You know how it goes with traveling.
You’re living out of a suitcase. Your water intake is at an all-time low. You haven’t pooped in three days. Your quality of sleep is far from optimal, and all you really want is to lie in your own bed with your own covers with your head resting on your own damn pillow.
Simply looking at your itinerary makes you moan. A flight departure time that leaves you wondering if you should bother sleeping tonight at all or stay up and catch the early taxi to the airport. An excruciatingly long layover. Then the commute to your hotel.
I know how tempting it can be to throw fitness into the backseat during times like these because the thought of going out of your way to pack your food and scope out a half-decent gym is more than your weary self can handle right now.
You know what sounds nice? Being lean 365 days a year, travel or not. But you know what apparently sounds nicer right at this very moment? Vegging on the bed in your hotel gym catching up on the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance.
Been there, done that a hundred times over.
Except those days are done. True fitness is a mindset. [Tweet “True fitness is fitness all the time – not just when you feel like it.”] It’s making the right decision amongst a sea of temptations.
What’s my point, then? My point is that fitness happens everywhere – whether you are home, away on vacation, or on the road.
Let me illustrate with a story.
Two weeks ago, I was at the airport to catch my flight back to NYC from Savannah. I got there early with plenty of time to spare and snuggled into a seat at my gate. And of course, the flight was delayed due to inclement weather in LaGuardia. This meant that my planned eating schedule for the day was completely thrown off, as I’d have no time to go back home before rushing off to work. All I had with me was about half a dozen Quest bars (what? you never know what’s going to happen!).
So I whipped out my iPhone, pulled out the MyMacros+ app, and did some tweaking with my meals for the day. Chicken and rice, out; Quest bar and banana, in. Top sirloin and sweet potatoes, out; protein shake, in.
I didn’t bat an eyelash during this process because I knew that it would all work out in the end. Sure, maybe I’d have to wait a few extra hours in between meals, but to me, that was a better option than caving into a Snickers bar at the airport.
You’ll notice that my food substitutions above were items of convenience. They were quick, easily accessible, and portable as well. Consuming numerous protein bars and protein shakes may not have been my first choice for the day, but I did the best I could with what I had.
Ultimately, my flight was pushed back not once, not twice, but three total times and I didn’t make it back to NYC until the next afternoon. I was left to fend for myself for a day and a half. I had a plethora of decisions to make, but I was committed to my fitness and wasn’t going to get a little airport trouble throw me off the wagon. Yes, I did go 20 straight hours without eating due to the stress and lack of resources, and yes, I was incredibly dehydrated, but at the end of the day, I made it. I met my macros. Aaand that was something I could be proud of.
The take-aways? Fitness can happen anywhere.
If you’re going away for a while, bring fitness-friendly convenience foods with you. This isn’t to say that you should get by solely on protein shakes, but they’re a safe alternative to fall back when your options are limited. Think Quest bars, protein powder (portioned out into single-serving bags), beef jerky (great for road trips), nuts, and fruit (apples, bananas, etc.). I would recommend being overly cautious and pack a little more than you think you’ll need. You never know when emergency situations like mine above will arise.
If you’re unsure about the day’s plans, stick to protein and veggies when you can. Social events are commonly replete with carb- and fat-heavy snacks. Hors d’oeuvres, anyone? This will typically mean sticking to eggs, salads, and meats in the daytime so you can save up your carbs and fats for dinner. This also makes sense because you can allow yourself to enjoy treats – be it a cocktail, mashed potatoes, or a gravy biscuit – in the company of friends and family without having to feel guilty. What’s more, the high protein intake throughout the day will likely satiate you, so you’ll end up consuming less in the evening.
If you’re going to be short on time, consider intermittent fasting. The premise of this is very, very simple: fast most of the time, eat some of the time. Perhaps you’re going to be stuck in conference meetings all day with zero time to catch your breath, or maybe you’ll have your hands full at a wedding. If you can get a general idea of what your schedule will look like beforehand, take advantage of the opportunity to decide at approximately what times you’ll be able to sneak in some chow.
If you’re eating out a restaurant, go protein heavy. Provided that you haven’t opted to take an off-plan meal, safe bets always include salad with double meat (dressed on the side), salmon or white fish, leaner cuts of steak (top sirloin, top round, eye of round, filet mignon), or chicken breast. There are more options, of course, and you may have to play extra nice with the waiter to accommodate any special requests you have (light on the sauce, hold the dressing, no butter, extra veggies, etc) but just remember to be generous with your tip.
If you have zero control over your food options, exercise portion control. Alright, so perhaps you’re unexpectedly stranded in the middle of nowhere and all you have available to eat is the plethora of junk food in the vending machine down the hall. Do you have to get a Twix bar, a bag of Doritos, and a Powerade? Do you really? Or can you maybe get just the Doritos and consider that your treat for the day until you can get yourself to some better choices? If you have a plate of pasta in front of you, is it really necessary to finish off the whole dish?
Remember: you always have a choice. There are almost always going to be pros and cons with every decision you make. The challenge will lie in weighing your options and figuring out what’s more important to you, your health or satisfying your immediate needs.
So. If you find yourself on the road, will you stay committed to your fitness and make the right choices, or will you fall into what’s easy and make excuses?
That’s up to you.