Recently I was sitting in a restaurant in Munich, staring in resignation as my wine glass was refilled another time despite my protestations. It had been a long day of sitting through meetings, punctuated by breaks where we were plied with finger foods and coffee, followed by lunch, and then more sitting, and then after-meeting cocktails, and then dinner with two gentlemen who were hoping to land a new contract.
“Try this bread!” my host boomed, “German bread is delicious!” I tried it. It was delicious. It was only day three of my conference, but already I felt flat-bottomed and bloated. Taking the tiniest sip from my wine glass that I could manage, I resolved to get myself back on track. You see, for me, business travel is a time to reset my mind and my body.
An opportunity to start something new
The biggest obstacle to overcome is your own mind. When setting out for a work trip, I always pack certain splurge items that I wouldn’t normally use at home: sheet masks for my face, nail polish, teeth whitening strips. With a career in full swing and a six-year-old son in full zoom, I don’t have time to take care of myself at home.
When setting out for a business trip, I view it as a time to reconnect with myself and take care of my body. This also includes being mindful of what I eat. Start your trip with a pledge that you’re going to take extra care of yourself—not less. View it as a vacation from your normal routine—and your normal unhealthy habits. Here are 5 ways to get that vacation started.
1. Airplane food is not required
Just because a smiling flight attendant hands you a steaming mystery meal of dubiously-sourced ingredients doesn’t mean you are obligated to eat it. Airline food is full of sodium and sugar and usually leaves people feeling bloated. If I have time in the airport before my flight I pick up a ready-made salad, some fresh fruit, almonds and some jerky to snack on when I am hungry, instead of conforming to the airline’s idea of when a proper meal time is.
2. The hotel gym is your refuge
Hotel gyms can vary in quality—everything from well-equipped and air-conditioned temples of fitness to one treadmill and a weight set in a large broom closet. When I get into a new city, if I have the time, my first order of business is to check out the hotel gym and spend at least 30 minutes in it.
Usually, I have just emerged from an airplane with cramped and sore muscles that need to be re-stretched again. A short stint in the gym upon arrival at the hotel makes a good start to your trip. Likewise, I always try to hit the gym for an hour before I get on my return flight as well.
3. Resist the room service
It’s tempting but ordering room service is not a good way to stay on track. As wonderful as it is to have someone wheel a cart full of food that you didn’t have to prepare (and won’t have to clean up later) into your room, just say no. Instead, try venturing into the hotel restaurant. They probably have the same expensive food, but after you eat it you don’t have to spend hours with it outside your door. Better yet, find the closest walkable restaurant if you are in a safe area.
4. Nothing good ever comes from just one more drink
One of the most ever-present diet obstacles on business trips for me as a Marketing Manager is the wine. The cocktails. The happy hours. The galas. A lot of alcohol gets consumed at conferences and summits, and getting tipsy while traveling never helps your reputation the next day, so why risk it?
When I’m in the presence of people who are constantly refilling my glass, I pace myself slowly, and alternate between a glass of wine and a soda water with lime in it to stay hydrated. For the sake of your waistline, and to avoid being the subject of office gossip, just say no to another drink.
5. Take your travel routine home with you
Travel is hard on our bodies physically. Changing time zones, unfamiliar hotel beds, shooting ourselves 2 miles into the air inside of metal tubes filled with other breathing, coughing humans—none of this does our bodies any good. Travel is the time to take extra care, not less, to treat ourselves well, and possibly form new and good habits.
Resolve to cultivate these habits when you return home healthier and refreshed. You may even be able to enjoy your better, fitter self until the next trip.