Most people who try to exercise and eat right know how hard it can be to stick to a fitness routine while traveling. Whether for work or vacation, being on the road can disrupt your workout schedule, your access to equipment, your diet, and your motivation. Unfortunately, even a short lapse in your routine can bring your fitness momentum to a halt, making it hard to restart your diet and exercise regimen after returning from a trip. The good news is that staying fit while on the road is possible. Anyone can learn to be a healthy and fit road warrior with these simple but effective tips for maintaining your fitness routine, avoiding weight gain, keeping your energy up, and enjoying your trip without guilt or stress.
New Places and Spaces Make Fitness Harder
Being away from home means dealing with lots of changes in your environment. In a different environment, many of the normal behavior cues that trigger your routine activities are absent, making it much harder to stick to your usual diet and exercise regimen while traveling. For instance, maybe you make a healthy smoothie every morning and the cue that triggers this habit is seeing your blender sitting on your kitchen counter. But your hotel room doesn’t have a blender, which makes it more difficult to remember to follow your habit. Or maybe you normally work out with free weights but your hotel gym only has treadmills. When your environment and behavior cues change, it’s easy to lose motivation and let your healthy habits lapse.
Your schedule, too, changes when you’re traveling. Whether you’re on vacation or a work trip, your day probably looks very different than it does when you’re home, so finding the time and motivation to exercise and eat healthy can be challenging. If you plan ahead, you can stay on track with your fitness goals when you’re away from home. You might have to make concessions such as modifying your workout routine or eating different snacks and meals, for example.
You’re probably thinking, Can’t I just pause my workouts until I get home? You can, but avoiding such pauses while traveling is especially important for people who struggle to create and sustain consistent habits. Don’t let your travel plans cause you to lose momentum in developing healthy habits if you can avoid it; habit building is crucial to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Even if you've been consistent in your fitness routine for years, there are benefits to avoiding pauses when away from home. For instance, continuing to exercise while traveling provides a noticeable energy boost, increases circulation, and improves sleep quality. Sticking to your routine also offers mental benefits such as improved cognitive function and mood and a boost of self-confidence, making you feel more in command of your day.
Exercise Tips for Traveling
Keeping up with an exercise routine while traveling can be challenging when you don’t have access to the equipment you normally use, such as free weights or a stationary bike. Most hotels have an on-site gym, but it is usually limited in what it offers: a few treadmills and a meager set of dumbbells, if you're lucky. Using equipment you’re not accustomed to takes extra time and effort. Even when hotel gyms are adequately equipped, you must often wait in line and share equipment with other people, which makes it difficult to get a time-efficient workout. The best solution for getting an effective and efficient workout while traveling is exercising in your hotel room, which can be done using simple body-weight or resistance-band exercises.
Resistance bands are inexpensive, versatile, and easily transportable. Bands allow you to do any of the major strength-training movements (rows, chest presses, overhead pushes and pulldowns, hip hinges, resistance crunches, and squats) without the need for free weights or machines. You’ll also need a resistance band door anchor. Door anchors are very cheap and allow you to do many different strength exercises by mounting resistance bands to any sturdy doorframe.
To incorporate cardio exercises in your hotel room workout, choose a stationary exercise such as running in place, jumping jacks, or skipping rope. Or you can jog (or power walk) back and forth through your hotel room, depending on its layout. For strength training, do three sets (rounds) of eight to twelve reps of each exercise. Stop after each set and do a quick thirty-to-ninety-second bout of cardio exercise, then immediately move on to your next strength training set. Following this pattern allows you to get all the strength and cardio exercise required for general fitness in twenty minutes or less.
Nutrition Tips for Traveling
When you travel, you may not have easy access to the foods you usually eat at home. For instance, relying on taxis or Uber to get to a grocery store can be very inconvenient and costly. Moreover, most hotel rooms only have a small fridge and maybe a microwave, which limits what you can store, cook, and eat.
With some planning, you can make it easier to eat healthy while traveling. Here are some steps to follow:
• Set aside an hour before your trip to plan some travel-friendly meals.
• Know your nutritional goals for calories, protein, fat, and carbs.
• Use a nutrition app such as Lose It! or MyFitnessPal to help you create meals that meet your goals.
• Choose staple foods that are easy to find and prepare on the road. For example, shakes and bars are a good option for quick protein.
Choose snacks such as beef jerky and nuts at airports and review room-service and restaurant menus ahead of time to identify healthier meal options. Ask your hotel’s room service for simple meals such as steak and greens, grilled chicken, or salmon—room service is usually very accommodating. The key to eating healthy while traveling is to plan ahead and know what options are available to you so you don't have to make decisions on the fly.
Track your food intake with a good nutrition app and check the menus of the restaurants you’ll be going to so you can plan your meals in advance. Then adjust the rest of your meals and snacks accordingly, based on your calorie, protein, fat, and carbohydrate targets. This way, you can enjoy dining out without going overboard on portions. My wife and I recently used this strategy on a nine-day vacation during which we ate dinner out most nights. While we enjoyed ourselves, neither of us gained any weight on the trip.
Key Tools for Travel Fitness
Staying on track with your nutrition goals when traveling is easier when you have the right tools: a nutrition app, a food scale, and a bathroom scale. The nutrition app helps you plan and track your meals, the food scale helps you measure your portions accurately, and the bathroom scale helps you monitor your weight changes. These tools are easy to use and carry, and they can make a big difference in your results. You don’t need to go to extremes such as bringing a food scale to restaurants, but it is very helpful for preparing meals and snacking in your hotel room. Likewise, you might be able to forego a bathroom scale on short two-to-three-day trips, but daily weigh-ins can help you stay on track during longer trips.
Planning: The Key to Travel Fitness
The secret to staying on top of your fitness goals even when you're away from home is planning ahead. Have a clear exercise plan, making sure to bring any necessary equipment with you, and plan your meals and snacks based on your nutrition targets and the food options that will be available to you. Don't use travel as an excuse to let your healthy habits lapse. With these tips and tricks, it will become easy and natural for you to stay committed to your fitness routine while on the road.