Top tips to keeping up with your workouts when travelling for business

02 March 2017

We all know that life on the road isn’t always the healthiest – all that sitting, snacking, stress and stuffed-up routines.

But when researchers actually put a figure on how business travelling can run our bodies down, it becomes a little more important to do something about it. So, first, the numbers (courtesy of Columbia University’s Andrew G Rundle and Catherine A Richards):

  • Business people who travel 20 or more days a month have poorer health compared to those who travel between 1 and 6 days
  • Higher mean body mass index (27.5kg/sq m v 26.1)
  • Worse HDL cholesterol levels (53.3mg/DL v 56.1)
  • Worse blood pressure (diastolic pressure of 76.2 v 74.6)
  • Are 260% more likely to rate their health as fair to poor

This last finding is the defining factor in business travel wellbeing because it shows that we know that our habits aren’t healthy when we’re away from home. We understand that we’re unlikely to work out when we’re not near our familiar gym, choose fast food while rushing to the airport, or graze the Full English at the hotel breakfast buffet. And we know that those decisions, combined with the long days, strain of meetings and transport, all add up to an overall feeling of poor health.

So what are the key ingredients to keeping healthy and making sure you still work out when you’re working away from the home and office.

1. Make it a habit

The largest hurdle to working out while travelling is that it’s hard to keep to a regular routine. You know you might hit the gym while you’re on familiar territory because you always go before work; you know you walk the mile and a half to work in the morning, or take a stroll during you lunch break; or meet up with colleagues for tennis on a Thursday… but suddenly factor in jetlag, or an early commuter flight across the Tasman, or a week-long convention in Christchurch and suddenly all those plans fly out the window. The trick to maintaining that workout regime on the road is to make it as normal as if you were going through your usual weekly office routine:

  • Whether you exercise every day or just Tuesdays, keep it up. At lunch or before breakfast? Keep the same times.
  • Pack your workout clothes – just putting them on will get you in the right frame of mind.
  • Work your exercise routine into your travel schedule – the simple action of writing it down will keep you focused.
  • Let others know what you’re up to – again, this sort of positive talk sets the routine.

2. Find the right fuel

It’s called fast food for a reason, and when you’re rushing between time zones, meetings or transfers, it can be easy to wolf down a burger, pie or fried-food “meal” and think you’ve supplied the energy required to get through the day. But if you’re going to look after your wellbeing away from home, you’re going to have to work a little harder than raiding the hotel minibar or loading up at the breakfast buffet. Try to keep it simple at breakfast with just a small combination of protein and carbs to get you through the morning, then aim for healthier options at lunch and dinner – and if you’re snacking on the go, opt for small bags of nuts or dried fruit. You’ll be much more likely to work out – and you’ll feel better while doing it – if you’re providing your body with the right calories to burn off.

3. Don’t go it alone

In a fitness-obsessed part of the world like New Zealand and Australia, it’s usually quite simple to find and take part in organised sports and more and more business travellers are looking to tie in their work trips with golf, multisport, swimming, sailing, running, swimming or even team events. Most towns and cities will have anything from fun-runs to marathons while just a small amount of research online will get you in contact with clubs and societies, if you have more specific interests such as; hiking and tramping, or if fancy joining in with some tennis or badminton during your free time.

4. Experiment

Of course, free time can be something of a luxury while you’re travelling for business so you might have to think a little laterally if you want to keep up with your exercise regime. The most obvious port-of-call is a hotel pool or gym – a few laps before breakfast or some cardio and weights before dinner will both exercise your body and give your mind a break from the constant hum of meetings and travel. If your hotel doesn’t have the facilities, ask at reception about nearby gyms or find out if there are any specific routes or parks nearby which they’d recommend for a short run.

And then there’s the in-room exercise options. There are a range of quite inventive gadgets and gizmos that won’t stretch your luggage allowance and will still help you work out in your room: portable exercise equipment ranges from water-filled dumbbell weights, to resistance bands and inflatable swiss balls. Alternatively, clear a space and get stuck into your squats and lunges, or even ask if you can borrow the hotel luggage trolley for a few pull-ups!

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