Road Warrior Tales
Sit in any airport or business meeting filled with road warriors, aka frequent travelers, and the predictable conversations will emerge:
“You know how it is with business travel. I’ve gained 10 lbs since I took this new job. Not much you can do.”
“I am just so tired, all I want to do is go to my hotel room and crash.”
“Wow, what a day, I think we deserve some ice cream… don’t you?”
“Ha, ha… if I keep at this much longer, I’m going to need a seatbelt extension.”
At the same time, the lines at the airport McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts are long… and the salad place is usually deserted.
I get to hear more than my fair share of these conversations, since I spend substantial time traveling for my work. Apparently, I am what they call a “Road Warrior”. That means to do my job well, I get to spend lots of time on (and waiting for) airplanes, staying in hotels, and eating out… all of which can easily tip the balance on the work-life and literal scales.
Along this journey, in the spirit of self-preservation and sanity, I have had to learn a lot about staying fit on the road. My strategy contains mental and spiritual components as well as nutrition and exercise.
Road Warrior Mind and Spirit
Half the battle is knowing that it IS POSSIBLE to take care of yourself on the road. Acknowledge that putting your own oxygen mask on first is vital. You won’t lead well if you are exhausted, or feeling bad about yourself. Great leadership requires energy.
Make a plan as you are making your travel arrangements.
- If you have a spiritual practice, try to keep that routine. (I’m not just talking about the prayer you say before the plane takes off.)
- Which days will you exercise; at what time?
- What big meetings will require business dinners where you will have less control?
- Which days will you have more choices, and how will you leverage them?
- Avoid group think… i.e. splitting the fried alligator just for the fun of it.
- Plan for the impact of time zones. When can you fit in a bit more rest? (Persuading yourself you will sleep on the plane may not be wise, unless you know you have mastered this.)
Road Warrior Nutrition
- Be deliberate about veggies and fruit (you can find them in surprising places, i.e. raw veggies at Starbucks)
- Pack healthy snacks, even when you think you won’t need them (nuts, fruit, nutrition bars)
- Drink plenty of water, even if you have to buy it in the airport… it’s worth it
- Start the day right (yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and fruit are usually easy to find)
- Count french fries or baked potatoes as a vegetable
- Order something just because it has a “healthy” symbol by it, unless you understand and agree with the criteria (room service menus can be particularly crazy because they count “low carb as healthy even if it contains tons of red meat, cheese and grease)
- Eat every meal between bread
- Eat the entire “boxed lunch” served at a meeting (they can be particularly high in carbs, salt and sugar)
Road Warrior Exercise
- Plan specific times in your travel schedule for exercise
- Tell your travel companions about your intention to exercise in advance, or sell them on a plan to exercise with you
- Have fun exploring local options. Use this as an opportunity to try something new
- Consider packing a travel yoga/fitness mat or elastic bands. There are many free podcasts available to download which work well in hotel rooms
- Try to make up all your fitness on the weekends
- Assume you won’t have time (I have traveled with many companions who don’t pack their gym shoes because “there won’t be time”)
- Stick to the hotel gym (particularly if it is small and unappealing). Instead, get outside for a walk, run in the local area, take a class
Most importantly, don’t give up if you aren’t perfect. Allow yourself some indulgences from time to time. If you are really exhausted, skip the workout and sleep. Healthy travel is a marathon.