While travelling is a necessity for many, it can be disruptive to your fitness regime. But it’s also no excuse to fall off track. Instead, we must be proactive and creative with our planning to ensure it’s not a case of three steps forward, two steps back.
If you’re someone who travels regularly, don’t use it as an excuse to go backwards. Focus on what you can do, and set a goal to at least maintain your progress thus far so that you can push on further when you return.
On the flight
There are three things you need to be wary of when flying: hydration, airplane food and alcohol. The humidity is significantly lower in a plane, making dehydration a real issue. To combat this, aim to drink approximately 250ml of fluid every hour.
Most business executives are used to having a few cocktails at the airport lounge, followed by a few glasses of wine on the plane to relax and kill time. This is probably the worst way to start your trip, from both a body composition standpoint (think dehydration, empty calories, and increased likelihood of poor food choices) and in terms of business. Many of our successful clients recommend that their employees avoid all alcohol when flying in order to maintain focus, productivity and performance.
When it comes to airplane food, pack your own meals, or to buy the right food at the airport (ideally, something like a selection of cold meats or fish with a bag of salad from home). If you do choose to eat at the airport restaurants, opt for lean cuts of protein with vegetables.
What to eat
When it comes to diet, things can be a little trickier. Business trips usually involve client dinners and entertainment, which means good food and alcohol. However, this doesn’t mean going off the rails. Here are some rules we typically advise our clients to follow when away on business:
Eat 3 meals a day. If you normally eat 4 to 6 meals, dropping to 3 meals a day can help control calories. If most of your meals are on the go or in restaurants, they’ll typically be higher in fat than normal, spiking calories in the process.
Emphasise protein and greens. Wherever you eat, you can always choose a lean protein on the menu and ask for vegetables on the side.
If in doubt, stay low carb even if you normally consume carbs in your plan. When travelling, it’s difficult to control the quality and quantity of carbohydrates. In most restaurants, unless you can get steamed rice, most carbohydrate dishes will come with a great deal of fat.
If you must drink, avoid beer and stick to one type. Alcohol has the greatest potential to cause slip-ups, so we always encourage clients to stick to clean spirits like gin or whisky with NO mixers (which is where calories can really rack up). Try to limit it to two to three drinks max, and make hydration a priority.
Beating jet lag
One of the issues with long-haul flights is the accompanying jet lag, and exercise is one of the best ways to mitigate jet lag as it can help with time change adjustments and speeding up the return to normal circadian rhythms (our internal body clock).
There are two ways to utilise training to help with jet lag: First, train as soon as you land. This works great for eliminating the nauseating fatigue that long flights can create so that you stay fresh and focused. Second, train first thing in the morning. If you land late at night, set your alarm at your normal wake up time the next day and train.
Keep on training
Our number one piece of advice is to do something every day, or as often as you can. Even if it’s only for ten minutes, stimulating your metabolism and muscle tissue when abroad is vital for maintaining progress. Replicating your home training in hotel gyms can be tough, especially if the equipment is limited.
All hotel gyms will have some sort of cardio equipment that you can use, and at the very least, a treadmill. Instead of using it the traditional way, try "deadmills"—go hard for 10-20 seconds, and then go slow for 40-50 seconds. Five to 20 minutes is all you need.
Otherwise, pick two exercises. They can be anything as long as they don’t compete with each other. Set a rep target for each exercise and perform as many sets back and forth as possible in the time frame you have. This works well on exercises like chin ups, dips and pushups, but can be done with any.
Finally, make time for bodyweight circuits. There really is no excuse with these, as they can be done anywhere with very little space needed. To supplement this, packing some resistance bands can also come in handy.