According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion trips for leisure purposes in 2016, and 457 million trips for business purposes. They also report that the direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averages $2.7 billion a day, $113 million per hour, $1.9 million a minute, and $31,400 a second. The travel industry is huge. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, your health and fitness level can take a big hit if you are not taking measures to keep that from happening. The good news is that you can stay fit as an athlete on the road.
“It’s very easy to get lazy about doing our workouts when we are traveling, as it is to overeat and eat poorly,” explains Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “When we do those things, we are doing more harm than we realize. It’s important to make the commitment that you are going to be healthy and fit, and that includes being accountable when you are on the road, just like athletes do.”
Athletes travel often, sometimes for weeks on end, depending on the sport they play. Yet they always maintain being fit, because they make it a priority and follow the principles that help them no matter where they may be. Even making small efforts can help keep you fit and feeling good while you are traveling.
Here are 6 things to make a priority on your next road trip, so that you maintain an athlete’s routine:
- Sleep – According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep plays a vital role in good health and well being. Getting enough quality sleep helps to protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. When you are sleeping during travel, it can be more difficult to get a good night’s sleep, especially if you went to a different time zone. Try to maintain a bedtime routine, and when it’s time for bed keep the room dark, ensure it’s at a cool temperature, and keep the phones and tablets in a separate room or turn them off. Consider taking melatonin to help with jet lag, better sleep, and to help reset the body’s clock. It can be bought over-the-counter at any pharmacy.
- Nutrition – This is extremely important when traveling. Plan your meals in advance to ensure you will be eating healthy. Use your phone to look up restaurant menus ahead of time, so you can opt for healthier entrees. Carry healthy snacks with you, such as trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, healthy snack bars, fresh fruit, etc. When dining out, steer clear of the dishes that have been deep fried. If you can carry a small cooler with you on the road, keep fresh fruit, veggies, and dips such as hummus in it. Eating healthy when traveling will help you maintain your weight, keep you from feeling guilty, and help you avoid gastrointestinal issues. According to the National Institutes of Health, you can still eat healthy when dining out. They recommend avoiding all-you-can-eat buffets, and opting for dishes that have been baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, or steamed.
- Hydration – The American Heart Association reports that keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles, and it helps the muscles work more efficiently. They also report that it is important to keep tabs on your hydration during travel, because you may sweat differently in different climates. Again, this is an extremely important area. It’s important to stay well-hydrated. Opt for water, unsweetened tea, or some coconut water. Avoid sugary beverages, and avoid drinking too much alcohol. You can help your body stay hydrated by eating foods that have a lot of water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, and pineapple.
- Mobility and stretching – According to the National Institute on Aging, flexibility and stretching exercises give you more freedom of movement for your physical and everyday activities. Stretching can improve your flexibility. Stick with your normal workout routines as much as possible. Professional athletes have specific routines they adhere to, based on the needs of their bodies, and there are certain time frames within which they try to get it done following a flight. It’s very important to continue your mobility and stretching routines while traveling.
- Strength training – According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can help you develop strong bones, manage your weight, enhance your quality of life, manage chronic conditions, and sharpen your thinking skills. It can also help you reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass, and help your body burn calories in a more efficient manner. Our professional athletes still lift, even lightly, when they are on the road. It’s crucial to maintain doing this in order to meet the goals of an athlete, but for most people it serves as a “reset” of sorts for their body, from a posture perspective, and it helps solidify that proper pattern. You can put together a strength training routine that uses your own body weight and can be done in hotel rooms or outdoors.
- Improvise. When traveling, there is a good chance you won’t have all the things you use at home to get in a good workout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improvise. Plan ahead and see what’s in the area you will be in. Be flexible and use what you will have access to, so that you get that workout in. Check for hotel or nearby gyms, trails where you can go for a run or a brisk walk, and parks that offer a free workout system. You can also pack some lightweight fitness gadgets, such as your running shoes, a jump rope, and resistance bands. Do what you have to in order to get the activity in.
“When you make keeping fit on the road a priority, you will come home feeling great,” added Coach Walls. “Plus, you will maintain your fitness all year long. There’s no better feeling than that. A little planning, effort, and commitment go a long way.”
American Heart Association. Staying hydrated, staying healthy. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Staying-Hydrated—Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp#.WrpdUOjwaM8
Mayo Clinic. Strength Training. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/strength-training/art-20046670
National Institute on Aging. Improve your flexibility. https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/exercises/flexibility
National Institutes of Health. Maintaining a Healthy Weight on the Go. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/AIM_Pocket_Guide_tagged.pdf
National Institutes of Health. Sleep deprivation and deficiency.
U.S. Travel Association. U.S Travel Answer Sheet. https://www.ustravel.org/answersheet