I believe traveling is, hands down, the biggest obstacle to a healthy life. Staying fit while traveling takes discipline, planning, and hard work. Traveling takes you out of your routine and makes it extremely difficult to stick to a diet and get your workouts in. Hotel gyms suck, fast food is abundant and who doesn’t like a few drinks at the end of a long day? I typically spend 6-8 weeks a year on the road visiting customers, working trade shows and attending classes. Over the years, I have figured out what works for staying fit while enjoying the city I’m visiting. I am just returning from a long week in Las Vegas where I was working a trade show and I was able to lose weight and hit all my workouts. Not an easy task in Sin City.
Don’t Be Average
I am always amazed at how people will abuse their bodies at these trade shows. It is like some of these people treat working these events as going on vacation or attending a bachelor party. Based on observations of the people in my booth, here is a very typical day for the average worker:
- Wake up hung over and tired
- Head to the breakfast buffet for food and lots of coffee
- Eat food brought to the booth for lunch which was either pizza, subs, Chinese food or BBQ
- Keeping crushing coffee or Mountain Dew throughout the day
- Start drinking alcohol as soon as the show ends
- Have a couple cocktails at the bar while figuring out dinner
- Eat dinner at the buffet, Circus Circus, Benihana, etc.
- Back to the bar for more drinks while trying to decide what to do tonight which usually was either keep drinking or gamble and keep drinking
- Go to bed around one in the morning, ready to do it all over again.
My guess is the average person in my booth was consuming around 8 drinks per day, 4-6 cups of coffee, 5,000 calories of crap, got about 4-5 hours of sleep and never once exercised. Doing this for a few days could set your fitness back a month or more, easily.
Stay Fit While Traveling
Hit It Hard Before You Leave
Crush a workout right before you leave. Try to time it so you get a great workout in within 24 hours of leaving for your trip. This just gives you a little buffer to start your travels. You will hopefully be a little sore and worn out so a missed day can just be looked at as a recovery day. For this trip, I woke up at 2:20am to workout as my flight was at 6:00am.
Eat Light or Not At All
For breakfast and lunch, you should eat almost nothing or actually nothing. You are typically very busy throughout the day anyway, so it doesn’t seem so bad to not eat much during the day. Most of your eating will just be done out of habit so realize you won’t die if you skip a meal or just have two eggs and black coffee for breakfast. Two days I didn’t consume any calories until dinner and the other days I would eat two bananas and 2 protein bars throughout the day.
If you do this, you can go out to eat dinner with everyone without blowing up your calorie count for the day. You don’t want to be sitting at the all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet at the Aria trying to eat less than 600 calories.
Move Your Body
Do something active every day. It doesn’t have to be a 60 minute a jog. Because, if you make that your goal, you will probably skip it. Make a promise to yourself that you will at least do 10 minutes of push ups, sit ups, squats, lunges and stretching every morning. Doing this first thing in the morning kind of sets the tone for the day in a positive way.
Try to pick one or two days a week where you can go to a gym and get a long workout in. Use the hotel gym if it is decent or head to a local gym and pay for a day pass. Luckily for me, the hotel gym was really nice so I hit that every morning. Bonus if you can find a partner to go with you. One of the outside sales guys is an amateur bodybuilder so we actually were able to train together which was awesome.
Easy On The Booze
People love to drink and it is going to be everywhere. You are tired from the day and unwinding with a free (gotta love those expense reports) drink always seems like a great idea. However, drinking is full of empty calories, disrupts your sleep, encourages you to eat more, dehydrates you and makes you feel worse the next day. If you must drink, limit yourself to no more than 3 drinks.
Go To Bed
Your body needs rest and you can’t just run on caffeine for several days and expect it to function properly. Most nights, you are better off just heading to bed after dinner. If your colleagues are going to do something that actually sounds fun, then, by all means, stay up late. Usually, they will just be getting half drunk while discussing the company’s problems and how to fix them. You can skip that night.
Have Some Fun
If you are visiting a new or fun city, go out and do something. See some of the sites, do some touristy crap, see a show or go to a festival. Try to plan out one cool thing that you will do before you begin your trip and stick to it. Don’t go to Vegas, Boston or Chicago and only see the hotel room and conference room.
People are going to think you are weird for skipping meals, eating protein bars and going to bed early but don’t let them phase you. You have goals that you are working towards and you can’t worry about negative peer pressure. People will feel insecure about themselves and want to bring you down but don’t shrink to make them feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to some things and “yes” to yourself. Follow some of the advice above and you will be able to enjoy traveling a lot more and not ruin your fitness goals. Good luck and safe travels.