Changing time zones, travel delays, client meetings, late-night dinners…let’s face it—business travel can leave you with little opportunity for fitness. And while you may be tempted to “forget” your gym clothes altogether, consider this: staying active can give you the energy and stamina you need to help you through those long days on the road.
In fact, recent studies suggest that business travelers who exercise while they travel can improve reaction and alertness by up to 61%. Moreover, exercise boosts immunity defenses against airplane, hotel and other bothersome germs, reduces stress levels by triggering the release of brain endorphins, burns calories to help you stay trim and even helps you sleep better. So what’s the best way to grow your career without growing your waistline? Check out our advice below:
Plan Ahead: Before you leave, research your destination to learn about your hotel’s gym access or other opportunities to exercise in the vicinity. If indoor exercise isn’t your thing, find out if there is a park or recreational area where you can go walking or running. You can check out sites like Map My Run (there’s an app for that too!) and Run the Planet to find popular running and walking routes. Type your destination into the search and you’ll see routes for cities and countries worldwide. If trail running is your thing, check out the American Trail Runner Association’s website. When you make a list of things to pack, make sure to include plenty of healthy snacks, a reusable water bottle, exercise clothes, socks and a pair of sneakers—you wouldn’t forget your laptop or cell phone, and the same should hold true for your workout gear.
Don’t forget: Before you venture out, find out if there are any unsafe areas in town where you shouldn’t be working out alone. The U.S. State Department’s Country Specific Information pages, your travel assistance provider, and your company’s security expert (if applicable) are great places to turn for trustworthy guidance regarding the security landscape of your destination.
Schedule Your Workouts: When you’re away on business, there is a good chance you will have plenty of people and events competing for your time. That’s why it’s so important to strategically plan your workout times and stick to them, just like you would any other business meeting or appointment. Most people will say, “if it’s not in my calendar, it won’t happen,” so get those workouts in your calendar! If you’re an evening exerciser, try to schedule later dinners so you can squeeze in your workout after the work day. Morning people, get your workout done in the early hours, before anything else can distract or disrupt you. In fact, many health and fitness experts will argue that the “early bird exercisers catch the worm” when they’re traveling— the days can be long and last-minute client dinners and meetings can interfere with your evening workouts.
Bonus: You can also fit exercise in without planning! Have a meeting downtown? Skip the taxi and walk instead (make sure the neighborhood is safe!). Meeting a client for lunch on the tenth floor? Forget the elevator and take the stairs instead. These small changes can really add up through your trip and make a difference.
Utilize Your Hotel Room: Most people have plenty of room to work out in the confines of their hotel rooms. The open space near your hotel bed provides the perfect space for yoga or Pilates, cardiovascular exercises such as jumping jacks and body weight exercises like pushups and squats. Another option is to bring a set of resistance bands, which are light and easy to pack in your luggage. Bands provide resistance training that can be done just about anywhere and while they won’t give you the same exact workout you are accustomed to with dumbbells, they certainly do the trick when you’re traveling (here are 33 resistance band exercises you can do anywhere). You can even buy portable, collapsible dumbbells that you can fill with water when you arrive at your hotel room. For more inspiration, check out these hotel room workouts (no equipment necessary and they can be done in as little as 15 minutes a day!) from these credible trainers and fitness publications:
Another option is to bring your favorite fitness DVDs with you. Most hotel rooms have DVD players, but if not, your laptop’s DVD player is a great alternative.
Evaluate the Gym: Although it’s true that some hotel gyms can leave you disappointed, there is a significant number of hotels across the U.S. that “get it” when it comes to the needs of fitness-minded guests. For example, if you stay at a Westin property, you’ll have access to recently renovated fitness centers, workout gear lending programs with New Balance (rent clothing and shoes for your entire stay for just $5!) and local running maps. But keep in mind no matter how upscale a fitness center or their staff may seem, make sure you take appropriate safety precautions before starting your workouts. Always check that the equipment you are using is well-maintained and if you’re hiring a temporary personal trainer or taking group exercise classes, make sure your trainer has the appropriate credentials from leading certification bodies such as ACE or ACSM. And don’t forget—even if your hotel gym only offers the most basic equipment and services, you can still get a great workout with the bare essentials—most hotel fitness centers will at least have an operative treadmill and some free weights.
Extra Credit: If you belong to a gym at home, check to see if they have a branch close to your hotel. Some hotels also partner with local gyms and offer reduced daily rates to their guests.
Stick to a Well-Rounded Routine: Staying fit on the road is more than just going through the motions of a power walk, taking the stairs or doing pushups in your hotel room. Committing to eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and drinking plenty of water can all help you achieve your business trip’s goals. And while exercise is extremely beneficial for weight management and overall health, no one expects you to stick to your normal fitness plan 100%. If you can squeeze in at least 20-30 minutes of exercise in a day and stick to eating healthy foods 2/3 of the time, you should arrive home in the same condition as you left. Just remember, even a little exercise is always better than nothing!
Want even more healthy tips for your business trips? Check out: