I haven’t found a better way to completely fall off the healthy lifestyle wagon quite like traveling. Whether for work or vacation, extended time in an airport and hotels, and away from your kitchen and gym, provides numerous challenges to staying on track. This post outlines a few tips for keeping it together on the road.
1. Always be prepared with snacks. Pack nuts, trail mix, jerky, Lara bars, and other snacks to have in the airport, between work meetings (or sightseeing), and for late night cravings. Pack more than you think you’ll need, as healthy snacks can be hard to find in hotels and airports.
2. BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast). Unless you fork over $20 for the sit down breakfast, most hotels offer a continental breakfast comprised of cold eggs, processed bacon, pastures, bagels, cereal, and canned fruit cocktail. If you’re lucky, the eggs will be hot and there will be fresh fruit. Either way, the safest bet is often having something in your room you can eat, saving you money and keeping you on track. When I’m traveling I like to have a banana with peanut butter or oatmeal (you can usually find hot water) with dried fruit and nuts or nut butter. In a pinch, oatmeal from Starbucks isn’t the worst, and hard boiled eggs are becoming easier to find.
3. Do your homework. Look up restaurants that are near where you are traveling, and read over their menus before you go. Most places will offer some sort of meat/potatoes dish, or salmon and green vegetable. If you read up ahead of time, you can identify a few places you know you can find a healthy meal, and a few meals at each place. I find that having my mind made up before I get there helps me avoid the temptation to order something less nutritious.
4. Talk to your coworkers/travel mates. In the year 2014, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t at least one other person in your group who is trying to pay attention to health. I would say you are more likely to find other healthy eaters on a work trip, simply because on vacation people tend to care a little less about staying on the wagon (let’s just say when I traveled to Italy I was not worried about the pasta and gelato). For example, at my company there are at least 3-5 other people who are paleo or gluten free. I like going to eat with these people because I know they’ll be ordering something healthy, which encourages me to do the same.
5. Keep up the exercise. Sometime when you’re traveling, there’s not getting around a less than desirable meal. Your salmon comes with more sauce than you thought. There’s no other food available in the meeting besides pasta salad and sandwiches. Et cetera, et cetera. (And I haven’t even mentioned the booze yet…). Exercise can not only negate some of that damage, it can also give you more energy and motivate you to stay on track while you’re away. I travel to California every year for work, and try to take advantage of the time difference to get up and go running at least one morning. I’m also lucky enough to work for the fitness industry, so our work trip includes morning group classes (last year I went to a Piloxing class, and I was more sore after than I care to admit). If running outside or group classes aren’t an option, take advantage of what is. Use the pool in your gym to swim some laps. Look up hotel CrossFit workouts (or ask a coach for some ideas). Try deck of cards WOD (via the, app, or an actual deck of cards) in your hotel room. There are lots of creative ways to get 20-30 minutes of movement in during some part of your day. If there’s really not, try walking or taking the stairs as much as possible.
6. Go easy on the booze. Whether for work or play, traveling always seems to include healthy doses of adult beverages. When I travel for work, it’s cocktail hours with wine or open bar. When I travel it’s the booze of the land (bier in Germany, red wine in Italy…). Either way, try to aim for no more than one drink an hour, and mix in plenty of water between. Try to stick to one type of drink – wine, gin, beer, whatever. You can also order a vodka/gin and tonic for the first one, and quietly refill with just tonic or club soda the rest of the night. It’s important (at least at my work meetings) to appear social and participate in festivities, but I also need to have energy to get up and workout in the morning, so I aim for 1-2 drinks over the course of a five hour evening.