Many of us commit to eating better, exercising more often, and eliminating unhealthy habits. But those best laid plans often get jettisoned during vacations or business travel. Whether it is long travel days, early client meetings, or late depositions that have you on the road, it is often difficult to stay on track and keep your health in balance when you are away from home. Here are some tips I use to keep myself on track, despite frequent travel:
Leave as little to chance as possible. Check your flight schedule to see when you will be departing and arriving. Take a look at the hotel website to see what sort of dining and fitness options are available. Review your schedule to see when you will be in meetings or otherwise committed and when you can take time to eat and sleep. Make a specific plan for your trip including when and where you will exercise, when you will sleep, and what you will eat.
Bring your own food.
I ALWAYS take food with me when I travel. Sometimes I just take the bare essentials, other times I actually take fresh produce with me. It depends on my schedule and where I’m going. My favorite items to pack are packets of protein powder shakes, cans of tuna with pull top lids, smoked oysters, protein bars, almonds, and cinnamon (to sprinkle on yogurt and oatmeal). If I’m going places where the food options will be limited, I might take along fresh produce like radishes, carrots, broccoli, mandarin oranges, or a grapefruit.
Bring your own tools.
I always travel with a large shaker bottle so I can mix my protein shakes. In addition, I pack a small cutting board, a small paring knife with a cover on it (be sure to pack that in your checked luggage!), plastic spoons and forks, and sometimes some measuring cups. These things don’t take up much room and can transform your hotel room into a functional kitchen.
Locate nearby grocery stores.
Before you leave home, find a grocery store at your destination – and go there as soon as possible after you arrive! I prefer grocery stores that have salad bars. I treat myself to a nice, healthy salad before I grocery shop for my trip. Be sure you have a shopping list so that you don’t succumb to the temptation to buy unhealthy food. I like to stock up on fresh veggies, fruit, unsalted nuts, Greek yogurt, and low fat salad dressing. If you don’t have a refrigerator, you can still buy most of these things and have healthy snacks to supplement your meals.
Look up menus online.
If you will be dining out at your destination, take a look at local restaurants online. If possible, try to be the one in your group who selects the restaurants where you will be dining. Look at the menus to see what sort of healthy options are available. Some online reviews of restaurants are written by people with dietary challenges who will comment on how well the restaurant handled their requests. I prefer seafood restaurants because I can nearly always get lean protein and vegetables. High end steak houses are also good places to get a big prawn cocktail and a nice salad. Avoid the bread basket and dessert tray. Ask the server to put your salad dressing and sauces on the side and not add any salt to your meal (restaurant meals are notoriously high in sodium and fat). Ask for lemon wedges on the side to squeeze on your salad and seafood.
Scout out fitness options.
Before you leave home, check out the hotel website to see what sort of fitness opportunities are available at your hotel. Check to see if there is a park or running trail nearby. Look at local fitness clubs or the local community center or YWCA. They often have very affordable day rates and wonderful facilities. I started running because it is easier to just throw my running shoes in my suitcase than to rent a bike. Sometimes, I even check to see if there is a 5k or 10k that I can do at my destination. Seeing a different city while running is sometimes the best way to get acclimated and see something new.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep while traveling is often a challenge. As much as possible, stay on your regular schedule so that you aren’t sleeping at odd times. If you need an eye mask or a white noise generator to sleep at home, pack those items so you will have what you need. Avoid the temptation to stay up late or rise too early. If you have to make a choice between working out and sleeping, sleep.
Remember to hydrate.
Traveling is hard on the body. Flying, hot climates, high altitudes, soft drinks, and many other things can dehydrate you. To be on the safe side, drink extra water a day or two before you leave home. While you are gone, try to avoid dehydrating things and increase your water intake.
Watch your salt intake.
There is more salt in your food than you realize. When I travel, especially when I fly, I crave salt. There is something about being in an airport that just makes me want to eat. As a result, I have to take extra steps to avoid weight gain due to increased sodium intake. I try to drink more water and eat more crunchy foods (raw veggies, etc.) because that helps cure the salt craving for me. In addition, I always ask restaurants not to add salt to my food. Once you start reducing your sodium intake, you really won’t miss it.
Find ways to stretch, walk or otherwise keep in motion. On the plane, get up and walk the aisle at least once every hour. Walk more than you have to at the airport. Take the stairs at the hotel rather than the escalator. Don’t just sit. Recent studies have shown that even small movements can significantly increase well being. The chair is your enemy!
Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, is one of the great joys of life. You have a chance to experience life in a different way and enjoy a change of scenery, food, climate, customs, and people. Being fit and healthy enough to enjoy traveling is a gift you give yourself. Returning home without a nasty surprise when you step on a scale is a bonus. The more you travel, the more important it is to stay healthy on the road. Safe Travels!