How to maintain your fitness and stay healthy even when you’re travelling

It’s the lament of many; how do I maintain my fitness and stick to my routine when I’m travelling? There are lots of things that can scupper our good intentions and break our routine. Airport lounges, the endless waiting around, delays, airplane food, unhealthy snacks at conferences, the plentiful pastries over breakfast. It’s easy to fall out of good habits and find yourself eating the wrong things, skipping on your exercise plan and spending far more time sitting than standing.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. There’s a lot you can do to stay active even in a tiny hotel room, and a bit of planning and preparation can help you stay on track with your nutrition. Here’s some of my top tips for staying healthy and active when you’re away from home.

#1 — get a good workout in before you go

If you have a trip coming up, step up your exercise levels the week before. A long flight can be stressful if you’re antsy and fidgety but if your muscles are happily tired, it can become an opportunity to rest and recover, enjoy a movie or two and do some reading. If you have time, do a workout or go for a run the day you’re due to travel.

#2 — have a good healthy meal before you leave the house

This might be the last healthy meal you have for a little while so make it count. Cook something you really enjoy, but that contains plenty of high-quality plant or animal protein combined with healthy fats and lots of vegetables. Snacking options in airports, motorway services and train stations will mainly contain lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates, and you want to eliminate the need for those as much as possible.

#3 — plan your journey from front door to destination

Think about the journey and what snacks you’ll need to pack. A small bag of nuts and seeds, dried or fresh fruit can be packed into small disposable containers, and will provide you with a hit of energy when needed. Planet Organic and Whole Foods do some great healthy snacks and I recommend looking there. Consider what your options will be along the way so you have a plan.

#4 — check out where you’re staying

Look at the hotel website and the restaurant menus. If you have any particular dietary requirements, call ahead and ask them if they can cater for those needs. Most places will offer gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan options, but it’s pretty simple to create a meal that’s a little healthier by asking for the potatoes to be switched to vegetables, or the sauce to be brought in a jug on the side so you can control how much you have. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the waiting staff how things are cooked either.

#5 — agree with yourself what you’ll compromise on and what you won’t

Travelling and eating away from home inevitably requires some compromise. You’ll be offered meals you wouldn’t normally eat, rich foods you might ordinarily avoid, 3 courses where 1 would do, and potentially more alcohol. Make a list of what you’ll allow yourself to have and what you definitely won’t. For example, you might compromise on dessert because you’re with clients who have 3 courses, but you won’t allow yourself to have the pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast instead of the eggs.

#6 –find a healthy source of snacks at your destination

Ideally beforehand or when you arrive at your destination, google a health food shop or decent store in the area and buy more healthy snacks. You can take these to your meetings instead of the standard biscuits and pastries they provide. It will also save your money on expensive mini-bar snacks and you can use them for the return journey. Ask the concierge to help you too.

#7 — get some hand grips for the plane journey

I’m serious. Hand grips such as these can be used to do a workout from your airplane seat. Hold one of the grips in your hand and squeeze. This action works the forearm and the bicep, but as you’re squeezing, also tense the muscles of your leg, or your core and glutes. Repeat several times then change muscles. Do 50 reps of each and you’ll really feel it. It’s a great way to do a workout from your seat and it’s pretty discrete!

#8 — hack your hotel room for a good’s night’s sleep

There’s a few things you can do when you get to your hotel room to help you settle in. Firstly, check if the curtains are blackout and if not try and minimise the light that comes in. Turn off the TV and clock radio before you sleep as the LEDs disrupt melatonin production. Put a towel under the door to block out the light from the hallway, and move your mobile phone where you can’t reach it. Finally, pack some lavender oil to sprinkle on your pillow.

#9 — plan your exercise routine in advance

Try and find out what your schedule is before you go and figure out when you could fit in a run (and if you don’t know the area you’re staying in, just run 15 mins at a slightly slower pace in one direction then run back at a faster pace). Agree with yourself which morning you’ll do some exercises and plan what you’ll do before you even leave home so you get just get up a do it.

#10 — you don’t need much space to do a full body workout

Many people don’t exercise when they’re travelling because there isn’t a gym or they don’t have time to go outside. You don’t need a lot of space to workout and bodyweight is more than enough to challenge yourself. Here’s an example of a full body workout that you can do in a small hotel room in under 30 minutes — do it faster for optimal fat-burning benefits and tweak according to fitness levels:

20 star jumps and 10 bodyweight squats to warm up

10 press ups into 10 running squats (3–5- sets)

Burpees Tabata

Squats Tabata

Plank Tabata

Static stretching to cool-down

#11 — stay active wherever you are

Even when you’re travelling — and perhaps even more so — there are plenty of opportunities to be active. Take the stairs instead of lifts or escalators. Stand where you can — including airport lounges, platforms, even occasionally on the flight itself — rather than sitting. Ask your hotel concierge how far places are and consider walking. Get up and stretch every so often and you’ll not only feel more energised but you’ll also get a shot of endorphins from the stretch.

I hope that helps you to appreciate that travelling doesn’t mean all your hard work has to go out the window, or that you’ll automatically lose fitness or negatively impact your routine.

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and Rise and Shine: Recover from Burnout and get back to your best and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit http://www.bodyshotperformance.com for more information or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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