I remember when I was younger, hearing about people who had to travel for work, and thinking it sounded so exciting and glamorous. Now that I have done quite a bit of it for myself, I can tell you it’s anything but. More often than not, you are travelling alone, going through busy airports and feeling like you are spending an inordinate amount of time struggling with getting your laptop into and out of its bag. The whole thing tends to be highly stressful and exhausting.
For those of us trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle these stresses are compounded. Not only do we have to deal with the usual drama of travel, but we also worry about what we are going to eat and whether or not we can get a work out in. Up until very recently, dealing with the prospect of this would have almost overwhelmed me. I would have been stressing and planning every detail to the nth degree. The restrictions I had placed on myself meant I had very little room for maneuver when non routine things cropped up. Quite the opposite of being in control of my diet, it was in fact in control of me. But then I realised something, I can’t control everything in life!
There are however, some things that you can do to try to ensure your travel plans don’t derail your progress. I would stress though, that I mean travel, as distinct from holidays. Holidays are things you look forward to, plan, save for and should be enjoyed. Work travel is just work, so keeping it from getting in the way of your personal goals is important, especially if you are having to do it often.
Don’t launch into flight mode early: When I travel, I try to keep to my routine for as long as possible before departure. Most recently I needed to take an evening flight to the UK, so I still had my oats for breakfast and still brought lunch with me to work. Keeping these things in place made me feel a lot more in control. It meant that whatever happened at dinner, at least I knew I had two decent meals in the books. Similarly if you are catching an early morning flight, try to have your usual dinner the night before. With the hassle of packing and the rushing around it can be tempting to dial a dinner. But having a home cooked meal instead is a much better idea. A heavier meal than you are used to may disturb your sleep, which isn’t an ideal with an early start. It can also disturb your digestion, making you bloated and uncomfortable on your flight. In short, it’s best avoided.
Hydration is happiness: Before, during and after your flight drink as much water as you can. Flying is extremely dehydrating and hotels are often kept very warm, which doesn’t help. Allowing yourself to get dehydrated will effect how you feel and how you look. Often after taking even a short flight, I find myself looking very puffy and tired. Feeling that you look like crap will not motivate you to make good decisions about food.
Be prepared: I have often said that lifestyle change is about making small, incremental modifications. With this in mind, I suggest bringing a few basic survival items with you. Now, I am not saying you need to cook your meals and pack them in cooler bags to bring with you. That sounds like a wonderful idea, but let’s be real, it’s not entirely practical. There are, however, a few items you can take with you, which may help.
Protein bars can be a godsend. Work travel often involves long days and missed meals, so having a few of these stashed in your briefcase can really get you out of a jam. Plus they won’t raise too many eyebrows from your foreign colleagues.
Herbal teas are a great addition to the hand luggage. Lately, I have replaced my post lunch and dinner coffee with a peppermint tea. It aids the digestion and keeps me hydrated, all good news. Not so good news is that often herbal tea is the most expensive hot drink on the menu. So, I bring a few with me everywhere I go. Again, this is an easy thing to do and won’t alienate you. Cutting down on caffeine helps your body work better and helps you sleep better, which is especially important if you find it hard to drift off in a strange place.
Fruit and nuts are another easy option especially as most hotel breakfasts include a fruit basket. Don’t walk past it without grabbing something for later, you never know when that banana will come in handy.
Know before you go: It’s a really good idea to do a bit of research before you embark on your journey. Look up the hotel on line to find out if there’s a restaurant. Most hotels will have the restaurant menu on their website, so you can check to see if there is anything suitable for you to eat. If you plan on eating out, do the same thing with local eateries. Having some idea about the types of foods available to you will make you feel a lot more in control, and should enable you to plan accordingly.
It’s also a good idea to find out if your hotel has a gym or a pool available for guests to use. If there is, maybe make a plan to try to get to it. Be realistic with this. You are travelling for work, and you will most likely be busy and tired from travel. Don’t tell yourself you are going to hit the gym at 6am each morning, because if you don’t manage it, you will feel like a failure. Look at any workouts you do manage to get in as a bonus. Even if your hotel doesn’t have a gym, throw your trainers in your bag anyway. A gentle walk in the evening or on your lunch break will work wonders for your body and your mind.
Relax: This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give. Don’t stress and try to maintain some perspective. Most business travel is short in duration, and there isn’t that much damage you can do in a few days. When you think of it as a portion of your month or your year, you will see that having a few “off plan” days is not that big of a deal. The stress and anxiety that you will bring on yourself by trying to rigidly adhere to your routine can actually be a lot more harmful. Follow the tips I have laid out, try not to go completely off the rails and you will be just fine. Remember, you can’t control everything. Safe travels xxx