How To Stay In Great Shape When Travelling
by UP Fitness February 22, 2017
How do you stay in great shape when you're travelling?
This is something we are asked by many clients at Ultimate Performance – many of whom jet off around the world on regular business trips.
If you're working towards a body transformation, jet lag, loss of sleep, the lure of alcohol and convenience food and the lack of gym facilities can seem like a big setback.
But it doesn't have to be; with a bit of planning ahead and some steps you can follow to stay on track.
Hundreds of impressive results prove it is more than possible to achieve your body transformation goals around a busy travel and work schedule.
It starts by following these five golden rules when you're embarking on your trip…
1. The Flight
It all starts with the flight. What we've found is those who can exert the most discipline on the outbound journey are those who will be most likely to make the trip a success, both for their bodies and their business.
There are three things you need to be wary of when flying: hydration, aeroplane food and alcohol.
The air cabin humidity is significantly lower in a plane than our typical indoor environment, making dehydration a real issue. To combat this, aiming to drink approximately 250ml of fluid every hour will help offset any of the symptoms of dehydration.
The problem is, most business executives are used to having a few cocktails at the airport lounge, followed by a few glasses of wine on the plane to relax and kill time. This is probably the worst start to your trip possible, both from a body composition standpoint (think dehydration, empty calories, and increased likelihood of poor food choices) and in terms of business.
The latter is validated by all of our successful clients, of which many actively recommend their employees to avoid all alcohol when flying in order to maintain focus, productivity and performance.
Aeroplane food is always a tricky hurdle. Our advice is typically one of the following:
- Pack your meals with you for the plane. This is the most optimal choice and the one we recommend with time-sensitive transformation deadlines.
- Buy the right food at the airport. Ideally, something like a selection of cold meats or fish with a bag of salad from M&S would work great. If you do choose to eat at a restaurant in the airport, opt for lean cuts of protein with vegetables.
- Fast. This is a viable option, especially for short (<4 hours) or overnight flights. For the latter, this fast will also help with jet lag, as you’ll be able to regulate your meal times so it’s breakfast in your new location.
When travelling, it’s imperative you maintain your training schedule.
The only time a break would be worthwhile is if you’ve been going hard with your training and diet for a long time, you’re on vacation, and you simply want a mental break from it all.
One of the issues with long-haul flights is the accompanying jet lag.
Exercise is one of the best ways to mitigate jet lag, as it may help with time change adjustments and speeding up the return to normal circadian rhythms (our internal body clock).
If you’re chasing goals, you must train.
To best utilise training to help with jet lag, there are two ways to go about it:
- Train as soon as you land. This works great for eliminating the nauseating fatigue that long flights can create. In professional wrestling, where the travelling schedule often requires wrestlers to travel to three or four different cities every week, one of their secrets to staying fresh and focused is to do some form of exercise when they land from a flight.
- Train first thing in the morning. If you land late at night set your alarm at your normal wake up time the next day and train.
Now we’ve established the importance of training, what should you do?
When clients go on business trips, time is often very limited. That’s why the number one piece of advice is to do something every day, or as often as you can.
Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, stimulating your metabolism and muscle tissue when abroad is vital for maintaining progress (when abroad, focus on at least maintaining what you’ve achieved. Anything gained is a bonus).
Replicating your home training in hotel gyms can be tough, especially if equipment and time is limited. If you can, that’s great. If not, we advise the following four systems:
- HIIT. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most time efficient way to exercise when abroad. Five to 20 minutes is all you’ll need. All hotel gyms will have some sort of cardio equipment that you can use for this, and at the very least, a treadmill. Instead of using it the traditional way, try ‘deadmills’. For example, go hard for 10-20 seconds, and then rest/go slow for 40-50 seconds.
- EDT. With Escalating Density Training, simply pick two exercises – it can be anything, as long as they don’t compete with each other. Then set a rep target for each exercise, and perform as many sets back and forth as possible in the timeframe you have.
- Rep Goals. This works well on exercises like chin-ups, dips and push-ups, but can be done with any. Set a rep target, set a rest interval and get to the number in as few sets as possible.
- Bodyweight Circuits. There really is no excuse with these, as they can be done anywhere, with very little space needed. To supplement this, packing some resistance bands can also be very handy. Below is a great ‘hotel bedroom’ workout to try.
The ‘Hotel Bedroom’ Workout
- ‘Squeeze’ Press-Ups – 10-15 reps. Make regular push-ups hard by squeezing your hands in against the floor as you go up and down.
- One-And-A-Half Bulgarian Split Squat – 10-15 reps. Go down all the way, come up half way, go down again, then come all the way up. That’s one rep.
- YTWL (Shoulders) – 10-15 seconds each direction. On each move, keep your scapulae back and down throughout.
- One-Legged Hip Thrust – 10-15 reps.
Perform 2-5 rounds, with no rest between exercises. Rest 60 seconds between circuits.
- Plank to Press-Up – 5-10 reps.
- Reverse Lunges – 10-15 reps.
- Mountain Climbers – 8-10 reps.
- Super Slow Squats – 10 reps. Squat up and down, five seconds each way.
Perform 2-5 rounds, with no rest between exercises. Rest 60 seconds between circuits.
So far we’ve discussed everything that you can completely control. When it comes to diet, things are a little tougher in reality.
Business trips usually involve client dinners and entertainment, which means good food and alcohol.
However, this doesn’t mean going off the rails. Here are the rules we typically advise my clients to follow when away on business:
- Eat three meals a day. If you normally eat four to six meals, dropping to three meals a day can help control calories. If most of your meals are on the go, or in restaurants, they’ll typically be higher in fat than normal, spiking calories in the process.
- Emphasise protein and greens. Wherever you eat, you can always pick a lean protein on the menu, and you can always ask for vegetables on the side. This is simple.
- If in doubt, stay low carb. Even if you’ve got carbs in your plan, when travelling it’s very difficult to control the quality and quantity of carbohydrates. In most restaurants, unless you can get steamed rice, most carbohydrate dishes will come with a great deal of fat too. To create more chances of making the trip a success, stick with low carb options.
- Make your last meal of the day the largest. Most client entertainment events will be in the evening, so it makes sense to have dinner as your largest meal of the day. Following on from the following point, if you can source clean carbs, this is where you would place them in the day.
- If you must drink, stick to one type. Avoid beer, and stick to clean spirits. Alcohol has the greatest potential to cause slip-ups, so always try and stick to clean spirits like gin or whisky, with NO mixers (which is where calories can really rack up!), and try to limit it to two or three, maximum. During and after drinking alcohol, make hydration a priority.
If you’re someone who travels, or you’re a trainer who has clients who travel regularly, don’t use it as an excuse to go backwards. Focus on what you CAN do, and set a goal of at least maintaining your progress thus far, so that you can push on further when you return.
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