It can be a huge challenge to stay fit and active while traveling. As a personal trainer, I work with members to help build routines to ensure success in the gym and on the scale. Travelers such as consultants, sales persons, and flight attendants (truck drivers, although I don’t get many of these in my studio) are all routinely thrown out of their routines. They are cast out on the road and asked to make do, and stay fit and healthy with limited resources and a hectic schedule.
Although these tips can help everyone and anyone looking for a more healthy and enjoyable lifestyle, more life out of your years, these tips are catered more directly to those with a busy travel schedule. One that does not allow for a routine or rather makes it harder to establish one. With this in mind, I focused on the principles that would lead to success and embedded some tips in each one. If we can learn to focus on the principles, it becomes easier to manage the tasks when they are at hand.
1. Build small habits to create big changes
A great book to pick up is The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. This talks about how to build small habits, one at a time to create big changes. In the past 7 months following the advice from the book, I have been able to:
a) Start flossing daily
b) Clean for 10 min a day (this really made my girlfriend happy)
c) Start doing 5 more minutes of stretching daily
d) Wake up earlier
e) Start Reading daily
f) Create a list of my three most important tasks to be finished each day (and do make sure they get done!)
g) Train jiu jitsu 14x a month.
The key is to start small and pick a habit that was almost guaranteed to be a success. My first was flossing.
Because traveling can be exhausting and offer limited free time, you need to follow this same rule when rule when creating your exercise habits on the road. Who wants to spend an hour in the gym after a 4-hour flight? Not me and I am a trainer!
I love working out. But I can work pretty hard in my hotel room for 15 min. Even 5 min is a good place to start.
Each week you can add another minute, and after about two months you will be up to 15 mins. Even starting with something simple like just walking for 15 minutes after dinner can be a productive way to spend your time. And it feels good.
The key is to start small and stay focused on one habit at a time.
Healthy Habits for Travelers:
- Walk 15 min before going back to your hotel room. Put your bags down and go for a walk. Resist the urge to nap or watch TV.
- Exercise for 15 min each morning. It doesn’t have to be crazy intense. Just keep it simple and sweat a little.
- Journal food while you travel. This can keep you honest and will at least give you an idea of where you can improve your choices.
- Add one good healthy vegetable or protein to your meals on the road each day.
- Practice eating slowly. It takes 20-30 min for your brain to tell your stomach you are full.
- Read and write before you go to bed. If you can avoid sleep aids reading (I like fiction before bed because it lets me zone out) and writing are a great way to decompress.
2. Be prepared
One great habit for travelers can be to prep food to take with on the road. Sometimes prep work can be a drag. It can seem monotonous, but you can also make it pretty fun.
Buying cool new tools like cutting boards, knives, blenders, pans, even Tupperware, can make cooking and prepping food kinda fun. It’s fun to try out new recipes or experiment with new and interesting takes on old ones.
Start with the basics, maybe a simple grocery list with 2-3 easily prepared proteins like chicken and steak, and 2-3 easily prepared veggies like broccoli and spinach for salad can be a good start.
Fruits like oranges are great for travel as well as healthy fats like nuts and seeds. Eating a handful of nuts before dinner is a great way to curb your hunger and control your portion sizes, which is really helpful if you’re eating at a restaurant while traveling.
Prepping food saves you time and money because you won’t spend as much when you travel, and you will have more time to do what you want because you don’t have to wait for food.
But what if you really can’t take food with you? Look up grocery stores in the area and also look up restaurant menus and healthy options.
If eating with a group, make some sacrifices. Nothing is free. No free lunch. Except shitty pizza. Get a drink but skip dessert. Or have dessert with everyone but eat a nutritional entrée like a steak and veggies.
- Buy all necessary equipment to make batching and prepping food a cinch. Blenders, cutting boards, good set of knives, travel containers, a good set of pots and pans.
- Schedule 1-2 prep days to set you up for the week. Or 15-30 min every day. Whichever works better. Once you get going you can really save yourself time and develop a system.
- When eating out check the menu before you go. Pick a healthy option unless it is a cheat meal.
- Google grocery stores and restaurants in the area of your hotel. Stop here and get some healthy options before going to the hotel.
- Buy a travel cooler. It’s an easy way to keep food fresh on the road or even by plane.
3. Don’t give up
There are two big reasons why people fail on the road:
1) They have nothing to train for. No goal in mind or skill to work on.
2) They have no support system. They have no one to turn to when times get tough and no one to hold them accountable.
If you are trying to lose unwanted body fat (and most of us are; movie stars, moms, and professional athletes included), it helps to have an event to train for. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen brides in my studio become more dedicated to staying fit 6 months before their wedding, or when someone is training for a marathon or race, or if they are working up to squat their body weight.
It gives them something to stay focused on even if the scale is not moving. Although even if the scale isn’t moving, you could still be dropping dress sizes and body fat. But that’s a topic for another blog.
Having a support system keeps you on track when the going gets tough. Believe me, when establishing any new habit, the going will get tough. We humans are emotional beings and it can be hard to grab that stalk of broccoli instead of the piece of chocolate cake, or take a walk after dinner instead of taking a nap. Having someone there to empower you and say, “You can do it!” or “I believe in you” can have a powerful impact on one’s ego.
It can be easy to just say “screw it, I give up!” These are the times when it is most important to have a support system, such as a co-worker in the same boat. Or having a trainer who will write a workout for you while you are on the road who wants to see a picture of you doing the workout he/she wrote for you.
Reach out to these people when you need help. That’s why they are there, to help support you and you support them when they need it. There is power in numbers.
The greater your support system, the greater your possibility for success. If you fall down, who cares? Today is always a new day. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start doing things. Take action today that will give you the greatest reward. Join a gym (and use it), buy a blender, start flossing, and workout in your hotel room for 5 minutes.
How to never give up:
- The past is the past. Don’t look back with regret, only look forward to what can be done.
- Find a support system. Find a workout buddy. Join a gym with a vibrant and active community. Find a way to be held accountable for your actions.
- Plan an event or participate in a race of some sort. There are many opportunities for involvement in activities that will keep you active and fit. Training for a 5k is a great way to stay on track. Just make sure you are strength training with a professional so you are not getting injured.
Be brave enough to ask for help when you need it.