Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wellness for Road Warriors

I've been a road warrior for over 20 years. Some months I'm on the road every week and for some glorious months, I rarely travel. For those who also travel you understand the glamour lasts about 2 days... on your very first trip. After that brief honeymoon period is over you realize how difficult travel can be, particularly on your health. Let's face it - when we travel most of us don't get much exercise, we are forced to eat out and our sleep usually suffers. Since I'm on a mission to save the healthcare system by helping people get healthy, I thought I'd share some of the things I do while traveling to help me stay healthy.

Before Your Trip

  1. Packing. I take workout clothes on every trip. I don't use them 100% of the time, but having them along is an excellent start. The invention of the Vibram five finger running shoes has made this so much easier. These little gems are great for shorter runs and barely take up any room in your bag (I never check luggage so space and weight is crucial). If you buy a pair, give your body time to adjust to them. If you're a regular runner, I would start with an easy mile or two run on the treadmill and build up from there. If you're not a runner, hop on the treadmill and walk in them. Start slow and soon you'll wonder what you did without them. 
  2. Snacks. My go-to travel snack is unsalted, roasted, organic almonds. Akin to the phone charger for my body, these go into a ziploc bag and go along. Choose the travel snack that works for you but the idea is to choose something nourishing and healthy. Nuts and seeds are a great idea. For early morning flights I also may take a peeled hard-boiled egg in a little plastic container. Avocados travel well, as do apples. Whole, real, natural food is your best choice. While a few health bars are actually healthy, I still like to stick with real food while I have access at home. 
At the Airport
  1. Water. I think the water bottling companies are in cahoots with the TSA since you can't carry even sealed bottles of water through security. Water, once through your strip, pat, and scan down, is very important. I drink at least 12 ounces on the way to the airport (and am sure to leave some in my car for the return trip) and I buy at least 20 ounces while at the airport. I also have a Vapur which is stashed in my bag and I'll sometimes fill that up at the water fountain. Do not rely on the airline to give you water. Period. Take some onboard. 
  2. Walk. Once through security, I head to my gate (stopping for water along the way). Once at my gate, I confirm all looks well (flight on time, gate hasn't changed, either an airplane there or people who look like they expect one) and then I walk. Sitting and waiting for a plane so you can sit during your flight always seemed a bit silly to me. Use your waiting time for walking and get a little exercise. 
On the Plane
  1. Drink water. You carried on board, now drink it. Your goal is to finish your last sip of water when the airplane door opens at arrival. 
  2. Skip the Airline Snacks. You have also carried on your go-to snack of choice, so enjoy it. This will help you avoid whatever food-like items the airline is either giving away (not common any longer) or selling from the back of the in-flight magazine. For longer flights, I sometimes pack a little picnic. Yes, I get some strange looks from the people around me but I like to think I'm setting a good example for others by munching on my salad with quinoa. 
In Route
  1. Find food. For my longer trips and if I have a rental car, I find a grocery store. iPhone is my friend and I do a quick search for a grocery store on my route from airport to office or hotel. My first choice is Trader Joe's. Once there, I buy non-perishable real food such as fruits and vegetables. If I have access to a refrigerator (or feel like getting ice at my hotel to keep things cool), I may expand my purchases. The idea is to have something for breakfast and snacks to help you avoid making bad choices in other places. Also, buy some water - likely cheaper here than anywhere else you'll be. If you have a water bottle along, buy a gallon jug. Cheap and good for the planet.
At the Hotel
  1. Find the gym. Most hotels now have a fitness room. After check-in and on the way to my room, I do a little walk by the hotel gym so I know where it is and I know what kind of equipment they have, how much room, etc. This information helps me better plan my workout. If it is a small gym and I have flexibility in my schedule, I'll go there during off peak hours so I don't have to wait. 
  2. Get more water (if you haven't stocked up in route). Yes, the in-room water might be outrageously expensive, but if your choice is nothing or that, spend the $5 and be hydrated. Your body will thank you. Better yet, find a convenience store nearby and buy several bottles and keep them handy. Drink water frequently - even more so than your healthy habits dictate at home. Flying is dehydrating. Hotels are dehydrating. Your body needs extra water while you travel. 
  3. Workout. My schedule is different in each city so I have to plan my workouts. Sometimes the night I arrive, sometimes the next morning, if I'm lucky after work. The point being, look at your schedule and make an appointment with yourself to workout. Say you have another conference call if you have to protect the time from well-meaning invitations. Make the time. If you're a member, Cybercise.1
At the Office
  1. Skip the Breakfast. The universal office breakfast is donuts, bagels and other sugar-laden "food-like" items. You've had your fruit, nuts and water. You do not need the sticky bun. Just say no. 
  2. Walking Meeting. If you're brave, suggest a walking meeting. This is a great way to have a chat with one to two people. If gets you all outside and you may find the act of exercising your body helps your mind get more creative. 
  3. Lunch carefully. Lunch brought to you by the same people who tried to poison you during breakfast. Lunch is typically riskier as many companies have lunch brought in so you can have a working lunch (travesty of justice, I think). Most of these lunches are sandwiches and chips or worse yet, pizza (a big dose of thanks to my long-term clients who know I prefer salads for lunch and are sure to have something there for me). I'm sure your Grandma told you to eat what people make for you, so you may have little choice other than eating whatever is presented to you. Whatever it is, eat half of what you normally would. If you're doing the no-bread thing, split a sandwich with a vegetarian (you get the meat, he gets the bread). Skip the chips. Drink more water. And whatever you do, don't drink the soda. If you have your Vapur with you, find the water cooler. Every office has one. Or make a cup of hot tea. 
After Work
  1. One Drink. The compulsory "let's go out and have a drink" post-meeting routine. I happen to enjoy a workout after work, but seldom have the chance. The "leave the office and head to the bar routine" is common so you may have to make the best of it. When I arrive at the bar, I'll order a sparkling water while I "think about what I want to drink." That gets a water in my system and takes some of the have a drink pressure off. When round 2 comes by, I'll usually have a glass of wine. If there are more rounds, I transition back to sparkling water. Sometimes people say something. If you're brave and know the people well tell them you have a one drink rule while traveling. If they'll think you're weird, make something up. As I said at the beginning, traveling isn't always glamourous and sometimes we have to lie to protect our own health. 
  2. Sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial. Particularly if you've traveled time zones. Get to bed early and get up early so you can exercise. The great thing about being in a hotel is there aren't any household chores nagging at you to finish before bed. Take 10 or 15 minutes and stretch or do a little yoga. I usually turn the AC fan on to make a little white noise. Have a drink of water, read something you enjoy, and get a good night of sleep. 
Hopefully, this list will help. I welcome other ideas from my fellow road warriors. And, if you see me on a plane eating a salad, please say hello (but please don't try to talk my ear off during the whole flight - I cherish my quiet airplane time). Remember, every moment you can make a choice that betters your health. Be strong with me - I'm cheering for you. Happy traveling!

1My traveling life was, in large part, the inspiration for Cybercise. I created the company so I could workout anywhere - even if there wasn't a hotel gym or if I only had 15 minutes to grab a quick workout. Not a commercial - just part of my story!

P.S. I've started a group on LinkedIn called "Wellness for Road Warriors." If you're on LinkedIn, join us, won't you? 

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