Six tips for staying fit on the road

By David Flynn, January 21 2016
Six tips for staying fit on the road

Business travel and fitness do not go together.

Trust me on this. I’m pretty much a full-time business traveller and a very part-time ‘trying to get fit’ guy.

It’s not just that those trips get in the way of your established home routine, but so many aspects of business travel are by nature anti-fitness.

Spending hours sitting in a plane? Tempting spreads at airport lounges and hotel breakfasts, plus those working lunches and dinners? They’re the easiest way to pile on the kilos.

And keeping fit when you travel doesn’t get any easier when you’re trying to contend with too little sleep due to jetlag or extended working hours.

I find that time is the biggest challenge when I’m travelling.

When I'm not travelling, my normal working day is typically 8am to 6pm (New Year's Resolution: work shorter days!), but being on the road can easily add a few hours either side.

And no matter how handy it is to have a hotel gym just one short elevator ride away, when you’re getting by with barely five hours’ sleep as it is, there’s really no time left over.

Even so, the basics of ‘eat less and move more’ remain the best guidepost for business travellers who want to stay in shape.

Here are six strategies I’m using – or trying to use – to stay fit on the road.

Inflight meals

This is easy enough: most airlines offer at least one healthy dish as a main meal. You can also order a ‘special meal’ in advance rather than rely on the usual “beef or chicken?” choice.

I tend to rely on airport lounges for a more substantial meal and then eat light during the flight. There’s much more variety, especially if you have access to a good first class lounge, and it’s all fresh.

This strategy also works well on long flights with stopovers.

On a recent British Airways flight from London to Sydney via Singapore, for example, it made more sense to skip the ‘breakfast’ served as we approached Singapore (in the early afternoon!) and enjoy a freshly-prepared dish of barramundi and cous cous at the Qantas Singapore Lounge before continuing on to Sydney.

Hotel breakfasts

Few meals on your business trip are as geared towards temptation as the morning buffet in a five-star hotel.

Ironically, however, the choice offered by a good breakfast spread works in your favour – provided you didn’t leave your discipline upstairs in the hotel room. Fat-lined soggy bacon and calorie-filed Danish pastries don’t put themselves on your plate.

Most hotels can whip up a healthy omelette made to order, with sides of fresh fruit, yoghurt and orange juice... even a piece of wholemeal toast, if you’re not avoiding the morning carbs.

Business lunches and dinners

A business lunch or dinner doesn’t have to mean copious food and booze.

Even if the menu doesn’t seem diet-friendly, be mindful of portion sizes and ask the waiter about leaving off any rich sauces which might otherwise smother your meal.

Add a large salad and a plate of steamed vegies for the table and you’re set.

As for alcohol, it depends on how seriously you’re watching those calories.

I rarely drink at home, but when I travel I’d rather not live like a monk – so I generally limit myself to two standard drinks a day and choose which meals they’ll be served with.

Hotel gyms

Fitness-oriented colleagues tell me that hotels are finally getting serious about their gyms and going beyond the clapped-out bikes and a multi-purpose ‘home gym’ machine.

The best hotel gyms can now match up to slick fitness studios with cross-trainers, ample free weights plus machines and, in some cases, a personal trainer on call.

Just be sure that gym access is included in your room rate, as some US hotels charge extra for using the gym.

Hit the pool

If swimming’s your thing, there are few better ways to stay in shape than a daily swim at the hotel pool.

In fact, a dozen laps can be a perfect way to counter the lethargy of jetlag when you arrive at the hotel. It gets you moving and fires up those feel-good endorphins, which give you that much-needed energy boost, and also spurs your appetite.

Follow the swim with some protein and greens and your body will be in fine form to take you through the rest of the day.

Go for a run or walk

There’s no reason to stay within the confines of the hotel.

A morning amble lets you see the local sights in a healthy way, and many hotels now provide a runner’s map with suggested routes for pounding the pavement.

Want to mix things up a bit more? Search the web to see if the city has any regular morning or evening running meets where you can mingle with locals on a guided group run.

What are your top tips for staying fit on business tips?

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 442

1. Exercise

2. Eat healthy

3. Limit alcohol.

It's not difficult.

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 212

Not difficult but incredibly dull...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 550

Even simpler, 2 words: Self control. People who don't understand that being obese is simply a differential between energy input and output amaze me.

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 65

Avoiding plane food is a big one - sometimes I have acess to 2-3 plane meals a day and if you have lounge access or a hotel room waiting for you it is not worth it to gorge on $2 meals with processed meat along with cheap wine/beer.

Wait for the lounge or the hotel where you can choose healthier options.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 362

I do find it challenging when abroad but not impossible. My trips tend to be 2 to 3 weeks at a time whcih allows me to work back into a routine pretty quickly. The hotel gyms are my home away from home so always make sure I pick a hotel with one thats up to scratch.

Less in, more out. Its simply a matter of physics.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 122

I personally find that when flying Asian carriers, choosing a noodle option for breakfast (ones in a broth) is far lighter than something that has egg and meat... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Jun 2015

Total posts 71

I try and avoid hotel cliub lounges now as it normally just has me eating more than i need before a dinner anyway, and drinking too much. Sometimes i order breakfast to my room rather than the buffet. no temptation in your room. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

1. Avoid travelling to the USA where possible LOL

2. Avoid 'high end' restaurants anywhere for routine meals - you might be able to order the 'healthy' main course option but the desert tray and alcohol will always provide a distraction. This rule can sometimes be broken for a) special occassions or b) when extreme boredom sets in.

3. On aircraft, try to eat as much fruit as possible, rather than the cardboard pizza snack or the copious junk/snack food that is available. QF Weiss frozen bars gain an exception pass, in my world though.

4. I always avoid the hot 'noodle' options on Asian carriers - where has the water come from?

5. Don't become too precius about all this -- it can kill the fun of any overseas trip if you let it. As in all things - moderation goes a long way.

Avoid the buffet breakfast!!!!

It may be free but your waist pays for it...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 134

Use a running app or google running tracks near your hotel. A quick run around the Eiffel Tower or Opera House should set you up nicely for a busy day...

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