Sure, it’s challenging to maintain your fitness regimen on a business trip, but it’s not impossible. And in the last few years, options have grown exponentially.
Your life is beyond hectic. Your new job is great, but it requires business trips every other week. These trips wreak havoc on your family life and sleep schedule and put you behind on your favorite TV shows. Worst of all, they mess with your main outlet for stress relief—your finely honed exercise routine.
But travel doesn’t have to throw you off track. With a little planning and creativity, you can still stay fit on your business trip. Here’s how.
Set realistic expectations.
You may not be able to hop on a bike for an hour as you do back home, but 15 minutes of resistance training are better than nothing. You don’t even need weights. When she’s on the road, personal trainer Jeanie Lipscombe does three sets of 20 repetitions of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and dips using her bed. “All you need is a little space in your hotel room,” says Lipscombe.
Sara Strope knows that she has little hope of maintaining her intense daily Ironman training when she heads off on her monthly business trips. So, before she gets on a plane, Strope cross-references her training schedule with her business plans and alters her workouts accordingly. For example, she makes sure to fit in the requisite swim or spin class before she leaves if she thinks she may not be able to work in either during her business trip.
“On a three- to five-day trip, I’m happy if I get in at least two runs,” says the 35-year-old marketing and event consultant from San Francisco, who is currently training for Ironman Maryland. “If the weather is decent and I’m in a major city, I prefer to run outside.”
Just as you prepare for your business meetings, research your workout options. Go to your hotel’s website to see what it offers. Better yet, find the best hotel gyms on HotelGymReview.com before making your reservation. Strope tries to locate hotels that have full-sized lap pools or at least a pool nearby. She recently found a pool at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. She even swam at a community pool in France.
If you’re a walker or runner, you can use MapMyRun (mapmyrun.com) to locate running routes by simply typing your destination into the search box. Want some company? Call the local run club to see if you can join a group run. If you belong to a nationwide fitness center, such as the YMCA, 24 Hour Fitness, or LA Fitness, you may have guest privileges that allow you to use a local facility.
If you practice yoga, you are in luck. Yoga classes are booming. A good place to start is Yoga Finder (yogafinder.com). Or simply inquire with your hotel’s concierge.
Ask your personal trainer to design an exercise plan for you before you leave town. Or, better yet, bring a personal trainer with you—virtually. Wello (wello.com) allows you to schedule a live interactive session with a fitness professional. All you need is a laptop with a webcam, Internet service, and space in your room to work out.
“A workout sets the tone for a successful day. Depending on how much you travel, training only while you are home may limit your progress significantly,” says Lipscombe, founder of Sausalito Fit and Truckee Fit in California.
Schedule your workouts.
Business deals over lunch and dinner, evening schmooze fests, and jam-packed meeting schedules may get in the way of your sun salutations, so you’ll have to make a commitment to doing them. Treat your workouts like business meetings by adding them to your calendar. “Business is important, but your body is as well,” says New York City–based personal trainer Franci Cohen. “Steal a few minutes from your shower time and another few from lunch, and together, these minutes will add up to give you time to exercise.”
Bring your own workout.
The first items that go into Nancy Herrera’s suitcase are her workout clothes and shoes. Next, come two five-pound dumbbells, resistance bands, and an exercise video or two. “My hotel room becomes my personal gym,” says Herrera, a librarian from Oakland, California. “I’ve mastered the art of interior decorating when it comes to relocating furniture in a hotel room to create open space.” She wakes up early each morning and can get a full-body workout in 45 to 60 minutes.
If dumbbells in your suitcase might tip the baggage scale, a jump rope or travel weights—inflatable weights that can be filled with water or sand—are also great, portable fitness equipment options. Or get creative: use cans of food as dumbbells and a stick from a poolside umbrella (ask first before dismantling the deck furniture!) as a weighted body bar, Cohen suggests.
Seek options at the hotel.
Many hotels have some sort of fitness center or pool available to guests. These can range from a small room with a few strength-training and cardio machines to full-service gyms complete with personal trainers and exercise classes. Some of the higher-end properties are catering to the fitness minded. For example, the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta has a run-gear lending program, where guests can borrow New Balance running shoes and clothes for a nominal $5 fee. The hotel also offers a run program in which staff members lead group runs for guests three days a week. Meanwhile, running maps are available to those who want to venture out on their own.
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts partnered with Core Performance to develop an integrated fitness and nutrition program for guests. The program includes a Gym-In-A-Bag with fitness tools that enable guests to exercise in the comfort and privacy of their own room. Each bag contains an exercise program book, exercise mat, stretch band, massage stick, and foam roller. Video-on-demand informational programming, upgraded fitness center facilities, and healthy food options are also part of the program.
At the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, guests can order Reebok running shoes, a track jacket, performance T-shirts, and microfiber socks. Women can outfit themselves with capris and sports bras, and men can request pants or shorts. Guests leave the items in their room when they check out, or call to receive a fresh set whenever they are ready for another workout.
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and their affiliated properties have state-of-the-art fitness centers, in-room on-demand yoga videos, and a complimentary GPS watch to map and monitor your jogging route.
When Nieca Goldberg, MD, attended medical conferences in New Orleans, she always booked the Hilton Hotel because it had spin classes. “I usually look ahead and see what type of fitness options they have. That’s the first thing I do,” says Goldberg, medical director of NYU’s Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health in New York City.
If your hotel doesn’t offer such amenities, find out if they have reciprocal deals with a local gym where you can use the facility for free or for a small fee.
Exercising won’t do a bit of good if you aren’t mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Weary travelers often fall into the “carb trap,” says Dr. Goldberg. “It’s comfortable, it’s easy to grab high-fat, high-carb fast food, but they really pack on the calories.” Instead, bring along healthy snacks so you won’t be tempted to grab a Big Mac while on the go. Dr. Goldberg suggests the bite-sized, precut packets of fruits and vegetables easily found at your local Trader Joe’s—or to ensure greater freshness, cut them up yourself. Avoid fried foods, and order your meal baked, grilled, or broiled. And request that sauces or dressings be served on the side.
Also, make sure to keep yourself hydrated. You should drink about 64 ounces of water (eight glasses) a day. Dehydration can make you feel tired, which might make you less inclined to work out.
If all of your plans fail, there is always a great fallback—walking. A vigorous 30- to 60-minute walk will get you outdoors, refresh you, and, as a silver lining, give you an opportunity to explore your environment. Whenever Casey Reisner is in a new city on business, the 32-year-old HR specialist for a Boston home audio company likes to walk around to “see the sights, get lost, and wander.”
As she says, “It’s a fun way to burn calories and immerse yourself in the culture.” DW
Sherri Eng is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.