Staying fit and healthy on the road
We’ve all faced it- you’re on a streak with your gym workouts, eating pretty healthy, feeling refreshed in a routine of self care… And then you are waiting in the airport on a layover eating Wendy’s and watching netflix.
You arrive at your destination feeling lethargic, cramped, dealing with a headache... When you get to your hotel, you know you have things to do (and that your hotel has a gym to keep up with your streak), but all you really want to do is shower and take a nap. Yeah, you failed. But that’s life on the road, right?
Wrong. WRONG. So damn wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way, friends. Today I want to share a few things I’ve picked up over 8+ years traveling several months at a time as a photographer. This will be a longer post, and let’s face it: Life happens, and doing all of these may not be possible, nor may they be exactly right for you. But I can promise you, if you can knock out even a handful of these, your travel experiences will reach a new level, which effects everything from your creative work, to your client, and networking relationships on the road. The goal isn’t to do everything, the goal is to be the best self you can muster in non-ideal situations, so that you can give your best self to your work and others. So let’s get after it!
Drink more water: How much water are you drinking every day? Great- it’s not enough. It’s just not, and on travel days, you need to do even better. On average, you as a human need at least 64 ounces of water a day. Did you work out today? Sweet, you need even more- about 8 ounces for every 15 minutes of intense physical activity. On average, I’ll drink at least 80oz-100oz per day. For a visual, thats about 3 full Nalgene bottles. How? A few tips for success:
Keep it handy: If there is water around, you will drink it. If there isn’t, you probably won’t. I always keep a water bottle with me everywhere I go. I’ve found that Nalgenes work the best for long stretches without refills, but I am a big fan of Swell for everyday use. They keep things chilly and refreshing, and fit cup holders and bottle pockets on packs way better. Try to top it off before it’s empty, and you’ll never be without a few sips to keep the body going!
Flavor is your friend: One of the most common responses I hear from people who are not exactly eager to work on hydration is that they don’t like the taste of water. I never really understood that until I moved to Florida and was introduced to the concept of tap water being reclaimed sewer water… now I get it. So here are a few things to try. I like to add a splash of lemon to my water bottle, but if water flavor packets are more your thing, go for it! Try to avoid any sugar additives, but otherwise do what you have to do to keep things interesting. Zero calorie alternatives like La’Croix (Pomplamousee all the way!) can be a great filler for meal times to change things up, and yes- your morning tea counts.
Stay salty: It may sound very weird, but adding a little dash of salt to your lemon water will help your body absorb that water much better than straight h2o. You’ll never taste it, but your body will appreciate it.
Remember that if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!
Eat to live, don’t live to eat: If you currently live in the US, or travel in the US, congrats- you’re probably never too far from food. I’ve found that when traveling, it’s not just about what you eat, but also when and why you are eating it. It is very temping to buy whatever junk is at the airport, especially if you are stuck on a layover (and probably bored). I’ve really had to analyze my relationship with food, especially during travel. If the majority of my day is spent sitting on a plane, I don’t need to eat 3500 calories that day, and especially not from Wendy’s. Staying hydrated is factually non-arguable, but I do understand that diet is a very personal choice. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to be one. So below are a few general guidelines I use and think about. Apply them as you see fit, and adjust them to your lifestyle.
Don’t eat a big breakfast on travel days: Eating a lot in the morning does not always make sense, especially if you are up before 4am to spend 2-3 hrs at an airport, all before you even get on a plane. Intaking a lot of calories that you are going to just sit with the next 8-12 hours will certainly add to unnecessary weight gain, most likely cause you to keep eating, and often lead to a crash in energy by midday. I stick to a light breakfast, typically high in healthy fat, fiber, and probiotics. A bit of protein is great, but it will take more water to digest, so see thing one above. If I can throw down a high protein shake, great. Even almonds with coconut oil, macadamia nuts, or canned sardines are a great option. If nothing of substance is available, I often fast until I reach a destination with some proper options.
Pack your own snacks: This may seem obvious, but you will save a lot of money and potential discomfort if you make sure you bring your own food. I keep a small snack kit in my bag at all times when I travel, even if I don’t plan on eating. My personal staples are detailed below, but the big thing for me is that there is a variety of decent options in there that in total could support me for a whole day- if necessary. No, that’s typically not necessary. But I promise that if you have ever been stranded at an airport late at night when nothing is open, or experienced unexpected delays causing you to evaluate what is available in the food court- you know that being self sufficient really helps.
-Emergency Snack Pack:
- 1Mint CLIF Bar w/ Caffiene
- 2 RX Bars
- 2 Packets of Salmon/Tuna
- Almonds or Peanuts
- 1 EPIC jerky bar, usually bison
- 1 Nature Valley Oats & Coconut better bar
- 1 Cup of trail mix
- Any misc. snacks that the airlines offer for free!
Listen to your brain, not your stomach: After a long day, that 11:30pm meal can be very tempting, especially if you have changed time zones. Keep in mind that hunger is a mindset, and you need to control your mind. If you’re craving something tasty before bed, but you know you probably shouldn’t- don’t. If you absolutely must, just remember that as a human, you can easily go 2-3 weeks without food. Keep it light, you’re not going to die.
Move your body: Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking? Frankly, I find that statement to sound really pretentious and divisive- sometimes you just have to sit. It may not be good for your body, but I get it. When the fasten seatbelt sign is on, you’re not going anywhere. My trick on travel days is to squeeze in movement wherever I can. A few five minute walks, some yoga/stretching, and next thing you know, you have actually put in an hour of motion!
Don’t sit around the airport: If you show up to the airport at least two hours before departure, there is a good chance that you may have time to kill before boarding. Every week, I watch as people sit at their gate while they wait to sit on their plane- why? During waits and layovers, my choice option is to put on some music or an audio book and walk around the concourse. You’d be surprised how many steps you can get in with just 20 minutes of walking. Bonus points if you’re in DEN or SLT because you’ll also get a great view!
Piss on the plane: Remember all the extra water you’ve been drinking? Bonus material: You will now possibly need to use the restroom on the plane. This is a great opportunity to get up and stretch your legs a bit!
Use the gym, or make a gym: Want to know the best way to get over that exhausted jet lag feeling? Force yourself to exercise. It may seem counterintuitive when all your body wants to do is nap, but throwing in even a quick 20 minute workout will greatly assist your body in adjusting. If your hotel has a gym, that’s awesome. Unfortunately, many don’t, so that’s when it’s time to get creative. There are TONS of articles on hotel room friendly workouts, so it is likely you can find something to fit your style. I personally use an app on my iPad called Bodyweight, and in about ten minutes, I can be sweating from some solid bodyweight-based movement that can typically be completed in the corner of even the smallest hotel rooms.
Make your sleep count: Air travel, time changes- neither are great for your energy level. Especially if you have an early morning flight, getting rest on a travel day can be tough. I keep a little “sleep kit” in my backpack at all times so that I can maximize my rest. You may not be able to get a full 8 hours, but you can make the sleep you do get worthwhile.
Earplugs: This is pumpkin-spice-latte kind of basic, but so often overlooked. A huge physical and mental drain to your body during air travel is actually the sound. The constant noise of the engines, people talking, babies screaming, etc- They all very quickly add up to the same sound exposure you might get at a concert. Keep some simple earplugs with you to tone it down.
Noise cancelling headphones: This is a luxury, but seriously worth it. I use a $20 pair of sony cans that I picked up at an airport one day- they don’t have to be fancy. When I want to get some peace and quiet on the plane, I will actually layer the noise cancelling headphones over my earplugs for an extra barrier. Often, I will play some nature sounds at a low level, which helps create my own environment for rest.
Eye masks: I used to be very against blackout masks, but wow does it make a difference on the exhaustion of my eyes. Even on night time flights, there is constantly some form of light that could be distracting you from your best sleep. I keep two masks in the sleep kit in case I lose one in a tired wobble as I exit the plane.
Lavender oil: I use a multitude of Young Living Essential Oils in my day to day routine, but specifically for sleep during travel, I have found that a small amount of lavender really relaxes me in an otherwise obnoxious environment. Bonus points if it helps you get over your smelly seat-mate!
Do you have any tips for staying healthy on the road? Drop them in the comments below!