How do I get the stamina and health of diplomats, CEOs and politicians?
April 25, 2009 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm just about to start a new job that will involve a lot of travel, negotiation, and meeting and greeting. How do I get the stamina and health of diplomats, CEOs and politicians?

I'm going to be starting a new job in which I have to travel a lot and be on my game, meeting a lot of new people. I hope this job will put me on the path to more NGO work and one day, the EU or the UN.

My health, while not exactly fragile, can be easily upset by sinus infections, asthma, migraines and jetlag. I have read in the past about CEOs who swear by 6am starts, yoga and exercise to stay alert and healthy and I will gradually start to do this. But what can I do for my overall health and resilience while flying a lot and being away from regular routines? Any roadwarriors here in a similar situation?

I have travelled a lot, but predominantly for leisure which means I have more time to do these things, but when I've travelled for conferences etc that's when I've fallen down in the past by not exercising, eating well and succumbing to sinus problems. My main exercise is cycling, and I can't take my bike ont these trips!

I don't want to become superhuman and work 24/7, but I do want to make sure that I am alert, engaged, and healthy on the road. How do I stay healthy and increase my stamina?
posted by wingless_angel to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Can you sleep on planes? If you can't, you're going to have to learn how. If you can't sleep in coach, make the provisions in advance to travel more comfortably so you can get the sleep you'll need on an airplane.

Be sure to stay in hotels that have a gym available, and do what you can to make time to exercise -- many hotels have gyms with at least one exercise bike, a treadmill or two, and an elliptical machine. Some have pools -- a swim is great exercise.

Bring lots of healthy snacks with you, wherever you go. Plan in advance!

I have found that when my job requires me to schedule things very tightly, I have a lot of trouble sleeping during the small amount of time in which I MUST sleep. Sometimes I will be required to be "on" and working during all of my waking hours, and I have EXACTLY eight hours to sleep. If I can't sleep in those situations, it throws me off for a very long time. I think this is probably the biggest problem for people who are so busy that they cannot spend a minute off-schedule. If you have any trouble sleeping when you absolutely need to, you need to find a way to solve that problem!

Will you have someone to help you with your schedule? Most diplomats, CEOs and politicians have assistants who manage their calendar, and schedule them out. If you do not have that, you will have to do it for yourself -- get a day planner or a blackberry, or whatever works for you, and keep as tight of a daily schedule as you can. Traveling makes you very busy, and if you miss a flight, or an important meeting runs long, the first thing to suffer is your diet and your self-care, unless you do your best to plan for it in advance. If you have this scheduled, you can see how that unexpected 2 hour meeting will be eating into your sleeping plan, and readjust your schedule accordingly.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2009

I read a while ago that celebrities take Emergen-C to keep from getting sick or to feel better once they do catch something. I have been drinking a packet most mornings for several years now, and I rarely get sick. (When I do, it's a big one.) If I feel something coming on, I'll have a couple more during the day and that usually does the trick.
posted by LolaGeek at 5:23 PM on April 25, 2009

Best answer: This won't prevent jet-lag but it will help prevent colds and other infections:

Be like Lady Macbeth and wash those hands often and thoroughly. If someone rubs their runny, cold-virusy nose and then touches a phone or counter or any other surface that YOU then touch is a germ-factory. Frequent hand-washing has been shown to be one of the best ways to prevent infections.

Airplane air is often very dry and recirculated (and therefore germy). Drink lots and lots of water to stay hydrated when you fly. If you're hydrated you are better able to stave off infections and feeling unwell.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:43 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I travel a lot, and deal with migraines and allergies. It's hard to get "up" enough to give a talk or presentation.

The advice above is all good: sleep on planes to maximize your time, overdose on vitamins (especially B and C) for energy and health, and yeah, airplane colds suck so stay hydrated and keep your hands both clean and away from your face. Bonus: prevents pandemics.

When traveling, avoid sugar (crashes), but drink smart drinks and energy drinks.

Travel with the sleepy kind of sinus meds and/or sleeping pills (almost the same thing) to help sleep on planes and at night as well as in the new hotel. You'll sleep better and breathe better. Don't use hotel AC unless you have to: it's often moldy.

Almost every hotel with even a basic exercise room will have a stationary bike. And if you get a day off in an interesting city, you can usually rent a bicycle (and helmet) for a day-trip. Recommended.

Keep a permanently packed bag that is stocked with everything you need for an (x)-day trip, including the meds and bathroom essentials. Restock it as it's used. This saves a huge amount of time and stress when you're (a) doing it last-minute every time and (b) running around in a strange city trying to find the things you forgot.
posted by rokusan at 6:22 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

before you take Emergen-C, you might want to read this previous thread about the effectivity (none shown) and risks (overdosing on Vitamin A) for products like this.
posted by canine epigram at 6:39 PM on April 25, 2009

Burpees! They're perfect for tight quarters like a hotel room, and they work all the major muscle groups.
posted by ictow at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2009

Best answer: It's all about planning, planning, planning. You need to schedule things that normally don't get formally scheduled -- things like downtime, meal times, etc, as much as you can. Diplomats, CEOs and politicians aren't grabbing a Coke and running out the door in the morning because that's all they have time for. They're up early, having a good breakfast (preferably with business contacts) and walking from meeting to meeting. They can pace themselves because they've planned their work, and are working their plan.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:49 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All of the answers so far are great, thank you! Great pointers on exercise and scheduling all the little things.

I will do some reading on exercise I can do in a hotel room - things like using Therabands. Had never heard of Burpees, sounds good!
posted by wingless_angel at 7:09 PM on April 25, 2009

Be honest with yourself. Realise how much you can cope with new people, especially ones you need to impress. I've had days where I've had only enough time to dump my bag in my hotel room before heading out the door - every minute scheduled, including all meal times. Some people thrive on that. I don't. So I now make sure to have several hours a day that is unstructured downtime for reading, writing and thinking. Otherwise I quickly feel exhausted. And I've given up feeling guilty about it.

Don't get boozed up just because you're bored and on your own. Or because you're nervous and with new people. It will make you much more tired. If you're worried about offending hosts, then allow them to fill your glass and then don't touch it. No one will notice.

Try to follow the same routine you have at home. If that's the gym four times a week then do that - most hotel gyms will have a stationary bike you can use. Similarly, try to replicate home food. You can buy cereal, milk and orange juice from a nearby shop, and skip the evils of the breakfast buffet.

(And most diplomats, CEO and politicians don't have great stamina. They're perpetually exhausted because they don't do all / some of the above.)
posted by TrashyRambo at 9:13 PM on April 25, 2009

I'm not a diplomat, but I'm dating one who's had a stinking cold for the past week. She has paced herself, worked every day through it, then gone home and slept. I've seen her switch from groaning in my arms to polished professionalism. There's a price to being successful and part of it is turning up when you'd rather be under the duvet. My boss broke his ankle playing football and was at his desk the next morning.

Of course, staying healthy is important too, but don't imagine that CEOs have a secret to never feeling terrible.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:33 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you haven't already read this:
posted by ohyouknow at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2009

Wearing a sleep mask helps me sleep at all times. Once it is completely dark it is much easier to fall asleep. Ear plugs are also great for sleeping on trains and planes, or during the day.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can take your bike with you: Bike Friday, Brompton, Dahon, and several other companies make folding bikes that can be packed in a suitcase and checked. Dahons are mass produced and are among the cheaper options; Bromptons are noted for their extremely compact fold; Bike Friday's pocket series is designed to ride like full-sized road bikes while their tikit bikes fold and pack very quickly.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:14 AM on April 26, 2009

I used to work for a politician. During campaigns he'd go through a bottle of Purell a week.
posted by ewiar at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2009

Best answer: For me it is about what was said above about Purrell or hand washing, etc. It is also about routine. Have a travel routine about sleeping waking etc. I would rather get up an hour early and exercise than get the extra sleep. This goes a long way to making your stamina improve. The tips about eating right are spot on as well. Get a healthy breakfast. Avoid sugars. Avoid excess alcohol. Nurse any drink you have. Also, for me, whenever I had a chance to get back to my room late afternoon, a quick cold shower really got me going enough to rally for that client dinner.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:25 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take your Omega-3 acids every day. You can get them in flax seeds and sometimes eggs, but I just take them in a pill. Aside from being amazing and even critical for your health and immune system, a lot of people say that in general, their happiness and energy levels are increased when they take them consistently.
posted by saxamo at 9:18 PM on April 26, 2009

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