Today, more Americans are traveling on business and pleasure than ever before. Sadly, nearly one-half of travelers polled by USA Today felt that they were in worse shape because they lack the time or the means to exercise properly during travel. No wonder they feel this way, air travel IS physically stressful. It disrupts sleep, slows circulation, and dehydrates the body. Not to mention, frequent flying throws a wrench in the timing and quality of regular activity and eating patterns. On the road, it is easy to give in to pressure and fatigue—grabbing fast food, having an extra drink to help relax, or collapsing in front of the hotel TV. But to live a life fueled with energy and health, making a few small changes in the way you travel can make a huge impact in how you feel on a daily basis.
My mission is to help wiped-out, eat-on-the-run travelers meet their wellness goals. To provide creative ways to exercise, eat right, and reduce stress while on the road. Staying in shape while traveling IS possible, it just requires a little effort. Here are my top tips to help establish healthy travel habits and win in wellness as a jetsetter athlete.
Exercise On the Fly.
- Make time for away-from-home workouts by fitting them in first thing in the morning, before you leave your hotel or home. Even 10 to 20 minutes of movement in the morning in your hotel room is enough to keep your metabolism revved and energy high for hours of traveling.
- Book a daytime arrival, especially if you are on a west-to-east flight. Once you are there, get yourself outside and do something active in the daylight. This will help you recover from jet lag quickly and improve your chances of sleeping well in your hotel.
- Wear comfortable workout shoes so you can walk as much as possible. Avoid the escalator walkways and take the stairs.
- Don’t wreck your back with awkward luggage. Take a posture-friendly backpack that distributes weight evenly through your core (heavy backpacks should have a hip strap). A suitcase with wheels or a stylish rolly laptop case is even more ideal.
- If you’re not traveling first or business class, book an emergency exit row aisle seat to enjoy a roomier seat with extra leg room.
- During your flight, take a bathroom break and stretch out your legs. Stand for 5 minutes and perform simple head, neck, shoulder, and leg stretches.
- Walk the length of the plane every hour or two to keep your back happy, your muscles supple, and your blood circulating.
- Get fitness equipment that fits in your travel bag. Maintain your strength training with easy-to-pack resistance bands and do these no-frills resistance band exercises in your hotel room.
- To preserve your hard-earned fitness level, exercise at least every third day while on the road, performing at least a third of your aerobic routine at your typical level of intensity and completing your strength training program at least once a week, using the same amount of resistance. Keeping part of your routine in tact will help maintain your fitness and energy levels.
- Use down time in the airport to stretch, drink water, and relax. Here is my quick, no equipment needed, 6 minute stretching series. These exercises will help you decompress, stretch out, and get to your destination feeling fabulous!
Eat Right In Flight. Avoid Tummy Turbulence with these tips:
- Pack Your Own Snacks. Plan ahead and bring a few packable snacks in your carry on bag. Here are some easy eat on the fly ideas:
- Homemade trail mix. It’s easy to make your own trail mix — not to mention healthier than the store-bought stuff — and it’ll help keep you full and energized. Make sure to buy unsalted peanuts and dried fruit without added sugar. Portion out individual serving sizes in ziplock bags so you don’t over-do it. Mix your own or test one of these healthy homemade trail mix combos.
- String cheese. If your diet likes dairy, you can get some of your daily dose of calcium with travel-friendly string cheese.
- Fruit. Apples, pears, bananas, and other fruits are easy to take with you and are an excellent source of fiber, something that becomes important as travels begin to wreak havoc on your digestive system.
- Pre cut veggies. Baby carrots and sugar snap peas are perfect when you need something crunchy.
- Nutrition bars with five or fewer natural ingredients are the most convenient snack to pack and wont create a mess. Make sure to drink plenty of water with it as eating too many bars can sometimes cause constipation :/.
- Know Your Options. If you’re stuck in the airport and forced to face the food court, it’s helpful to know which restaurants can offer you healthier menus. Luckily, many airports have the same chain restaurants and you can rely on this knowledge to help guide your diet decisions. Heres a few Restaurant foods to eat and to avoidat the airport. You can also locate healthy restaurant options in your destination using quick, simple iphone applications. Here are my top healthy restaurant finding tools:
- Research healthy dining options for your destination by looking up your desired zip-code on healthydiningfinder.com . This service locates healthy restaurants and menu choices for you. Simply enter your zipcode and it will identify all the best menu items from nearby restaurants.
- Yumee . Looking for a restaurant to fit your healthy eating specifics? This app is for you. Released November 2011, Yumee scopes out local digs to find places (and even specific menu items) that meet users’ nutritional requirements. Available for free on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android.
- Fooducate . Chosen as a 2011 best iPhone Health & Fitness app, Fooducate turns smartphones into scanners. Pick a food product and scan the bar code to get all the details on the nutrients inside. Users can even compare different items to find the healthiest, tastiest, most affordable choice. Available for free on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android.
- Hydrate! Flying is extremely dehydrating, which means the eight glasses of H2O a day rule really won’t cut it. Before you hop the plane, fill your own water bottle. To combat dehydration (and the fatigue it causes), drink two 8-ounce glasses before boarding, then another one each hour in flight. Add an extra 6-8 ounces for every hour in the air.
Sit Back, RELAX. In flight Stress Reduction
Since travel is very schedule-based, there’s not a lot of room for error; running for a plane or train can leave muscles sore and heads pounding. The last thing you want to do is arrive depleted of energy and unable to enjoy your destination fully. To relieve this pressure and improve time away from home, unwind using some of these in-flight stress-busting strategies:
- Pamper Yourself. Many airports now contain on-site spas and salons that offer stress-reducing therapies for travelers. Across the United States, it’s now possible to get a manicure, massage or nap during a layover without being a V.I.P. flyer. Pink polish for my toes? Why yes please thank you.
- Get comfortable. Travel companies often sell lightweight aids to help travelers keep their cool. Put together a kit that includes an inflatable travel pillow, sleep mask and earplugs to help improve rest during long flights, and wear comfortable, natural fibers to regulate body temperature. A warm scarf or cozy sweater can also be a relaxing, soothing touch when the climate is cool.
- Inhale, Exhale, REPEAT. Take a few minutes for yourself to sit in quiet and breathe deep. You can even load your digital music player with quiet music or audio meditations to help you de-stress while in transit.
My #1 Healthy Traveling Success Strategy: Just do it. And do it. And do it.
The best way to stay on track is to constantly recommit to your health goals and follow your plan every time. Create a habit out of healthy traveling. Get support from friends, family, and associates. Share your goals and report back when you return. Don’t leave room for excuses. Plan your day around your workout. If you have to get up early, then do it. Most clubs open at 5 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. You could plan to walk on the hotel treadmill for a few minutes each day, and chances are you’ll stay for more. At the very least, get a room on an upper floor and commit to taking the stairs a few times a day. Write it down, check it off, congratulate yourself, and do it again on your next trip.
Healthy traveling is just all about planning. Think ahead, envision where, how, and when you will sleep, eat, and exercise before you go, and pack accordingly. Plan for success and you will stay on track and accomplish your health goals. It may take a little effort, but living a life fueled with energy and wellness is worth it. Stay committed to your goals, flexible with your schedule, and open to all that is possible – with these healthy habits you’ll be an unstoppable travel pro!
Whats your #1 healthy traveling habit? Leave your flying fit tip as a comment below – would love to hear how you stay healthy in the air. Hope to see you soon for a workout or two… till then, keep smiling!