Last year, I flew more than 20,000 miles and visited more than two dozen airports around the world. Along the way, I learned – the hard way – how difficult it is to eat on the road. Especially when you’re stuck in an airport for hours and hours at a time (as I was in Washington one night).
Today, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned about keeping fit while traveling.
The way to keep yourself healthy while on the road is to plan ahead. That goes for everything you do in your fat-loss program, especially eating properly.
You see, nutrition is where people fail big-time when traveling. After all, there isn’t much good food for sale in airports. Not to mention all the restaurants you inevitably visit while vacationing or on a business trip. The good news is that it’s possible to find nutritious food… if you know where to look. For instance, you can almost always get fresh fruit, nuts, and even grilled chicken in most airports.
After nutrition, simple laziness is the next hurdle you have to overcome while traveling. It’s easy to talk yourself into skipping a workout if the hotel gym doesn’t have the equipment you’re used to. But the truth is, you don’t need fancy equipment to get a fat-burning workout. You can do dozens of great bodyweight exercises practically anywhere.
Here are four strategies that can help you stay fit and stave off the fat while traveling.
1. Pack nutritious food for the road.
Yes, you can usually find healthy options in airports and restaurants. But you increase your chances of eating healthfully by packing your own snacks. Some healthy, road-worthy choices include water, green tea, almonds, apples, bananas, and jerky.
There’s a saying in the fitness industry: “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” So no matter how often you hit the hotel gym (and not many travelers do at all), you won’t be able to fight off weight gain if you continue to down processed foods and sugary beverages.
On a recent flight from Nashville to Toronto, I sat beside an overweight women who was (ironically) reading Dr. Phil’s book on how to lose weight while she drank a glass of orange juice.
Now she clearly did not need the orange juice. She could have had water or a club soda (like I did) or even a coffee. Instead, she chose just about the worst drink possible. Within minutes of drinking orange juice, blood sugar levels spike, increasing levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin. To make matters worse, those spiked blood sugar levels eventually crash – making you hungry again.
Bad food choices doom travelers to stay overweight forever. But if you pack your own snacks – and ask for healthy substitutions in restaurants (replacing potatoes with extra veggies, for example) – you can control what you eat. Kelley Herring has written extensively about healthy food options. If you need some inspiration for what to eat while traveling, check out some of her past ETR articles.
2. Schedule your workouts with as much dedication as you schedule your business meetings.
When you book your hotel, make sure you have access to an adequate hotel gym or nearby fitness establishment. That way, you can continue with your regular exercise routine.
You might want to purchase a day pass at a local gym and work out with a personal trainer. If there is no time to schedule a session with a personal trainer, and your hotel gym doesn’t have weights, try a bodyweight-only workout.
Here, for example, is how to do the Off-Set Push-Up:
Start in a regular push-up position, with one exception. You move one hand a hand’s-length forward. (So it will be at forehead level, not shoulder level.) Do half as many push-ups as you normally do. Then, without resting, switch your hand position so the other hand is now a hand’s-length forward. Do an equal number of repetitions.
This push-up works your upper body just as hard as (or harder than) regular push-ups. But it also works your abdominals a lot harder, because your torso muscles are working harder to stabilize your upper body.
Take advantage of whatever time slot is available for exercise during your travels. And don’t miss it. An added bonus: Your exercise appointment can be the perfect excuse to skip unnecessary post-meeting cocktails and calories. Which brings me to my next tip…
3. Stay away from alcohol.
Whether you’re on vacation or traveling for business, cocktails and wine are usually bountiful. But boozing it up adds hundreds of unnecessary calories. Plus, a few drinks can lead you to indulge in high-fat, high-glycemic foods you would ordinarily avoid. As a group of Canadian researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, just one alcoholic drink can have that effect on your diet.
4. Spend waiting time walking.
If you have a layover between flights or are killing time between meetings, take a brisk walk. Some people think that walking is so low-intensity it doesn’t do anything to help keep you fit. But that’s just plain wrong. Researchers from Duke University found that walking the equivalent of 11 miles per week helped prevent the accumulation of deadly visceral fat, no matter the intensity of the exercise. So take a pedometer with you when you travel, and walk as often as possible.
Travel with a “maintenance mindset.” Stick to your plan, and you’ll return home without gaining any fat or losing any fitness.[Ed. Note: Fitness expert Craig Ballantyne is the creator of the Turbulence Training for Fat Loss system. No matter where you travel, as long as you have an Internet connection you can get advice, motivation, and social support to help you improve your health, lose weight, and get fit. Just sign up for ETR’s free natural health e-letter, which you can read anywhere, anytime.]