Healthy living when life involves a lot of travel
November 26, 2011 11:52 AM   Subscribe

My life currently involves a lot of travel. How do I maintain healthy habits (eating and exercise)?

I've been gaining weight and I know why: I can't stick to a workout regime - or implement a healthy diet. My life is currently set up in such a way that I often feel overwhelmed.

My job takes me away to conferences and my partner lives in another city.

When on conference: often hard to find time to hit the gym. Have to eat in restaurants where it's easy to indulge "just this one last time".

When at partner's: he doesn't cook and doesn't keep food on hand. He also lives near to many great restaurants. I've asked him to go grocery shopping before I arrive, but he doesn't always have time. There is a gym in his building, but we often struggle to make time for it.

When at home: I spend 4-5 days a week at home /week. I get home, am too tired to go grocery shopping so end up eating frozen food. I then go into intense work mode to catch up on all the back log. Try to find time to go to the gym, but often end up "indulging" and not going.

Basically, I need a swift kick in the A. But I am feeling overwhelmed by it all and am struggling to make exercise a priority. Any fellow frequent-flyers who could share their fitness strategies? How do you stay motivated?
posted by Milau to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Do a sun salutation every morning! You can do it wherever you might wake up and it will help stretch you and kickstart your day.

Are you driving as you travel? If so can you put a bike in your car to use as much as possible to locomote?

Exercise doesn't need a gym or even a special place. Sit-ups, push ups, squats, dives, bicycle kicks and lounges can all be done easily in a hotel room. Most hotels big enough to host conferences have gyms you can use anyhow.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:09 PM on November 26, 2011

A co-worker of mine works out with resistance bands when he travels, I think I've used nearly every Precor exercise bike in a 3-state territory, and will probably pick up swimming next just for variety. They gyms almost always have weights, maybe a machine of sorts, a couple of bikes (usually recumbent) and several treadmills. Sometimes there are elliptical machines as well. The nicer ones have plenty of water, piles of clean towels, and so on.

Otherwise I try to eat as minimally as possible when I'm in full travel mode - small-ish breakfasts (oatmeal, fruit, maybe some toast), salads for lunch and as reasonable a dinner as possible. I've also cut back on drinking in the evenings, though this was hard since we usually travel in teams and there's usually not much to do in the hotel after a day of meetings. Switched to games on the ipad or catching up on pleasure reading. Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by jquinby at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

This may not be possible depending on where your partner lives, but could you get groceries delivered? Set it up online with a nearby supermarket and then his schedule isn't as much of a problem.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2011

Pushups and pilates-type exercises here and there works for me. No need for weights or a gym.
posted by 3FLryan at 12:57 PM on November 26, 2011

Can you run/jog? Sneakers, shorts and a sports bra (if applicable) don't take up much room in a suitcase. Plus you can run almost anywhere.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:05 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go vegan or at least vegetarian and you'll instantly become more aware of what you're eating. Weight problem solved. Since you won't have as many fast food options, you'll have to take a bit more time planning what/when/where you're going to eat. Also, the limited snacks a vegetarian can eat at the airport-- nuts, raisins, bottles of 100% juice, the occasional vegetable sushi, hummus snack box, etc. will be the healthful kinds of foods you *need* to eat anyway, if weight loss is your goal. Limiting yourself is the best option, IMO.
posted by devymetal at 1:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

TRX is a great portable workout.
posted by the cuban at 1:16 PM on November 26, 2011

I've gained weight in the same way and there's only one thing I can advise - Own the problem.

It's not the travel; it's your choices. You aren't working out and you're over-indulging in high calorie foods.

Blaming this on external factors means you're not accountable to make your own healthier choices. It's not your partner's fault. It's not your work. It's your choice.

When I recognize that it my choice, then I make a lot of healthier decisions. I turns out I can walk the conference floor several times a day. I can sub a salad for french fries. I don't have to order rich meals on my expense account - I can make good choices and if I don't there's no one else to blame.

Good luck. It's hard to change patterns, but you can do it.
posted by 26.2 at 1:58 PM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

@thecuban: the TRX looks great, but what would you attach it to in a hotel room? I can imagine breaking something pretty quickly with that thing!

Great question. I'm having the same problems. One of them is having enough space in my suitcase for trainers and jogging pants (that will last a week) as the case is full already.

For me, the most difficult part about travelling, especially when flying, is knowing when your next meal will be, so I tend to overeat in the expectation there won't be another meal that day, and sometimes I'm right, and sometimes I'm wrong. Travelling is also surprisingly stressful - being told what to do and where to go all the time - and this seems to make me want to eat junk more than I would at home.

Things I always take with me though: almonds, oat cakes, and supplements. It can be really hard to get vitamins in you sometimes on a long trip with longer working hours.

I also find not drinking at all whilst away makes life a lot easier, both with regard to travelling and working. Alcohol is one of the best energy vampires I know!
posted by stenoboy at 2:15 PM on November 26, 2011

I can't help with motivation, but here's a workout you can do at the hotel with no gym equipment: Exercising in Small or Confined Spaces. It's from the "official Navy Operational Stress Control (OSC) Navigating Stress blog."
posted by bentley at 2:57 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I forgot, there's also the Law & Order (Couch Potato) Workout. There's always a rerun on you can watch while working out.
posted by bentley at 3:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

@stenoboy the TRX comes with a door anchor. It works great
posted by the cuban at 3:21 PM on November 26, 2011

Most hotels have decent exercise centers, though they're not always advertised. Always ask, and if you get to choose, be sure you're choosing hotels with good ones.

I don't exactly use them much (I'm in that lazy ass club, yup) but my girl is religious about exercise, and so when we travel together I always find a decent one. I'm also selfish: I have no problem getting up early on vacation if it means an hour of watching her exercise in yoga pants while I drink coffee. A truly great start to the day.
posted by rokusan at 5:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I am not going away for too many days, I try and do a grocery shop before I leave - at least enough to keep me going until I get to the shops. Some things have surprisingly long expiry dates - even stuff like yogurt. Some fruit and vegetables keep well, but otherwise some frozen or packaged stuff (e.g. tinned peaches or frozen stir fry vegetables) can tide you over.

I stay in a serviced apartment usually, and while I don't cook much, at least I can make my own breakfast (it is nice to not have to rely on people for everything, which is what often happens when you travel). I also try to take some snacks with me, for those times when you get stuck somewhere and will otherwise need to eat crappy food.

As a frequent traveller, I did have to get out of that mindset that travel is a time to indulge. It might be when you take a holiday, but not when you are doing it for work all the time. It can be easy to feel when you are travelling that it is not your 'real' life.

There are plenty of other suggestions above - but to make it manageable and not overwhelming, just try adding one or two of these suggestions per trip.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:11 PM on November 26, 2011

I know this sounds counter-intuitive to what you're asking, but as someone who often goes away for weeks/months to a range of countries and is an avid exerciser, I've found the key to staying fit on the road lies in knowing what works for you when you have proper exercise equipment at your disposal. I certainly second the suggestions above to get resistance bands, exercise balls, a bar for your door, etc., but knowing what to do with these things is key.

In your next 4-5 day stint at home, I would get a qualified personal trainer and have them show you exercises that will target your areas for improvement and give you overall cardiac conditioning. Ask the trainer how you could use mobile equipment (including running/biking equipment!) to simulate these exercises. If you get in the routine at home, transitioning to travel exercise will be a hell of a lot easier.
posted by msk1985 at 5:18 PM on November 26, 2011

My recommendation involves breakfast - if you have to eat breakfast at a hotel, make sure you include some fat, somehow. It could be eggs, peanut butter, cream cheese, whatever, make sure there is some fat so you're not just eating donuts or sugar cereal. It will help you feel a lot more full. If I may be allowed a shameless plug, I wrote a blog post about vacation eating here:
posted by LaurenIpsum at 7:28 PM on November 26, 2011

When I was a new consultant an older consultant gave me this advice about traveling healthy: "Always order the salmon."
posted by cross_impact at 7:44 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

As for food, I allocate one night a week to indulgence - Thursday night is Fancy Restaurant Night, and I can eat everything I want at the best place I can find. Every other night is a salad night. My coworkers who travel with me are happy with this arrangement too. We put all of our expectations onto one night each week, so we're okay eating basics other nights. It helps that we're on per diem, so we're literally saving up for Thursday.

Can you expense your laundry bill? If not, the ~$5 of laundry per workout might be worth it anyways. Remember that you don't need to work out every day. Packing dirty running clothes stinks, so I make sure to bring plenty of plastic bags too.

If your suitcase size is a limitation, it might be worth upgrading. I travel for 4-5 days at a time and have room for everything + one set of workout clothes in the largest allowed carry-on roller bag. I pack pretty heavy, so my bag is usually quite full, but there's always room for running shoes, shorts, several pairs of socks, and a shirt.

It also helps to follow others who have consistent workout routines. I started going to the gym regularly because my coworker, with whom I traveled for about six months, was extremely consistent with his workout schedule. He set aside time, and I followed.

Second the comment about running. I've run through cities all over the world while traveling, often in cities where people look at you funny for doing it. Through travel to cold places, I've overcome my dislike of treadmills.

If you need a running buddy, look me up when you're in town :).
posted by bargex at 10:18 PM on November 26, 2011

"Painless" exercise ideas:
* Jump rope.
* Wear wrist or ankle weights.
* Take the stairs. Walk extra flights.

Also, many hotels have swimming pools. Swimming and jumping rope are great all-around exercises.
posted by maurreen at 11:43 PM on November 26, 2011

Thanks for the replies. Many of you have touched on some of the challenges. I don't own a car and usually take a train, a bus or a plane to my destination. This means I also try to travel with minimal luggage, especially when I go see my partner (as the expenses aren't covered and I take public transit to the airport/train or bus station). Even then, I usually bring running shoes. The biggest challenge is finding the time to work out, making it a part of my travel routine. I like the sun salutation idea, since it will remind me that I am committed to staying in shape.

I will try to include some of these ideas into my routines. Now, I am home and off to the gym!
posted by Milau at 4:26 AM on November 27, 2011

If you have an iPad or iPhone or Mac, YogaJournal has some great video podcasts for yoga routines. You can do them in your hotel room. You can buy a travel-sized mat, which folds nicely. The clothes don't get sweaty or gross, so you can reuse one set through the week, and you don't need gym shoes.

It's not a real cardio workout, but it's strengthening and energizing, and you'll sleep better, which will also help you be more in control of your choices.

Also, I find that if I take meat out of the equation at a nice meal, it becomes much lighter. A fish dish can still be really indulgent and delicious but less rich. Subbing broccoli for a starch is also a good idea. And drink lots of water--half the time we want a snack, we're really just dehydrated or tired, so good sleep and lots of water will help. So does gum.
posted by elizeh at 8:28 PM on November 27, 2011

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