Traveling for work can be among the most disruptive factors to staying fit because it can introduce variables for which even the most disciplined and organized find it difficult to account. So let’s walk through how to stay well on the road with an eye toward nutrition, fitness, and wellness.
- Good — I trained a client in D.C. who traveled often to the middle of Indiana. Her food options were limited mostly to fast food and a Super Walmart twenty minutes away. I coached her to do the best she could with what was available. That meant approximating to the extent possible a mix of protein, healthy fats, and vegetables at every meal—even using McDonald’s in a pinch. (Think Egg McMuffin with a side salad or fruit cup). Her travel wasn’t ideal, but she was able to do just enough to stay healthy.
- Better — If you’re traveling in a bigger city, your options for food even if you don’t have access to a grocery are often better. Fast food chains like Sweetgreen (D.C., Boston, L.A., New York, Philly) are thriving precisely because they offer health-conscious people affordable, fast, and convenient ways of eating well.
- Best — You’re able to identify a grocery store near where you’re working or staying that has a good selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, and delicatessen. Using a grocery on the road can allow you to mainly stick with a nutrition plan consisting of primarily whole foods and fresh ingredients. Even if your work travel involves command performance dinners, you’ll be able to control your breakfast and lunch by shopping for your food daily.
- Good — If you’re stuck in a hotel that doesn’t have even a modest gym, you can still maintain some mobility and strength on the road. Search YouTube for videos from people like Neghar Fonooni and Jen Sinkler for bodyweight routines. Another great option on the road that would complement your wellness goals would be downloading a good yoga app and doing some sort of practice daily.
- Better — One of the things about the fittest people you know is that they think about their fitness when planning trips. So, for example, they’ll identify a favorite hotel by how good the gym is. This might take some trial and error, but you too can figure out which hotels have the best gyms for your fitness needs. Stay at those places when you can, use the gym, and maintain or even enhance your fitness on the road.
- Best — Find a local gym convenient to where you’re staying or working. If you belong to a national chain, you often can work out for free when you’re on the road. (I’ve found that even if you’re not a member, many clubs will allow you to work out for free if you just tell them that you’re visiting). You might even treat yourself to a personal training session when you’re traveling. Some folks even have a roster of trainers around the country in the different cities to which they travel.
- Good — You’re mindful of how you’re feeling and you do your best to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Just as you might have chosen your hotel for the gym accommodations, you might also be aware of which dwelling on the road has the best blackout shades and temperature controls to allow you to sleep in a cool, dark room. You limit caffeine consumption to the morning, and you don’t drink too late into the evening because alcohol can act as a sleep disrupting stimulant.
- Better — You make it a point not only to sleep well, but to have some experience outside of work during your travel. Given the tight schedules often associated with being on the road for work, this can be difficult. But you can try things like walking a few extra blocks to your first meeting so the route takes you by an interesting building, popping into a photography exhibit for 15 minutes, or researching an interesting restaurant that we don’t have here in Dayton.
- Best — In addition to the above, you develop a wellness friendly routine, or ritual even, that allows you to maximize relaxation and sleep, while also minimizing anxiety and stress. You have a “go bag” ready at all times that you take with you on your business trips. It consists of tea from home, your favorite soaps, and guilty pleasure magazines that you can read to relax before bed. You’ve come to grips with the fact that travel is a part of your professional way of life, so you’ve developed patterns specifically designed to maximize your wellness on the road. Work travel becomes a way of recharging, giving you a welcomed opportunity to do strategic thinking.
One of the mistakes I see often is working professionals pretending that travel is not fundamental to their work life. If you’re on the road every month, then you ought to take some time today to figure out how to stay healthy in hotels, airports, and train stations. Your nutrition, fitness, and wellness options might not be optimal, but with a little planning you can maintain or even enhance your health with travel.