You’ve got an upcoming trip…but you’ve been working on some positive lifestyle change and now you’re terrified of falling off the horse due to your upcoming vacation. Or maybe you’re a traveler for business and you want to keep up your practice while working away from home. How do you manage your health routine with a travel schedule?
I love my home routine but I frequently travel for business, and my business is fitness, wellness and dance. Over the years I’ve developed techniques to keep up my meditation, fitness, performance and nutrition routines while on or off the road. Here’s what I’ve found works for me…hopefully some of these ideas will help you too!
Get in the right mindset.
Traveling is often not ideal for our perfectly sculpted routines. So the first thing you want to do is RELAX. Know that you’re going to do your best, and that’s all that really matters. Don’t use this as ammunition to beat up on yourself and don’t use it as an excuse to completely F* off…unless that’s exactly what you want to do on your vacation! If I’m traveling and working, I still make healthy choices at restaurants—the best that I can, avoiding alcohol, sugar, fried foods and sticking with healthy veggies and proteins. I still go for my daily run if I’m in the countryside or I take a fitness or yoga class in a city. I still meditate once or twice a day. I still go to bed at bedtime, I still get the same number of hours of sleep. If I’m on vacation I allow myself to enjoy indulgence…and I prepare for this by being super on my routine before vacation—maybe working a little extra hard to earn the indulgence! And as soon as I’m back, I’m BACK on my regular schedule of sleep, work, training, and nutrition. The point is, don’t expect things to be perfect and when they aren’t you won’t need to be stressed. Who needs extra stress while traveling anyhow?
If you’re going somewhere new, look for new and fun opportunities for fitness, every day. Put on your ugly walking shoes and walk all over Rome. Get up with the sun in Australia and run on the beach barefoot. Put your big girl panties on and take a yoga class in a foreign language. It’s much easier than you think! Ask the locals what the hot new fitness studio in town is and go to it, or investigate opportunities on the world wide internet. Plan ahead and look up a gym where you can buy a weekly membership. If you’re visiting someone, go to their gym with them! Is there a pool you can use? Get some goggles and swim some laps, or do some water aerobics. Did you know??? Many airports have meditation or yoga rooms! And what’s wrong with just rolling out the mat in a corner to get in some lunges and abs before the flight if there’s no special place? The point is, if you open your mind to new experiences and actively look for fitness opportunities, you’ll see they’re all around you. Don’t underestimate yourself or the people you’re with. I traveled with my parents through three countries in Europe last year and we were shocked at how much we all walked. Nearly 100 miles in 10 days!!!! And they didn’t train for that. We got to see so much of every city, and we stopped as often as needed, enjoying a meal, a coffee, a museum or shopping when we were tired. Your vacation can absolutely be more physically active than your daily life if you take advantage of the opportunities in front of you. Best of all, you’ve now earned your indulgences on your trip.
Be prepared for physical activity with the right gear: running shoes, bathing suit, comfy street-to-studio ACTIVEWEAR. It is certainly a hilarious phenomenon that we all just wear yoga pants for whatever…but damn if it isn’t convenient when you’re actually going from daily activity to workout mode. Wear layers. Choose clothes that can withstand a little sweat and not stink like hell. I alway, always, ALWAYS bring a travel yoga mat so I can workout in my AirBnb or hotel room (because foreign floor). I use the same mat at home and it fits in my backpack and motorcycle saddle bag, so it’s a multi-purpose investment. Tip: if you get one made of natural rubber, DO NOT leave it in the sun. Don’t go crazy, though…I’ve seen people bringing tons of fitness stuff with them on the road and it takes a ton of luggage space. Just bring the ONE thing you are absolutely certain to use on a daily basis and absolutely need. Throw in a massage ball or a theraband if you must, but leave all of the other equipment at home. Trust me, you’re not likely to use it.
It seems that every time I talk to someone about traveling they bring up the issue of jet-lag. Here’s what I have to say about that: reject it. Live your life like normal. Traveling and jet-lag will effect each person differently, but you don’t need to PLAN to have major issues with it. What you think about you bring about. Try following some of these steps to improve, avoid or eradicate this issue altogether:
Pack well before-hand, so you don’t start your trip stressed and sleep-deprived.
When you arrive, THE TIME IS WHAT IT IS WHERE YOU ARE. Do NOT think about what time it is at home. You’re not there. It doesn’t matter.
When you arrive, act as if it’s the time that it is. If it’s bedtime, go to bed. If it’s morning, get out and go about your day. DO NOT sleep during the day. Take a 90-minute nap in the afternoon if you absolutely must, but avoid any sleep before bedtime if you can.
Eat at your normal times. Stop eating 3-4 hours before bed. Heavy digestion is not optimal for good sleep.
Go outside, get into the sunlight or moonlight or whatever. Breathe the air and walk (or run) around in your new environment.
Use earplugs and an eye mask. You’re in a new place. You’re not used to the sounds and the light. Block them out. Remember that an ideal sleeping space will be cool, dark and quiet.
Practice mindfulness meditation before bed and if you wake up at 4am. It happens…for whatever reason I might wake up at about 4am the first or second night abroad. If this happens, don’t stress. Just practice a simple meditation such as breathing in for 4 counts and out for 6 counts. I usually bore myself back to sleep. Do a meditation practice before bed (maybe you do this already) for about 10-20 minutes to try to ensure sleeping well and all the way through. If all else fails, get up and start your day extra early, then stay up all the way to the next bed time. Exhaust yourself into a full night’s sleep.
Don’t stress. It’s not helpful. So what if you get a few days crappy sleep? You can make it up in the following days when you normalize.
Don’t drink alcohol to sleep well. It doesn’t work and it makes things worse. If you have a sleep aid (tea, herbs, essential oils or the good ol’ fashioned drug) that you love, go ahead and use it the first night or two…if it’s already proven itself to work, why not? I won’t recommend anything for anyone else, but I have certainly found that taking 3-5mg of melatonin at bedtime the first day or two does help me adjust to new time zones.
No devices 3 hours before bed. Hopefully you do this anyhow, but especially when traveling, why would you stimulate your mind when you’re already in a new time zone? Do yourself a favor and read a book or meditate or take a long bath before bed. DO NOT get on your phone or watch a movie.
Nutrition on the road.
This is wildly different from place to place. I’ve been stuck on a tour bus where the ONLY option is a gas station for food…for the whole day. Not ideal. But I’ve also been super impressed with options around me most of the time when traveling. If you think you’ll be in a scarce situation, arm yourself with some healthy snacks: dried (no sugar added) fruit, raw nuts, jerky if you eat meat, or a few bars of your choice (though lately I’ve been avoiding these due to crappy ingredients and excessive packaging). Generally, you can find decent options in most places. If you have sensitivities, allergies, or are avoiding particular ingredients it’ll be more limited. Remember to prepare yourself with snacks if needed, no one will advocate for you like you. Whenever possible, try new things and enjoy the different options around you. I love trying new dishes, fruits and veggies abroad, but I also try to make sure if I’m staying somewhere for a while that I can get to a grocery store and keep some of my staples where I’m staying. Keep making healthy choices, traveling isn’t an excuse to ignore all things…but also relax and indulge when the time is right. It’s a balance.
Traveling is fun, exciting, challenging, and tiring. Enjoy it. There’s no reason you can’t continue your healthier lifestyle habits, and there’s no reason you can’t relax and indulge. Enjoy the new experiences, be confident in your ability to make good choices, and savor all of the wonderful things that travel offers: beautiful sights, different activities, interesting people, and delicious food. As the old saying goes, go with the flow.