A massive number of people hit the roads and fly for business purposes each year. The Global Business Travel Association shows that the number of business trips taken annually in the U.S. at 488 million. On average, business travelers take 12-14 trips per year with 4-6 nights being away from home. When you consider this is an AVERAGE you begin to realize a large percentage of business travelers travel far more than that. When broken down by gender we see an almost even split with women making up 47% of business travelers and men making up the slight majority. Bottom line: American professionals travel a lot for work.
Travel can be an absolute nightmare for the fitness minded person. Nothing will halt your muscle gain, fat loss or athletic performance progress like interrupting a successful workout routine with a new time zone, a break in workouts or airport and hotel food. It was one of the hardest challenges I helped my executive professional clients tackle when I was a personal trainer.
Although work travel complicates things when it comes to fitness, it doesn’t make being fit and healthy with frequent impossible. A good plan before travel, that is implemented properly will keep your body on track in terms of your fitness goals. I have even had clients progress FASTER from a well programmed travel workout plan due to the change in exercise stimulus. No joke, travel does not have to mean your fitness has to take a back seat to your business success. In fact, according to some of my most successful executive professional clients, they found that they performed better in their business meetings and sales presentations when they followed my travel workout plans and when they adhered to my dietary and sleep advice. Do it right, and not only will you be more fit with more muscle, less fat and better fitness, but you will also do better in BUSINESS.
The biggest challenges you will need to address when you travel can be broken down into three main factors: Sleep, diet and workout.
Believe it or not, sleep is the most important factor you need to consider when it comes to your fitness and health. I don’t care how great your workout or your diet is, if your sleep is all out of whack, your body will fail to adapt to your workouts (adapt=build muscle or burn fat) and will crave the worst food you can imagine (studies show lack of sleep dramatically increases appetite fort sugar and highly palatable foods).
The main issue to consider is your circadian rhythm. This is your body’s internal clock. It predicts whether the sun is up or down. This is extremely important because your hormones follow your internal clock. Some are higher in the morning and others are higher at night. Flip that on its head and you severely restrict your ability to progress fitness wise.
The secondary issue to consider is lack of sleep. It can be very difficult to sleep when its 10pm where you are, but your body thinks its 3pm because of where you just traveled from. You can forget about having good and effective workouts when you are sleep deprived.
The goal is to get your internal circadian rhythm to match the one you are in as fast as possible. Light exposure, food and melatonin are the three easiest to control variables that we need to focus on.
When you get on the plane it’s a good idea to fast (not eat). Your digestive system is an important signaling system for your internal clock. If your body is digesting it thinks the sun is up. Your first meal should be when its appropriate to eat in the place you are traveling to. In other words, don’t eat until its breakfast time in your travel destination.
Light also tells your body its time to be awake. This is even true for artificial electronic light. When the sun goes down and its dark in your final travel destination, you need to wear blue blocking glasses. They block the light rays that are most responsible for telling your brain that “its time to be awake.” This will get your circadian rhythm to start adjusting before you even try to go to sleep.
When you get to your travel destination, go straight to bed if it’s time for bed according to the time zone. Before bed try taking a low dose of about 1 milligram of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that the brain releases when its time to sleep. Since your melatonin production will likely be off due to travel, supplementing with it helps the brain adapt faster to the new time zone. Studies done on melatonin and circadian rhythm support its occasional use.
When its time to wake up, expose your eyes and your body to as much natural light as possible. Better yet, if possible, go outside and get some sunlight. This tells your body its time to wake up.
Hotel food and restaurant food in general isn’t the healthiest. They tend to cater to cravings and to palatability over health so your options may be limited. Knowing this I usually recommend people follow a few simple and easy to follow guidelines. I like to have clients eat in order of “nutrient dense, low calorie” to “high calories, less nutrient dense.”
Eat veggies first. Regardless of where you eat, there is usually a vegetable option. It’s usually salad or sometimes (if you are lucky) it’s a common vegetable like broccoli. Have a large serving of vegetables before you eat anything else. Also make sure to stick to plain olive oil and vinegar for dressing or none at all.
Next up eat some meat or fish. Pick a large serving and eat until you are satisfied. Notice I said satisfied and not “full.” Avoid trying to eat until you feel like you can’t eat anymore. Instead eat until you feel like you could stop and not be hungry for a few hours.
Lastly, if you want, you can eat a plain unprocessed natural starch like a potato or some fruit. I have people eat these last because starches and fruit are high in carbohydrates. It’s not that carbohydrates are bad per se, it’s just that carbs are not an essential nutrient and they tend to be far less satiating (filling and satisfying) than protein or fats. People tend to eat more when they start with carbs vs when they end with them.
Below I am going to present you with a very effective yet simple workout I have used over the years for my traveling clients. It covers the whole body and it works very well for a majority of people. It includes a mobility component as well as a strength building component. The only equipment it calls for are resistance bands. Resistance bands are awesome because they take up very little space and are super easy to travel with. They are also extremely versatile, which allows me to be able to target every part of your body.
The workout is short but must be done daily. In my experience, traveling business people find it easier to be consistent when the workouts are short and daily, vs longer and less frequent. Ideally you would wake up and do this workout first thing in the morning. It should take you no more than 15-20 minutes max. At the end of this article is a link you can click to get videos demonstrating all of the exercises that are listed.
- 90/90 on the floor 3 sets of 30 second holds on each side
- Stationary lunges 3 sets to fatigue
- Push-ups 3 sets to fatigue
- Band Rows 3 sets to fatigue
- Active Planks 3 sets to fatigue
- Lizard with rotation 3 sets of 12 reps each side Single leg toe touch 3 sets to fatigue
- Band Flyes 3 sets to fatigue
- Band Pull Apart 3 sets to fatigue
- Band Curls 2 sets to fatigue
- Tension arms extended planks 3 sets 30 seconds
-Alternate the above two workouts each day.
-Rest in between sets for at least 30 seconds. Not resting will simply make these workouts less effective at maintaining or building a fast metabolism.
-Reps to fatigue means you keep doing reps until your form is no longer PERFECT. It does not mean you keep going after your form starts to breakdown.
-Use an appropriate strength of resistance band that allows you to perform more than 12 reps but not more than 25 reps.
There you go. Follow the above advice and you will no longer have to sacrifice your fitness, health or aesthetics for business. You can have the best of all worlds.