by Meghan Casserly, Forbes.com
When traveling for business, making workouts a priority can be tough--but they shouldn't be missed.
If your job keeps you on the road, you know how hard it can be to find time for a workout in between conferences, sales meetings and business dinners. But for travelers who make regular exercise a priority while at home, missing a workout can leave you feeling sluggish and out-of-sorts.
Multiple studies show links between physical fitness and brain function, and experts at the President's Council on Physical Fitness agree that as little as 20 minutes of activity a day can keep energy levels up and fight fatigue in adults.
Beyond feeling good, rising obesity levels and heart disease in adults makes exercise something you can't afford not to do, particularly while on the road. While traveling, especially for business, caloric intake is up. You're likely drinking more and you're staying out later than you would at home. "Consider the fact that restaurant portions are the same whether you're a 120-lb. woman or a 220-lb. man" says Bill Tulin, co-author of Travel Fitness.
"For many business travelers, working out is often a trade-off for long hours spent around conference tables and shuttling between meetings," continues Tulin. "And at night, it's a matter of being up late, eating out and socializing with clients."
Your workout can easily be lost in the shuffle, but for dedicated travelers or those looking to squeeze some sport out of a business trip, a little preparation can go a long way.
Plan Ahead for Peak Performance
A sure way to let your fitness routine lapse is by going on the road without your gear, right down to your running shoes. "It all boils down to planning," says Tulin. Over the course of his career--he is a partner with Ernst & Young--Turin has traveled extensively and learned from experience the best ways to stay on top of your game on the road start at home.
"When you're calling to make a [hotel] reservation, always ask if there are fitness facilities, and what kind," says Tulin, who notes that in the past two decades, hotels that cater to the business traveler have made a conscious effort to step up health and fitness facilities--whether it means updated machines or partnerships with nearby gyms.
"But with updated facilities, many hotel gyms are offering memberships to people other than hotel guests to offset costs," says Tulin. This can result in an overcrowded gym--and a far more stressful and less efficient workout. So when the reservation desk boasts a 10,000-square-foot facility, don't be bashful asking just who it's available to.
Packing correctly is also an essential part of channeling your inner athlete on the road. For runners, this is easy. Many athletic companies, including Puma and Reebok have created lines of portable, packable, super-light sneakers for runners on the go. The Nike Free 5.0, for example, weighs in at just 6.9 ounces per shoe, and the flex-groove sole makes them a great choice for stuffing into over-packed suitcases. For other, more equipment-heavy athletic pursuits like tennis or golfing, try calling ahead to the concierge to rent equipment prior to your arrival.
Oz Garcia, Ph.D., a nutrition counselor based in New York, notes that a call to the front desk is also a perfect opportunity to request copies or links to menus at restaurants in the hotel and surrounding areas. "I've learned on the road to do a little bit of research on what food might be available in any given city," he says. "It helps me to be prepared to make healthy ordering decisions."
Don't Waste A Minute
"The first thing I do after I get to a hotel is change and go to the gym," says Garcia, who has worked with both executives and celebrities who juggle chaotic travel schedules. He says that even a short workout can go a long way in regulating energy after a flight, fighting jet-lag and re-energizing your immune system. Fitness is central, he says, to how business travelers, who are much more prone to colds, flus and sinus infections, can deal with the rigors of flying.
If a trip to the gym immediately upon landing is unrealistic, scope out more creative ways to stay fit. The Mayo Clinic suggests hallway laps, with extra points for climbing the stairs between floors or heading to the hotel swimming pool for some quick laps.
"The important thing is fitness efficiency," says Tulin." Taking small pieces of your day to maximize the calories burned." He points out that this can include everything from the oft-recommended taking of the stairs or walking to meetings instead to taking cabs to 20 quick inclined push-ups in your hotel room or a stretching session with a resistance band before bed.
Take A Tour
"Running is the best way to check out a city," says Lindsay Cooper, an advertising executive based in Chicago. "I do my best exploring--and thinking--when I get out of the hotel and hit the pavement." The most basic, and schedule-conscious way to achieve a running tour is to chart your own course. But don't forget to ask the front desk for a map.
"One time I was in St. Louis and went out without a map, and got lost and ended up running 12 miles!" Cooper says. "Needless to say, I was sore and sorry when I got back to the hotel late for business cocktails. The worst was limping into the lobby of the hotel to find our clients waiting for me and I was still in running gear." For a more structured run, look into guided running tours such as City Running Tours, which offers tours of the country's top tourist destinations, including New York, Chicago, Charleston and Washington, D.C.
While it certainly takes effort for business travelers to maintain a workout schedule, research done by Marriott shows that fitness is a growing concern for high-achieving professionals. "I think it's now obvious based on a very large body of information that being fit makes an enormous difference in terms of both your immune system and your energy levels," says Oz. Able-bodied translates into able-minded, which is what every frequent flier, business traveler or road warrior (whatever you call yourself) needs most.