Staying active and healthy during travel
Yesterday morning we said good-bye to our East Coast to head to the West Coast for a few days of fun, activity and making memories.
Traveling is fun because you get to see new sights, eat at new places and make memories or learn (depending on your reason for travel). We have all traveled for a sad or personal reason and certainly those times are not fun. But no matter the reason for travel, having to take yourself into a new environment where your normal routine is off and things are out of your control, this can be extremely stressful.
I find the most important thing about traveling is to learn from each experience, be flexible and be prepared.
As athletes and fitness enthusiasts, our normal lifestyle is likely different from the majority of people who travel because we have specific eating and workout habits that we consider "normal" - not forced or difficult to accomplish on a daily basis. Perhaps you have found that things that are easy for you to accomplish are seen as difficult for your friends/colleagues. It isn't that you have more discipline than someone else or that others are lazy but you have specific standards for yourself because of your every day lifestyle. It's not likely that someone would aim to start exercising or eat better on a vacation or work trip. For those who exercise and eat well on a daily basis, you know what makes you feel the best and you don't want to give those things up (or change it), even when you travel.
For example, there are specific things that we expect from ourselves in terms of how much we need/want to eat to feel satisfied and feel fueled. A granola bar and yogurt may not cut it before an 8-hour seminar especially if you made an effort to squeeze in a 6-mile run on the hotel treadmill. Perhaps for someone else, she/he may not eat anything until lunch and be just fine but then end up overeating at dinner. You likely make it a priority to get in some type of workout because it makes you feel great when you are traveling, even if that means scoping out the closest gym or pool, renting a bike or contacting a local tri/run club. Taking the time to research your options may be normal for you whereas it may be an after-thought for someone else.
There is no right or wrong way to travel and I know for me and Karel, there are many times when we travel and we don't stick to our normal routine or have high-standards for eating and training. It's all on a case-by-case basis. Often this is because we see traveling as a special occasion, so deviating from our normal training is looked-forward to and having food that we normally wouldn't eat on a daily basis is actually a nice treat from the day-to-day.
We are traveling to Sacramento to see our friends Gloria and Ken, and then to Lake Tahoe to see my Grandpa and do some snow sports. This is a vacation for us. I can't remember the last time we took a vacation and it wasn't for a race. We love our race-cations when we travel to race but it's really nice to travel and not have to feel pressure to train/race or eat for performance.
Karel and I are super active and enjoy food that makes us feel great inside. This is just part of our lifestyle and doesn't change, no matter where we are in the world. But there are a few tips that I can share that help us stay active and healthy when we travel.
I always have a snack bag with me. You should have one too. You never know if you are going to have a delay, if hunger (or low blood sugar) will strike or you just need something in the belly.
I focus on foods that make us feel good inside but also food that we may not be able to conveniently find (cost effective) on the airplane, at a gas station or on the road. When I pack our snack bag (and/or cooler for the car), I consider the hours that we will be traveling....where we are going/what's available when we get there, what's along the road (or in the air) or what meals will occur when we travel? This all helps me plan our snack bag.
We are not anti-eating out when we travel and almost always we try to find local places to enjoy/try new things but certainly, fast food/restaurants may not understand our nutrition/fueling needs and requirements for portions of specific macronutrients. And it's not fun waiting for food or going into a meal starving. As athletes, we need a lot of food and I don't expect others (outsiders) to understand this concept, especially if I am on someone else's schedule. It's really up to me to be prepared to meet my nutrition and energy needs.
There's no way I am going to feel satisfied with a salad (sans vegetarian protein) at the airport and although I love my veggies, spending $12 on lettuce is not the best nutritional bang for my buck. When I have a cooler, I can get by with more protein for me (and Karel) and perhaps create my own semi-homemade satisfying meal.
Typical Trimarni snack-bag options:
Fruit - whole and sliced
Trail mix (Veronica's Health Crunch has a new flavor coming out soon!)
Celery - love the watery-salty-crunch and transports well
High fiber cereal/granola
Natural bars - KITs Organic
I often pack sandwiches (PB&J for me) but we opted to eat breakfast at the airport during our long layover. However, we always eat within an hour of waking so we both had a mini protein-rich breakfast before we left (I had a Greek yogurt and some nuts/cereal).
Move your body
Aside from "working out", there are many ways to stay active when you travel. Remember that the little stuff does count and will add up. If you have time, walk to your next terminal at layovers, take a short jog or do some hip/core exercises when traveling by car at your next pit stop, take the stairs, etc. Traveling (just like work) can be exhausting because sitting all day is tiring. Your body loves to move and it was designed to move so find any way possible to move when you are forced to be sedentary for long periods of time.
Karel and I really eating out when we travel. We love being part of the community and trying new foods from favorite hot spots. It is something we really look forward to when we travel as we do not associate eating out as part of our normal routine at home.
We also carry a healthy relationship with food when we travel so despite eating some occasional indulgences, food still needs to make us feel good inside, while we eat it and afterward. So there is no feelings of "I'm being bad, I shouldn't eat this, I'll be better tomorrow, etc." Certainly, it's easy to feel a bit blah if you are being served food on a limited menu, that you know is not packed with nutritional value and does not sit well in your belly, but in terms of having a healthy relationship with food when you are in control of what you can put into your body, eating out can be a positive experience and can introduce you to new foods and inspire you to new flavors and food combinations.
My suggestions for making eating out a positive experience:
-Review menu's ahead of time for the best options for you (you decide what you want to get out of the meal)
-Don't let one meal throw you off. It's just one meal or just one day
-Share entrees or desserts. Enjoy a little of everything instead of a lot of one thing.
-Do not go into a meal starving. Try to start your meal with a salad at the restaurant/eatery and even a pre-meal snack (ex. high fiber piece of fruit)
-Talk more, eat slower.
-Stay hydrated with water. Try to drink at least a glass before the meal and before the entree is served.
-Eat until you are 80% satisfied. Once you digest your food, you will feel 100% satisfied.
-Ask for substitutions (if needed) for your dietary preferences to help you create a meal that will meet your needs, especially in the case of limited options
-Ask locals for recommendations on places to eat. As an athlete, the best people to ask are your fellow athlete friends. There's a good chance that your fellow like-minded friends in another state will have a few options that will meet your dietary expectations (whether it is to eat "healthy" or to indulge).
Gloria and Ken took us to Hot Italian. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere is perfect for all the bike-lovers/triathletes. As you can see in the pic, you now know where Campy's hot Italian shirt is from.
For beers, Karel and Ken got the Racer-5 IPA and Karel, Gloria and Ken split three pizzas (yep - three of them!) and everyone left satisfied, not stuffed.
I ordered: 45 Aquilani insalata -
Don't interrupt my pizza salad consumption - I'm yumming over my pizza!
Getting in your workouts
Hotel gym, outside, stairs, room, local gym, training group.
There are so many options to stay active when you travel and odds are that there is a local triathlon or running group in your area to give you ideas of how to take your workouts on the road. Your available time/options to work out will likely vary depending on where you travel but don't hesitate to do some research of where to train/workout when you travel.
As athletes, you will likely place more stress on working out during traveling if you have a race coming up in the next two months. Just be sure your time away from home is conducive to performance gains and not just going through the motions in a stressed, hungry, tired body.
I typically encourage my athletes to get in 30 minutes of activity a day when they travel. No excuses, find a way to make it happen without compromising sleep or diet.
If an athlete is traveling for a vacation, well this is a tough situation because often times, I encourage my athletes to take a break from structured training and just stay active without the need to stick to a swim-bike-run routine. However, for some, a vacation may include plenty of time to recover with free time so it really depends on the athlete and the reason for the vaca (play vs work vs personal).
We enjoyed a 6am swim (West Coast time) with the DAM swim team and it was fun to swim with other swimmers and be pushed in the water, in a new swim environment. One of the best parts of working out when you travel is having the opportunity to meet like-minded athletes. Maybe it's in the hotel gym or at a local health club or even outside. Maybe you don't make friendships but just knowing there is someone else with your passion for activity/working out can really keep the motivation high when you are trying to make the time to workout when you travel.
Stick to your routine
Hopefully you know what works for you in your day-to-day routine. Don't expect everything to feel the same as it just isn't practical to take your entire normal life on the road or to a new location.
Place priority on a few things that are important to you when you travel, things that you know will help you feel the best when you travel. Who knows, maybe you need to take a few days off from training and just walk instead of run. Maybe you need to be inspired by a new restaurant to light the spark for home cooking.
Because the most important thing when you travel is to keep yourself well, make sure you focus on good hygiene habits and stick to a very strict sleeping routine. Slacking on sleep can be a big red flag for getting sick during/after your vacation or increasing your appetite/cravings.
Happy active and healthy travels!