Staying Fit While You Travel

It is important to find excitement and happiness when you’re traveling. No matter where you are going or what you are doing, try to think of traveling as an adventure wherein meeting interesting people, seeing different cultures and experiencing something other than you do regularly at home will both educate and excite you. It’s also an opportunity to read a good book, learn something new or sharpen your skills while en route (whatever this might mean for you, your job or your hobbies). This mindset is easier when traveling for vacation since the fundamental point of the trip lies within this type of thinking. It is not always the case though when traveling for work. Note: I realize I am in a rare position since most of the travel I do for work already involves this mindset. Most folks I know travel often and usually it is work-related, so I’ve given a lot of thought to helpful tips for staying positive and on track physically and emotionally.

Over the years I have experimented with several ways to stay fit while on the road and I want to share some of my findings. The five steps below will keep your fitness, weight and mind intact while you travel. This year I have traveled more than ever since retiring from professional cycling. Although the traveling has been for both pleasure and work, there isn’t much difference to the nutrition and fitness perspectives when I create my travel routines. Traveling is never easy on your fitness and it sure is not easy on your waistline, but there are things you can do to keep your fitness without sacrificing enjoyment or work effectiveness.

Above all, keep it simple:

  1. Limit yourself to only one snack per day
  2. Plan ahead and bring your snacks with you
  3. Eat two of your three meals perfectly
  4. Exercise 20-30 minutes a day
  5. Sleep 7+ hours every night

Let’s get back to keeping it simple. Once you’re in a good state of mind, it is important to keep the fitness and nutrition side of your travel as simple as possible. One of the biggest challenges to travel is keeping great nutrition. I know this because over the last eight weeks the VQ staff has been participating in the Whole Life Challenge. The Challenge requires participants to track several of their habits, one of which is daily nutrition. Participants score their nutrition on a 0-5 scale with 5 being perfect nutrition and 0 being five or more poor nutrition decisions. But there is also a comment section for reflecting on those daily choices. For me, this portion of the Challenge, while it often seemed the most overwhelming, provided the most insight.

After analyzing the data--not just mine but that of our entire staff--the numbers are a solid two points lower when traveling. The comments supported the difficulties of maintaining good nutrition while on the road. It was pretty easy to determine that nutrition while traveling is much more challenging. That being said, there are some things we can do to increase the nutrition score while on the road.

First, realistically, I think snacking is inevitable, if not important, when traveling. Mealtimes get pushed all over the place and keeping your tank topped off can be done only with some snacking. Be aware of when and how much you snack. And as I learned from my dear friend, Sam Beall, bringing your own snacks ensures they are healthy. He usually brought all his own food (often in glass containers) and while that might be taking it a bit far for most of us, he kept his nutrition dialed in. At the very least, I think we can bring healthy snacks along to always be sure when we do snack…

  1. We like the snacks
  2. The snacks are healthy
  3. We can snack when we need to, not when we have to (you eat more when you have to)
  4. We understand the caloric and nutritional value of our snacks

The second tip I will give all of you is to eat well for two of the three meals when you’re on the road. Allow yourself to have one meal every day that is either a treat or convenient for vacation or business and makes sense as it relates to your travel. The other two meals, usually breakfast and lunch, can be kept healthy pretty easily. Breakfast is pretty simple and can either be purchased or custom-ordered. Eggs, yogurt, a protein, some fruit get your day started right. Lunch selections always have healthy options like salads, veggies and lean proteins like chicken or fish. These will make it pretty easy to stay clean during the first two meals of the day.

Dinner is the tough one. You may have to take a hit here, which is OK if you have been pretty good the rest of the day with your breakfast, snack and lunch choices. I look for the best option available and, if possible, try not to overstuff myself, especially if it is close to bedtime.

On the exercise front: I believe no matter where you are or what you are doing, you will always have 30 minutes to get some exercise in. Coming from a cycling only background, traveling often allows me an opportunity to try something other than ride a bike (not always the most convenient when packing). Examples might include walking, running, swimming, strength circuits, stair-climbing, etc. And if those are not possible, there are always sit-ups, push-ups and burpees. I love working other muscles and changing up the firing patterns a bit to create some other coordination necessary for a well-rounded athlete.

Try to do your 30- to 60-minute workout at the same time each day. That will create a daily routine that becomes more manageable. I suggest the morning as a better, more predictable time since opportunities come our way as we progress through the day, causing us to forego the workout to make it to dinner on time. If your first appointment is at 9am, wake up at 7:00 to be finished with your workout by 8:00. This still allows time for a good breakfast before your appointments, family time, sightseeing, etc. begin.

Sleep! Why focus on sleeping at least seven hours each night? Sleep maintains a sort of normalcy in your routine--a routine that gets disrupted constantly when you travel. Make sure the room temperature is cool, don't drink too much water before bed and make your hotel room as dark as possible. Oh! And ear plugs are a must, especially if you get the room by the elevator!

Considering your entire day will help keep it simple and allow you to stay fit, trim and happy when you’re on the road.

And remember: if this is a new habit for you, it may be an adjustment for those with whom you travel. Encourage your companions to join you or consider opportunities to get exercise while enjoying local activities. Take advantage of where you happen to be! Find the excitement, adventure and happiness in travel (learn something every time you travel). Moving around, eating well and resting will always enhance not only your trips, but your life.