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You can be fit in any country. This is me stretching while going on a run in Tokyo. Photo by anonymous.

The DAO of crushing fitness while traveling

You guys, it is REALLY tricky writing a fitness blog during a pandemic, especially while there is a vaccine being circulated. Should I even bother to write a post about traveling, especially for work. The eternal optimist in me says, absolutely. We will fly again, both for business and for pleasure, sooner rather than later.

What’s the skinny?

  • If you are a #fitprofessional, especially one in consulting or medical device sales, you know travel is part of the job.
  • Being out of our element is very tricky, especially after having a routine with being home for so long. Especially when you are #busyAF with meetings and boondoggles while traveling.
  • The #fitprofessional is here to help you retrain your brain when you get on the road again, from your prep to your destination.
black DSLR camera near sunglasses and bag
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa

What to pack, including snacks

What you pack for your trip is what will set you up for success.

In your suitcase:

  • Pack two pairs of black leggings and two neutral sports tops with built in “shelf” bras (like this one from lululemon, so you can mix and match and not wear the same complete outfit consecutive days in a row.
  • One workout band suitable for doing upper body work, a lower body band, and sliders. (you can find two workout bands at different tensions on Toneitup.com, or a 5 pound set for 20 bucks on revolve. You can order sliders you can order for less than 10 bucks on Amazon).
  • Shower pill instant shower cloth body wipes
  • Your sneakers, depending on the next section, and on the go snacks

In your hand bag and suitcase

On the go snacks can include:

  • Trail mix: Nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, figs, dates, and dark chocolate (or cacao nibs if vegan or non-dairy diet applies.) This is your on the go, emergency trail mix.
  • Think Jerky Free range turkey jerky 
  • Madi K’s almonds  100-calorie pack
  • Ziploc of goji berries, dates, and figs; 
  • Crunchmaster protein snack crackers – For 32 crackers, there are only 120 calories, which is pretty good. And also 5g protein with 17g of whole grains.  But small containers of to-go nut butters to add some protein.
  • Packets of olives (which you can buy in a variety flavored pack from Amazon, OLOVES is a good brand).
  • Three emergency protein bars – I had recommended Julian Bakery bars in my Paleo post, as well as Bulletproof collagen protein bars in my Keto post. Protein bars are not idea, but good for emergencies.

What to do the morning of your trip

This is probably the most important decider of how the rest of your trip will go, fitnesswise. If you have an early morning flight, make sure you are packed the night before with workout clothes laid out fire-man style so you can jump into a quick workout.

You can leave for the airport in your workout gear and running shoes and save the shower for your hotel destination, if it is an option to check in and settle in first. If it it’s not, or if you have to travel with colleagues or a client. Another option if you are traveling with colleagues and not going to the client site away is to wear your black workout leggings and a longer blouse with either boots or flats. Most of the high-end fitness brands, like Lululemon, Athleta, and Splits59, have clothing you can pass for street clothes. If you have to go to the client site, can pack your shoes in your carry-on but put them last so you can flatten them out when you close your suitcase

If you have a late morning or afternoon flight, definitely try to eat a substantial meal beforehand, so the airport food does not look as tempting. Make sure you have some #fitrpofessionalapproved compact snacks on hand that you don’t have to refrigerate right away, such as:

If working out in a studios isn’t an option (for pandemic or other reasons) – never fear, apps are here. If you are traveling on business, I would strongly recommend that you work out first thing in the morning, before the rest of your day is hijacked by whatever you traveled on business for.

unattended black luggage inside airport
Make sure your suitcase has all four wheels, so you can get in your steps (or run for the plane). Photo by Michał Parzuchowski

At the airport or the train station

Normally the airport or station in somewhere people visualize a lot of sitting around, but it doesn’t have to be that way for a #fitprofessional. You will never see me sitting in those chairs by the gate. Even pre-boarding, I am one of those people who stands by the entry door, and not just because I am antsy to get in line. It’s a critical time to be able to get in activity before you sit for several hours.

There is lots of cardio you can get before you even board the train or the plane. The airport concourse can log hundreds even thousands of steps – IF you use it.  Do not even think about getting on those guiding walkways! Clearly this means that you give yourself time to get to the airport but if you are a seasoned business traveler you probably have pre-check or CLEAR.  If you have never heard of CLEAR it’s an even faster way to get through security..  It’s not just about getting to the gate – once you find it, instead of sitting down, explore the airport shops and eateries. Some airports, like SFO, even have yoga lounges.

Recognize you are an easy target for delicacy bags of gummy worms

The same considerations as the on the road pitstop places we talked about in this post are applicable to the airport and train station. It’s really a vulnerable situation when you are traveling and tired. You are jetlagged, you may have woken up really early, not had time to eat, not been fed or wanted to buy food on the plane and you are STARVING. And the Panda Express looks REALLY good, as does Annie’s warm pretzels and Cinnabon.

That is why it is preferable to have snacks on hand. You can also buy healthy snacks, but a) you end up paying 20 dollars for a bag of almonds; and b) you get exposed to all kinds of other tempting eye candy, literally. I want to meet the marketing geniuses who position the jumbo bag of sour gummy worms right next to the razors. So – out of sight, out of mind.

If you just could not get it together before you left the house, like malls, many airports actually have information about food courts on their websites, so doing a quick search in the Uber on the way there is smart, so you can pick and order from one of the options I outlined above.
If it’s a smaller airport or station, there are usually grab and go places with yogurt or other suitable snacks. So if your only choice is the Hudsons or Amtrak gift shop, you can usually grab Sabra pretzels & hummus, greek yogurt, nuts, or dried fruit. In the worse case scenario, pop chips come in at only 100 calories a bag.

On the plane or train

Once you are on the plane or train, drink plenty of water because you will have to get up a few times to go to the bathroom.  Take advantage of stretching, standing, and getting your blood to circulate. If you are at an airport, get a big bottle of water for the plane so you don’t have to wait on the beverage service.

Given the fluid nature of food on airlines, I will stick to pandemic-neutral advice; make sure you have a decent supply of snacks either from home or from the airport as a backup meal, in case the plane either does not have anything to offer or very limited options. Also, if you are in business class, skip the greasy warm nuts in favor of your own nuts.

woman standing near window inside bedroom
Photo by Eunice Stahl


Hotels

Manhandling the minibar

You finally get to the hotel, where you check in, swipe or tap your keycard, roll in your suitcase, flop on the perfectly made bed and look over to – the mini bar. You see jars of elegant and pretty candy dishes, chips and snacks you can only find in hotel minibars, bottles of champagne, vodka and Gatorade and think, is this what they give you in heaven?

I usually compromise by making two items my “20.” for the trip (especially if I am at the W hotel, where they have the best stuff). Usually minibar items are personal expenses, so the fact that you are paying 8 dollars for that bag of M&Ms may be a sufficient deterrent after having a few treats.

If it is just too much to have all that stuff in the room, you can call the hotel ahead of time and say you want them to empty the minibar. You do not have to say you are an alcoholic or anything; people have many reasons for doing so, including keeping kids or teenagers from raiding it. No one is going to grill you on the reason for your request. !Usually they are more than happy to oblige. You can ask them to bring in a minifridge at the same time.


Make your own minibar

After unpacking, find the nearest drugstore, bodega, or grocery store, and stock up on healthy snacks. You can usually buy a lot of snacks, like kale chips, that don’t need refrigeration. You will usually find a minifridge in the room already, or can request one. In this case I usually stock it with:

  • Turkey and chicken breast slices;
  • Cheese slices or mozzarella sticks;
  • Carrot sticks;
  • Apples;
  • Olives and pickles;
  • Greek yogurt (which generally has more protein and less sugars than regular yogurt).

This might seem a little extra if you are only staying a night so if that is the case, stick to the snacks you brought or scale the list down.

Room service

Room service menus usually have a lot of uniformity, so here are some of my recommended 500 calorie or less eats:

  • Bunless beef burger, turkey burger, or grilled chicken sandwich with mixed greens salad,
  • Entrée salad with chicken breast, shrimp, steak, or salmon, dressing on the side;
  • Shrimp cocktail;
  • Veggies and hummus; you can also order an entrée salad without the meat protein to make this a complete vegan meal.
  • Salmon or fish entrée, with steamed vegetables as a side dish (most places are happy to sub). If fish comes with a white wine or oher sauce, ask for it without or get it on the side and ask for a side of mustard or hot sauce.

Of course, with the advent of Uber Eats, Grub hub and door dash you have a lot of ordering in options for hotels…and you can read the DAO of ordering in like a boss for the best tips there, organized by category of food.

Workouts

Apps

Most of the source of your workouts besides the on the go travel is going to be fitness apps. For a comprehensive decision tree, see my post here. In that post I explain that the SWEAT and Toneitup apps are probably the best hotel room workouts. For SWEAT you can do a lot of their high-intensity workouts with no equipment or only a chair or sofa. For Tone it up, you can use the bands I described in the packing section with a lot of the workouts. Virtually every app has a no-equipment workout option, but I do recommend investing in some sliders and workout bands especially if you travel frequently.

Here are some sample moves you can do right in your hotel room, with sliders and bands:

  1. Plank “saw” – take one slider and put under each foot. Get into plank position, with forearms on floor. “Saw” your body back and forth (here’s a video to watch here).
  2. Lateral band walk with band
  3. Band pull aparts with resistance band
  4. Tricep dips with hotel deskchair
  5. Clamshells with band (which doubles as a good therapeutic move for runners).

Do these three times, with taking 30 seconds between each round, and there you have your hotel workout.

You can also do a 7-minute workout from one of the many apps available, most of which don’t require anything more than bodyweight – for example, the Seven app. You do several cycles of high-intensity movements like push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, and squats. Perfect for when you are short on time and need to get out the door for the reason you traveled in the first place.

And I literally just made that up on the fly. When you have this equipment and watch enough app videos, you can also freestyle your own routine even if you only have a few minutes. In an upcoming post, I will show you how you can design your own routine.

Studios

You can also look into booking classes at local fitness studios. You can either go to a chain brand, like SoulCycle, Pure Barre, Solidcore, Corepower Yoga, Barry’s or Orange Theory, where you can pay for drop in classes, or find a class via the Mindbody app or Classpass apps.. SoulCycle and Pure Barre have their own apps, and Solidcore and Corepower can be found on Classpass, or Mindbody, in addition to Orange Theory.

If you haven’t already, you should download the Mindbody app. It acts like a GPS for workout studios no matter where you may be in the US or even foreign countries like the UK. You may notice when you go to certain studio sites to sign up it will say “Powered by Mindbody” – which means they are also on the Mindbody app. The nice thing about Mindbody is that there is no monthly fee or credits needed to book classes. You can simply link your credit card to the account, and book in advance and pay a drop in fee. I also like Mindbody because it has a function to find a category of class within a specific period of time, including ones from local mom and pop studios that you may not necessarily have heard of.

The hotel gym

Hotel gyms are usually open 24/7. I usually choose what hotel I am staying in based on the quality of the gym, which is easy to research on the hotel’s site. A lot of hotel gyms even have Peleton bikes or trainers available on site.

Spend a few minutes doing your research, but the larger hotel chains that I think have the best gyms are: the Westin, Marriott, St. Regis, the Ritz-Carlton, and Hilton. The Westin even has the option of ordering up workout gear including shoes, in case you forget.

Your hotel TV can even be a source of a good yoga or quick ab workout – many hotels like Marriot or Westin offer this as a feature of their entertainment. So you can just wake up and work out in the comfort of your room, either with an app or the TV.

Key Takeaway

You can always be a #fitprofessional, wherever you are. Fitness is something that you take with you, and when you do, the world can be your gym.

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