be a challenge, but here are a few tips and tricks to help you keep your momentum when you’re on the road.
Whenever possible, pick a hotel based on its fitness facility. More and more locations have been upgrading their exercise rooms to expand from the basic treadmill and stationary bike to include everything from free weights to stability balls, medicine balls, and universal weight machines.
Hotel sites will generally show a picture and/or description of what is available on their website, and they may have agreements with a nearby health club. Having a nice fitness center available not only gives you the opportunity, but hopefully the incentive to stick with your exercise regimen.
In many cases you’ll find that the equipment available at a hotel fitness center doesn’t enable you to do some of the things you might typically do in one of your workouts. Although it’s important to mix up your routines when at home, it’s even more applicable when on the road. There are online personal training services that let you hook up with a personal trainer who can customize workouts for when you travel, and if that’s something you find useful and affordable, it’s a great solution.
Otherwise, be prepared to broaden your horizons a bit on your own. If the hotel has dumbbells, but not the heavier weights you might normally use, try doing a Deck of Cards workout to take advantage of more reps with lighter weights. The Deck of Cards workout has you assign an exercise to each suit (Hearts = heart-to-heart push ups, Diamonds = squats, etc.) and then flip through a deck of cards and do the number of reps indicated by the card (Facecard = 10, Ace = 20). There are a number of inexpensive smart phone apps for this if you don’t have an actual deck of cards handy.
The key is to be able to adapt – do cardio instead of lifting weights, do body-weight exercises instead of free weights, throw in some plyometrics – so that you can take the best advantage of the tools available to you.
It’s easy to get caught in a situation where you need something to eat, and either there’s nothing around, or there’s nothing healthy around. Do your best to avoid this problem by packing some healthy snacks in your bag, purse, or briefcase. Some examples include unsalted almonds or other nuts, a protein bar, an apple, or a healthy meal replacement shake.
The key is not to give in to the donuts, candy bars, and other convenience foods that seem to be available almost everywhere. These are not only high in sugars, saturated fats, and empty calories, but in most cases will leave you hungry soon after you finish them. Snacks that have healthy fats, fiber, and are lower in sugar will tend to help you feel satisfied for longer.
The biggest challenge that I’ve found in keeping it healthy on the road is the dreaded business dinner. Too often the table is loaded with breads, fried appetizers, fat-infused dinners, and indulgent desserts that certainly won’t help you keep your nutrition resolutions. Instead of following the crowd, be an example to others of how you can find reasonably nutritious options at almost any restaurant.
Sure, there is more salt and fat in restaurant food than you might typically have if you made it yourself, but many options exist – salads (don’t get the fat free dressings), fish, vegetables, chicken, and other lighter dinners. Also, drink plenty of water. Traveling – especially by plane – will dehydrate you, even more so if you’re in situations where water isn’t readily available during the day. So take advantage of the opportunity to refresh at dinner.
It’s always tempting to pull out the laptop and get through some e-mails after you return to the hotel, but limit your screen time (both computer and TV) so that you can get a good night’s sleep. There are many health benefits to getting enough sleep, including being able to wake up in the morning refreshed enough to hit the gym.
In the end, you’re someone who tries to eat well, exercise, and take care of yourself. Don’t let business travel change that because you’re not prepared. Do everything you can to do many of the same things on the road that you would do at home – and do your best to inspire your coworkers to join you. Maybe they’ll thank you for helping them improve their health, maybe they’ll decide not to join you.
[box type="note"]In any case, you’ll be better off because you’ve taken steps to maintain your health even with your hectic schedule. Trust me, it can be done. I’m proof of that.[/box]