Staying healthy has an added layer of difficulty when we are traveling for work. We don’t feel that we have that much control over our food intake and our time schedule has changed. Staying healthy on the road requires that we make healthy choices along the way and do our best with the time we have. Let’s examine a typical trip that involves flying.
At the airport, buy a bottle of water and, if it’s mealtime, a healthy whole-foods-based snack, wrap, or salad before boarding. When you are on the plane just learn to say no to any snacks and drinks they offer except water, coffee, or hot tea. If it’s mealtime and you don’t have anything to eat, choose the salad or another whole-foods-based meal option if possible. Try to bring nuts or fruit from home or possibly a few whole-food ‘bars’ that you can have handy for snacking if needed. In general, try not to snack between meals.
Eat the highest quality foods you can find and afford. If you are ordering room service at breakfast, choose yogurt and fruit or a healthy omelet. I often eat low carb, whole-foods-based bars that I bring from home. I choose bars with very few ingredients that are all recognizable. I don’t recommend them every day but while traveling they are a fast and portion-controlled way to stay on track. At lunch, choose high-quality salads that are lightly dressed with high-quality dressing. For dinner, choose food preparations that are not full of unhealthy fats and sauces. Eat larger portions of vegetables, and smaller portions of whole grains. If you have the option at dinner, choose the salad and the vegetable.
Just because it’s on your plate does not mean you need to eat all of it or any of it. Portion sizes are often enormous in America. If you were taught to not waste food and finish everything on your plate as a child, realize it is a health-damaging concept especially when traveling because all meals are eaten out and likely oversized. Since most of the portions are oversized for an average sized person at an average activity level, make an effort to only eat half to three-quarters of the food offered. Let go of the guilt of ‘wasting food’ if you carry that burden and allow food to remain on your plate. Don’t feel the need to complete all of your meal.
Most hotels have some kind of a little gym. Try to get yourself there before the day begins. Or take a speed walk or a run outside. On the road, schedules are pretty full. So, I always found the morning offered the best chance to fit exercise into my schedule. Make hotel choices in consideration of its proximity to other forms of movement that you like. Boutique studios are here to stay and they allow drop-ins. You can find anything that suits your preferences now-a-days from hot power yoga, to cycling, boot camp, and cardio fusion. To increase the likelihood of your actually participating, decide what you will attend and the time slot that works with your schedule in advance of your trip. Begin to connect with the idea of moving your body while on the road as a fun opportunity to be in the vibe of a new teacher, new students, new studio.
There was a time when I traveled via train from Boston to New York City about every six weeks. It was often for just one night. And the nights were often late. I didn’t always work-out in the morning but I walked a ton. I love the vibe of ‘the City’ and I didn’t like hailing cabs, which were always scarce in the pre-Uber days. So, I’d walk from wherever my last meeting was to Penn Station. Often no less than fifteen city blocks. People walk fast in New York City so keeping up with the flow, dragging my bag, fifteen city blocks was good exercise. Urban areas offer great opportunities to walk a lot, be in the flow of the city, and time to appreciate more than the inside of a cab and checking your phone.
Try your best to travel to and from your destination well-slept. Go to bed early if you have an early flight or do your best to sleep on the plane. Try not to schedule overnight travel (red-eyes) unless you are going overseas. There are different schools of thought on adjusting to time changes. One school of thought suggests adjusting immediately by putting yourself in the local time zone schedule for sleeping, waking, and meals. For trips to Asia, we would try to sleep on the flight and immediately take a walk or exercise after getting off the long flight to shake off the lag. Some people take melatonin supplements to help their bodies fall asleep at the new ‘bedtime’. But if your trip is only for one or two-nights with only a two or three-hour time zone change, consider not adjusting. When traveling to California from Boston, my husband keeps to east coast time. He gets up at around 4AM, which feels like 7AM to him. This is later than he wakes up ordinarily. Before his morning meetings he does some work, calls the office, and goes for a run. Then he has an early dinner with clients and goes to bed at 8 or 9PM. So, by adjusting less, he’s not as wiped out when he gets home.
So, now you see that staying healthy on the road requires a commitment, healthy choice-making, and a little advance planning.
Your success is connected to your personal wellbeing, so take radically good care of yourself.
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Tarra Mitchell is incorporating her distinctive background in business and yoga to contribute to the great conversation around leadership and consciousness. Her upcoming book, The Yoga of Leadership, shows how personal wellbeing is connected to success to inspire and empower leaders to lead healthier, happier lives, and better connect with and engage their teams.
Watch Tarra’s author video below to learn more about The Yoga of Leadership.