I pulled my suitcase out of storage today in preparation for a trip I’m taking next week and it got me thinking about individuals who travel regularly. Whether for business or pleasure, staying fit on the road can be challenging. Different time zones, strange food, airplane delays and bad weather can all deter you from exercising and eating well. Yet, ironically, the stress involved with traveling actually increases your need for staying healthy. Fortunately, with a little creativity and planning you can keep your health and fitness goals from departing when you do.
The best way to stay fit and healthy on your vacation is to plan ahead. Just as you would with your travel itinerary, put some thought into how you’ll exercise and eat well when you’re away from home. Exercise helps combat jet lag by resetting your body clock and helping you sleep, but don’t expect to stick to the exact routine you do at home. For example, even if you’re not a “morning person”, exercising it in the a.m. means you’ll get it done before something else interferes. You might, for example, start your day with a walking tour of the city you’re visiting. Consider carrying a pedometer with you to see how many miles you walk each day (2200 steps is roughly one mile). If you plan to exercise outdoors, pack clothes you can layer along with a hat and sunscreen. If you prefer exercising in a gym, find a hotel with fitness facilities. If you enjoy aquatic exercise, choose one with a heated pool. When I travel to Tucson which I do 1-2 times per year, I always stay at a hotel right next to a bike/running trail so that I can exercise each morning by simply stepping out the door. If you can’t find accommodations with a pool or gym, ask if your hotel has an arrangement with a nearby gym where guests can use the facilities for a nominal fee. Or pack an exercise DVD to exercise in your hotel room. You can also perform chair squats and push ups, and water bottles make great makeshift hand weights for strengthening your upper body. A jump rope offers a great, suitcase-friendly cardio alternative. Likewise, exercise tubing can fill in for free weights or strength machines while you’re away.
You can also exercise while en-route to your destination. If you have an airport layover, check your carry-on in a locker and walk briskly around the terminal. Reserve an aisle seat so you can stretch your legs frequently during your flight. You may also want to consider planning ahead for your trip by doing a lot of walking and stair-climbing before your departure. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, chances are you’ll be climbing steps to tour ruins or museums and walking more in general. For several weeks before you leave, take the stairs whenever possible and take longer and more frequent walks. If you’re watching your weight, don’t worry about losing weight, focus instead on trying not to gain any. Make mostly healthful food choices, while still enjoying a few indulgences – after all, you’re on vacation. Again, plan ahead.
Eat a nutritious meal before boarding your flight. Carry some minimally processed snacks on the airplane (unsalted nuts, fresh fruit, carrot and celery sticks, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, whole grain crackers, hummus and string cheese). Drink lots of water and watch your alcohol intake. If you’re taking a car trip, bring a cooler filled with healthy foods and beverages. When eating in restaurants, ask for sauces and dressings on the side. Split an entrée or order from the appetizer menu with your companions so you can sample several dishes while still controlling portions. Book a hotel room with a kitchenette, and consider bringing some cooking tools from home so you can make some of your own meals. It’s a great alternative to eating out at restaurants. My boyfriend and I have been known to bring along our mini George Foreman so that we can seer salmon or grill chicken whenever we want. Often I’ll bring my microwave egg cooker. It can poach, soft-boil or hard-boil eggs in a matter of seconds. If you’re a coffee drinker, bring your favorite blend so you can enjoy the comforts of home every morning.
Bottom line: be as proactive with your wellness when you’re traveling as you are with planning and executing your trip and you’ll not only enjoy yourself more on vacation or business travel, you’ll arrive home feeling refreshed from being away.