For nearly a decade, I’ve specialized in training entertainment execs and celebrities, so I know that staying in shape while traveling is one of the biggest challenges they face.
It’s also the single most important thing they can do for themselves. Why? Because exercise enhances performance. It sharpens your game. By putting in a concerted effort to take care of your body on the road, you’ll reap countless rewards: better sleep, more energy, boosted mood, less jet lag, more mental acuity. Oh, and you’ll look better, too.
Here are 11 practical ways to help you stick to your fitness goals when you travel:
KEEP WORKOUT GEAR PACKED AT ALL TIMES. Producers and crew often keep their toiletries in a separate, ready-to-go bag, so they don’t have to re-pack for every shoot. Do the same thing when it comes to your workout gear. A pair of gym shoes can double as running shoes, a shirt made of moisture-wicking fabric, some shorts, and a light jacket will usually do the trick. Pack a jump rope for a great cardio workout. If you feel more adventurous, throw in some resistance bands.
PACK WORKOUT CLOTHES IN AN EXTERIOR POCKET of your bag, so you don’t have to dig around looking for them when you arrive at your destination. This sets you up for success.
WORK OUT FIRST THING IN THE MORNING when possible. An early workout accomplishes two things: it sets the tone for the rest of your day, and it ensures that exercise gets on your schedule. Because you can’t always predict those last-minute meetings and business dinners. Personally, I know that the longer I wait to work out—the less likely it will happen (unless you have a trainer).
CHOOSE HOTELS WITH GYMS. One of my favorite websites, http://athleticmindedtraveler.com gives expert recommendations on hotels in cities around the world based on their gyms and fitness offerings. If they do not have a gym on site, ask the manager if the hotel partners with a local gym for guests.
SET UP SESSIONS WITH A TRAINER IN ADVANCE. Call the concierge ahead of your check-in date to set up a session with a qualified fitness professional. If you’re going to be in a city for a week or more, booking some sessions with a great trainer can shake up your routine and keep you motivated while you’re on the road.
FIND OUT ABOUT GYM PARTNERSHIPS. Your home gym may allow you to work out at affiliated gyms around the world (e.g., If you’re a YMCA member, you’re usually welcome at other Y’s for free). If your gym doesn’t have clubs in other cities, ask the local gym if they have guest passes.
PRE-SHIP THE FOOD YOU NEED. Eliminate the option of eating poorly by packing or pre-shipping protein bars or shakes ahead of time. FedEx and UPS have ground and “super saver” options to make this less expensive than checking a second piece of luggage. For an extended trip, throw in some of your workout gear (a set of TRX straps, or resistance bands). That way it won’t take up space in your luggage.
REWARD YOURSELF at night with a tasty, healthy dinner. That way, when you have those crazy days, you will be looking forward to a delicious meal at night that’s both healthy and enjoyable. Red wine is encouraged!
ALTERNATE ALCOHOL WITH WATER. When you drink alcohol, you can automatically cut your consumption in half simply by alternating each alcoholic beverage with a large glass of water. Alcohol works against more than your waistline—it also interrupts sleep patterns, making the sleep you get less restful. And the importance of good sleep when traveling is huge.
TRY NOT TO EAT YOUR FEELINGS. Moving is life’s second most stressful event—and travel is stressful for many of the same reasons. When under stress, we turn to food that’s familiar and comforting. Resolve ahead of time to stick to your healthy routine. At a restaurant, make healthy meal choices—you can do it with a little extra effort.
DRAW BOUNDARIES. When you’re at the top of your game, there’s a lot of pressure—still, you’re a human being, and there comes a point where you’ll say: “Fuck it—my life starts with me.” Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. I’ve often observed that my most successful clients are those who draw boundaries and enforce them. Don’t respond to e-mails or text messages after a pre-determined time. And unless it contains your music playlists, leave your smartphone behind for the duration of your exercise time. The world won’t come crashing down. And you’ll feel better because you took charge of your life.