Exercising during business travel doesn't have to feel like work. Use these tips to be at your best mentally and physically while on the go.
Business travel is like a marathon. It's often long, always rigorous, and no matter how much effort you put into your performance, outstanding circumstances like stormy weather (or a client's stormy disposition) can affect whether you qualify for the next round of competition.
"For business owners and executives, there is nothing harder on your overall vitality than business travel," says Gregory Florez, trainer and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. "You have changing time zones, you have delays, it's easy to get disoriented, and it's easy to get tired."
A businessperson or entrepreneur on the road may not need the stamina to run 26.2 miles, but he or she does need the stamina to undergo the draining and often stressful combination between high-volume travel and high-intensity business.
"When you travel, a lot of your energy is spent physically getting to your next meeting, performing in that meeting, and repeating the process over and over again," says Jennipher Walters, founder of the Fit Bottom Girls fitness website. "Being fit can improve your leadership, your focus, and your clarity."
Staying fit while on the road will not only help your health, but can also boost your business's health. No matter where your business travel takes you, use this guide to help you stay fit in transit, in meetings and beyond.
Staying Fit on the Road: Get in the Right Mindset
Working out while traveling can be easy, but only if you have the right mindset. Leaving with only vague ideas about exercise will give you every opportunity to make excuses when exhaustion, stress, and responsibilities start piling up. Instead, plan ahead. Pack plenty of workout clothes and shoes and research your destination to learn about your hotel's gym access or other opportunities to exercise in the vicinity.
A little creativity can also help persuade you to hit the gym rather than the remote in your down time. "Little tricks like leaving your workout clothes right next to your bed or having a workout partner that's going to wake you up is very important," says Florez. "People go on a trip and their workout routine falls apart if they don't a little effort."
And in travel fitness, a little effort is better than over-exertion. Jim Karas, a personal trainer overseeing the fitness centers at the James Hotels in Chicago and New York, only recommends three hours a week for regular clients and even less for business travelers.
"Exercise is a stress," he explains. "Excessive exercise is terribly damaging to your body, the mind, your immune system, your joints, and it accelerates the aging process."
Exercising doesn't need to be an elaborate, exhaustive process, especially when you're on the road. Even doing something simple make a difference for your overall health. "Doing something is always better than nothing," says Walters. "So walk somewhere, take the stairs, stretch. There are lot of little things you can do to be more active that will make a difference."
Dig Deeper: No Time to Exercise?
Staying Fit on the Road: Exercise Absolutely Anywhere
Most business trips do not make considerations for participant's personal health. Instead, schedules are crammed in the most time-efficient way possible. But, just because you're always in public doesn't mean you can't focus on your fitness. When your mind is engaged, your body should be as well.
"The easiest thing you can do where you won't look like a complete freak is stretch," Walters says. "We all carry so much tension in our shoulders and upper back from being hunched over a computer or sitting on a plane."
Basic stretches include gentle neck rolls, rounding your back, or twisting your upper torso, all while taking deep breaths. While breathing deeply, contract your abdominal muscles for five to ten second intervals to strengthen your core. Standing up also allows you to stretch your lets and lets blood flow throughout your body. Another major way to improve core strength is through posture.
Executive and celebrity trainer Andre Farnell discourages his clients from putting their hands on their hips, which distributes the weight of your extremities off your core onto your hips. "Think of a suspension bridge," says Farnell. "Your arms are the bracing cords and your core is the center structure. Without your arms as bracing weight, your upper body has no stability."
While in public, subtle actions like standing up or stretching intermittently are the best solutions, but resourcefulness might help you gain a deeper stretch as well. "Drop your pen in a meeting," says Walters. "When you're underneath the table, you can stretch your legs out and reach your toes to get a good stretch."
Staying Fit on the Road: Hotel Rooms are for More Than Just Sleeping
The privacy of your hotel room offers opportunities for more elaborate exercises than stretching. The open space in front of or beside your hotel bed provides the perfect space for Pilates or yoga, light aerobics such as jumping jacks or step ups, and calisthenics using your body weight like push ups, squats, and lunges.
Amy Mac, a personal trainer and the wife of a serial entrepreneur, designed 12 exercise video that demonstrate creative ways to use your room and its contents—like a towel or chair—to create a personalized workout facility. "A lot of people are really intimidated by a hotel gym," she says. "There are lot of ways to work out in the hotel get out any anger or frustration or nervousness from your busy day while avoiding the hustle and bustle of a gym."
However, exercising alone in your hotel room poses more safety risks than public stretches or full gym workouts. When you're alone, work out at a moderate intensity and be wary of pushing yourself too far. "Listen to your body," says Farnell. "Know when you're in a good place and when you're not. That's really the key to a good workout."
Dig Deeper: Fitness-Focused Hotels
Staying Fit on the Road: Hit the Gym
For a more social setting, check out your hotel's fitness facilities. Hotel gyms come in many shapes and sizes depending on the venue, from professional level, full-scale fitness centers to a room with a treadmill, weights, and a TV. Should you or your clients splurge on a more luxurious accommodations, request a fitness professional to help guide you through your regular routine or introduce you to new fitness ideas.
"I'm in the gym to answer questions about classes or personal exercises," explained J Jones, a Encore Resort fitness professional at the Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas. "We recognize what they want to accomplish and show them how to get a great workout."
No matter how upscale a fitness center or their staff may seem, make sure your take appropriate safety precautions before throwing yourself into a thorough workout. To avoid any unnecessary injuries, check that the equipment you are using is well-maintained and that your temporary personal trainer has the appropriate credentials from the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Federation of Personal Trainers or other leading certification bodies.
"The fitness industry is really the only unregulated industry in healthcare," says Jones. "There's sometimes not a clear cut sign of who is certified and who is not. Asking for a trainer's credentials is really important to prove their authority."
In the gym, like in your hotel room, it's important not to overexert yourself with unknown materials. "Unless you're using free weights you can get in over your head," says Mac. "Every type of weighting machine weight differently, so you have to make sure you only do what feels right for you."
Dig Deeper: The Best Hotel Fitness Centers
Staying Fit on the Road: Maintaining a Well-Rounded Routine
Staying fit when on the road is more than just going through the motions of sit ups or lunges. Committing to life choices such as a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and enough exercise, will further help you achieve your business trip's goals.
"When you're traveling is the time when you really need optimal energy levels," says Karas. "You can enhance them by really being consistent with your eating, your exercise and your sleep. All three are the trifecta to stay on your best while on the road."
Maintain a healthy diet while you're on the road by avoiding excuses like your mood, accomplishments, or social responsibilities for eating in excess. Overcompensate your intake of water, especially when consuming high volumes of diuretics like coffee or tea. If you're traveling through multiple time zones, make sure you give your body enough time to adjust and relax before the flurry of business begins.
"There's enough stress in the process of business travel," says Florez. "The more you can take out, the more comfortable and confident you're going to be."
And like any fitness routine, make sure you enjoy what you do. "Have fun with it," says Mac. "Don't think about it as working out because then it becomes work. And on a business trip, who really needs more work?"
Dig Deeper: Bobbi Brown on Work-Life Balance at a Start-up
Read more recent articles by Drew Gannon: