Confession: this used to be my mantra while traveling:
A year ago, when I was working a regular 9 to 5 and had three week’s vacation, I would wisely gear up for vaca by hitting the gym more frequently, and restricting my diet a bit to knock off a few lbs that I knew would eventually be put back on while on “treat yo self” vacation mode. Vacation began when I got to the airport, grabbing something I normally wouldn’t eat (Chick Fil A in Terminal B, lookin at you) and ordering up a glass of wine in flight while jamming out on my headphones to some Jimmy Buffett.
Fast forward to today, I ditched the 9 to 5 and now do freelance work, which gives me the freedom to work remotely and travel much more to be with my boyfriend, who lives in Texas. He’s a traveling musician, so my typical trip to Texas consists of me flying into whatever airport he’s closest to, then hitting the road to one of his shows, to his home near Ft. Worth, or to his beach house just south of Houston. So, all of this means that I spend much more time in transit, and do not always have access to a gym or even a kitchen. Gone are the days of meal prep, creating a weekly workout regimen (RIP training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday morning) and a normal sleeping schedule.
Needless to say, I have had to ditch the “treat yo-self” mentality. Traveling is no longer just for vacation. This is now my life.
I’m not going to lie, the adjustment has been extremely difficult and has had not just a physical, but also an emotional effect on me. In the beginning, I definitely still treated my travels as a vacation by grabbing airport snacks and drinks, allowing myself to eat whatever gas station road trip food I wanted, and slacking on my workout schedule. Then, every time I got back to Cincinnati, I’d go into full workout/diet mode, only to fly out again a few weeks over and do it all over again. Clearly, this was not sustainable. I needed to adjust my thinking for the sake of my overall health and well being.
I’m sure a lot of you reading this have a similar mentality as I did towards vacation, or maybe you travel for work and struggle to eat healthy while away. Here are a few things that I have found helpful to create a more balanced lifestyle while traveling.
Step 1: (Try to) avoid airport food and drink (and inevitably save a ton of money). I now pack a box of RX Bars in my luggage to eat instead of airport food and gas station snacks. I also bring an empty cyclebar water bottle in my carry on so that I can fill it up in the terminal. Since you can bring food through security, if it’s around lunch or dinner time, I’ll prep a salad with baked chicken and sweet potato in a tupperware container that I don’t care for and can recycle after I’m finished eating. Luckily, if you can’t plan ahead like this, most airports do have healthier options for snacks, but they come at a steeper price point than the grocery, and are usually situated perfectly next to the twizzlers and the trail mix with the M&Ms in it.
Step 2: Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to (I hear my mom’s voice ringing in my head circa 2004). Whether it’s show day and everyone around is drinking, having a good time, and ordering late night pizza, or we’re at some amazing Tex Mex restaurant known for having the best margaritas in town, I’ve had to learn some serious self control. Not going to lie, the wheels fall off the wagon every now and then (I mean, when is the next time I’ll have the chance to have the world’s greatest margarita?!), but I try to practice something that I learned from Melissa Hartwig, the founder of Whole30. She suggests taking a step back, or waiting a few minutes to order to give yourself time to think if it’s *really* worth it. If the answer is yes, then I order it, take a few savory sips of the limey tequila goodness, then stop when I feel like I’ve had enough.
Dining like the locals. Here's the start of a Cajun crawfish boil we had this week. So delicious.
Which brings me to the next step.
Step 3: Don’t be afraid to make special kitchen requests while dining out. I don’t always have final say in the restaurant we’re going to (and a lot of times, we’re driving through smaller towns that have very few dining options). So, I started being a real pain in the butt by asking the server specific questions (how is your chicken prepared? What all is in your salad dressing?) and adjusting my order accordingly. Is the chicken cooked in oil? Request that it’s cooked “dry”. Do they not have a salmon salad on the menu, but they have a side salad, and a salmon entree? Make a special request for just a piece of salmon and a side salad.
Step 4: There is rarely an excuse to not move once a day. There is always a road to run down, or a beach to walk on. The hotels almost always have a gym. There are a million and a half at home workout videos you can find online (Allie Janszen’s Instagram, Kevin Wimmer of Elmntl Fitness’s Fitness Anywhere app are some of my faves), and ClassPass gives you the opportunity to move from city to city. The last time I was in Ft. Worth, I logged onto ClassPass and there just so happened to be a CycleBar .4 miles down the road from me. For me, the excuse usually isn’t a lack of motivation. It’s usually my FOMO that is screaming out, telling me I might miss out on something super fun if I break away and go for the run. But when I do, I never regret it.
I found a local gym in Bolivar, TX that allowed you to buy a 5-pack of drop-ins. I'll be back.
Step 5: Remember what day it is. I realize this sounds silly. But just this week, I legitimately did not know what day it was (one of my clients had to point it out to me that it was Thursday, not Wednesday. Embarrassing). So, I started using this as a method to keep my health in check: remind myself of the day, and what I would be doing if I were back at home. It is a Tuesday? OK, normally, I’d start my day by working out with a personal trainer, so maybe I should check to see if that gym down the street allows visitors and get a similar workout in. Would I normally start drinking wine at 4pm in the afternoon on a Monday? No? Then stick to water and, if I want a glass of wine, save it for dinner.
I’m still working on not drinking alcohol at every show (being sober at a country concert seems unnatural). Just yesterday, Joshua Reed of Reed’s Wellness Fitness Training gave me the brilliant suggestion to swap a few vodka sodas for just soda water with a lime - a simple way to avoid peer pressure.
Me and my sister at one of William's shows in Key West. Yes, we brought our own koozies.
I’d love your input and feedback, as this is an ever evolving challenge for me. How do you stay healthy while traveling?