To be fair I am a New York transplant living in Hong Kong and, besides my family and friends, those are the two things I miss the most.
Recently I sat down with a group of friends to discuss our ‘bad’ habits, what triggers them, and how to get around them. I realized that mine is the inability to stick to a healthy routine when I travel, particularly for work.
Back in the day when I lived in New York City, I was broke and couldn’t travel much. Trips were few and far between and it wasn’t a big deal to go nuts on holiday. I was able to slot back into my healthy eating and exercising regimen pretty quickly.
Regular travel does not equal good things for my waistline.
Now, being a little more senior in my role and living in Hong Kong, I find myself on a flight at least once a month. The travel is mostly for work but I manage to squeeze in a good amount of personal trips and ‘workations’ too.
Although I wouldn’t change a thing, this regular travel does not equal good things for my waistline. As soon as I board the plane, my good habits fly out the window. It may be 9am, but my willpower is usually in coach when the hostess approaches with a glass of champagne. After all (my subconscious whispers to me) it’s not every day you fly Business Class, so you may as well try out the new menu while you’ve got the chance, right?
Falling off the wagon when traveling for work
I’m a self-declared hedonist: I love good food, good wine, good times and the occasional shot of tequila. Travelling (for work and play) only magnifies these desires. Even if I only have a few hours to spare, I want to enjoy everything a destination has to offer – the cuisine the culture, the people – and, more often than not, exercise, sleep and healthy eating fall by the wayside. Sound familiar?
Staying fit and healthy while traveling for work
For instance, a trip to Singapore (personal) included approximately five meals a day and three bottles of rosé (not an exaggeration). And guess how many times I worked out? Zero.
By comparison, I had a ten day work trip to London and was so busy that all I could manage was a quick snack at lunch time. Then, after work I would sit down for a massive dinner at one of the 300 restaurants I had to try while I was there. Again, there was ‘no time’ to work out.
When I finally arrive back home, I find myself back at square one. I have no desire to workout because all that eating and drinking is exhausting! Not to mentioned the work stress and late nights.
Eating healthy while traveling for work
Having recognised that travel is my bad habit ‘trigger’, the next step is making sure I don’t act on it. For example, eating five croissants a day because ‘how often am I in Paris?’ is acting on it…and a great example of what not to do!
On a recent week-long business trip to Los Angeles I worked out three times! Yes, it was easier because everyone in LA looks like a Bravo TV Star, but I was proud nonetheless. I still ate out, but I made sure I had two healthy meals and one naughty meal. Wine intake? Well that’s another story. Baby steps… I am human after all.
It’s a slow process, but I am getting there. The more I practice, the more aware I become and the easier it gets.
Keeping my routine back home when I travel
I think the key to kicking this bad habit of mine is to limit the differences between my routine back home and my routine when I travel. So far, this has helped me to stay healthier, more productive, and better grounded overall, no matter what work throws at me. So, if I don’t eat giant Toblerones at home, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy one for the plane on my way through duty free.
So, here are the three key rules I’ve come up with to help me maintain my routine even when jetting from one place to the next. They might help you too!
Exercise, workout, no equipment? No worries.
Pack your workout gear. Just seeing it sitting there in my suitcase motivates me to use it, at least once. It’s also easy to stuff workout kit into your shoes so minimal suitcase space is no excuse.
Find a studio near your hotel which has classes you usually do at home. For me, proximity is key as I am inherently lazy. Most studios will give you a free trial or heavily discounted rate. Or, do this yoga workout from the comfort of your hotel room.
Find a workout partner. I am lucky to have friends in cities I travel to for work and can often cajole them into joining me for a workout, usually with promises of post-workout wine and catch-ups. On personal holidays I recruit my husband or travel buddy.
Beat jet lag
The best way to beat jet lag is to do a workout straight off the plane. I find a spin class always helps me sleep like a baby (at bedtime)!
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate for 24 hours before getting onto a plane. Then take hydration tablets during the flight. This always reduces my jet lag symptoms.
Steer clear of plane food. This one, I’m still working on. But recent studies suggest that fasting in the air helps with jet lag and nightshift grogginess.
Snack healthy while traveling for work
Eat in the lounge or before you get to the airport. Then when you board the plane, open up your laptop and start working or go straight to sleep. This means you won’t be tempted by the salty and calorific in-flight options.
Hone in on the healthy menu options when eating out. If I head out for a business lunch at the last minute I do a quick Google search for the menu and pick out the healthy option. Then I resolve to order that and avoid the bread basket (yes, even in Paris).
Have healthy snacks on hand. I carry almonds, a protein ball or a granola bar in my bag so I don’t ‘accidentally’ eat donuts when I am hungry.
Stick to these rules and you’ll be a happy camper, I have no doubt. If you feel your resolve waning, remind yourself how great you’ll feel when you get home and seamlessly transition back into your routine.
So far these three rules have helped me maintain my home routine when I travel. How do you stay healthy on the road?