I’ve traveled a lot over my career. It’s often an every-week situation with two to four flights, hours of driving, multiple hotels, early mornings and late nights, and plenty of meals on the go. When I say I’m an experienced road warrior, I mean it.
I was also obese as a kid. When you combine that with my business travel, people always ask me how I’ve kept from becoming overweight again.
More relevantly, I’ve kept the grind of travel from leading to a downward health spiral that decreases my ability to perform in a high-stress job. Being healthy is directly related to better performance on the job–and can even make you a better entrepreneur.
It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been far easier than I thought it would be. It boils down to making better choices across three things–set yourself up to be active, make good food choices and use time with purpose.
Set Yourself Up to be Active
I make a conscious choice to stay active every day while traveling for business. That takes planning, but once you get into a routine with it, it becomes easy. Here’s my routine:
- Make sure you have workout clothes in your bag at all times. Pack unstructured, minimalist sneakers that can squish down–like Nike Frees, for example–so they don’t take much space. Tie your sneakers to your backpack or briefcase if space in your bag is a problem.
- Scope out hotels online to be sure their gym works for you. If you like the elliptical machine, make sure your hotel has at least one of them. If you like to run outside, call and ask the concierge for local running routes.
- Sometimes, you just cannot get to the gym for some reason. Be prepared with backup options you can do right in your room. YouTube is full of free workout videos, yoga programs, and more. Find a few you like ahead of time so you can use them in a pinch. I travel with a resistance band to make sure I can get some resistance training anywhere.
Make Good Food Choices
Life on the road can be indulgent. Eating out for all of your meals means you will be faced with fast, fatty, sugary (and delicious) options at every turn. Here are my tips:
- Limit the chances of facing bad choices a few ways. Travel with protein powder packets and a Blender Bottle to fuel and fill-up at breakfast to avoid hotel breakfasts, which are typically full of pastries and sausage. Or travel with oranges and a few low-sugar, high protein bars to make sure you have good choices to grab in a pinch.
- When eating out, focus on the appetizer section. Choosing a dairy-free soup and salad can preemptively make you too full for a heavy main course (it also keeps the bill smaller–hello, expense management). And you can steer restaurant choices to places that inherently have healthier options.
Use Time with Purpose
Lastly, be purposeful with your time. Here are two big time-management strategies I learned to use:
- Set aside the smartphone. This is a tough one for many, but not pulling your smartphone out every free moment you have will keep you from the black hole of social media updates, and emails. Keep the phone out of your hands to keep yourself active.
- Hotel gyms are usually jam packed from 6-7 A.M. and 5:30-7 P.M. Try to get there before 6 A.M. so you can get right on the machine you want to use. If that’s too early for you, go after 7 P.M. Waiting for equipment likely means not working out that day.
Some of these suggestions may sound too hard to do. The good news is, any one of them can help, so start small and make a change you can handle.
Staying fit and healthy despite the strain of travel will help you stay on top of your business-game. One success will lead to another, and soon you will find yourself making a series of smarter choices as you start to feel and look better despite your road warrior status.
This post is inspired by my best-selling book, “Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Every Day” available in print, eBook and audio book formats. It originally appeared in my Inc.com column on November 21st, 2017.