The Fit Business Traveler's Bill of Rights

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As business travelers, we have made the decision to approach our careers in a way that leaves very little time for ourselves. Not only are we putting in a full day’s work with the rest of the working world – we’re also sacrificing additional time and energy traveling from one place to another, living out of a suitcase, and sleeping in beds that aren’t our own.

And to be quite honest, some of us enjoy this life. Sometimes it can be glamorous. (Business class upgrades, anyone?) But often the perks give way to that high-pressure list of commitments to bosses, colleagues, and clients that grows longer when we are on the road. At some point, it seems like a luxury to take care of ourselves or pursue our fitness goals.  

Before long, you start cutting those workouts short – or cutting them out altogether. Against your better judgment, you order whatever room service suits your fancy while locked away in your hotel room catching up on work that was waylaid by flights and meetings. And despite your best intentions, after a day of back-to-back meetings and no lunch, you sit at a team dinner and stuff yourself past your limit.

Should we even bother trying to take back our time and our health when work travel demands so much of us?  Yes. In fact, it is imperative. I don’t have to list the numerous studies and articles that lament how work travel impacts health, and how health affects productivity – you’ve seen them all, I’m sure.  You owe it to yourself, and your company, to remain at the top of your fitness game.

With that said, I’ve outlined a Fit Business Traveler’s Bill of Rights, a list of five pointers that will help you maintain your fitness and become a more effective employee while you travel for business.

Ask your hotel as many questions as you can about their fitness facility.
Some hotel fitness centers have come a long way, while many others still leave oh so much to be desired. While you can make any gym situation work with a little creativity,  a crowded workout room with sparse equipment is not an ideal situation for you to put in your best workout.

Do not rely on TripAdvisor photos taken by hotel management or travelers for an accurate view of the workout room. Pick up the phone and ask very specific questions. How many hand weights do they have? How many treadmills? How busy is the workout room at 6 AM? Act like a VIP because guess what? You are. If a hotel wants your business, they will answer these questions without protest. And yes, if you are a visual person, go ahead and ask for additional photos.

In the absence of an in-house fitness facility, check out local gyms.
This is actually my preferred method for working out in a new city, as it is generally a much better option and provides a nice peek into the local gym scene. It is becoming more common for smaller boutique hotels to provide guest passes to local gyms. Often, this is not very broadly advertised so, again, ask. A handful of new apps like Zeamo also allow travelers to search for local gyms that offer special day rates.

Runners, join a local running group.
For me, running has been the best way to explore a new city or town. If you are more of a social runner, or if you want to avoid running alone in areas you are unfamiliar with, do a Google or Meet-Up search for local running groups. Most of them are free to join, and they are a great way to beat isolation, socialize with people outside of work, and network with like-minded runners.

Some hotels like the Westin have their own running groups for guests. And if you are lucky enough to stay at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, the Fleet Feet Running store next door prominently advertises group runs for guests. (Pro tip: The San Francisco Marriott Marquis also has one of the THE BEST workout facilities I’ve ever seen inside a hotel.)

Plan your meals in advance...no, really!
Yes, you are busy packing, working, and getting ready for your trip. However, consider this: Imagine you are following the old 80/20 principle only when you are at home. That’s great, but if you travel 20% or more the rest of the year and eat like you are on vacation during that time, that 20 portion becomes 30, then 40... This is exactly how my weight crept up during the first two years I traveled for work.

Decision fatigue is real, and that is why it is important to make meal decisions before the hundreds of others you will make while working on the road. Prior to departure, do as much research as you can into the restaurants that are in your area and make notes on those that can cater to your specific diet. Note where you plan to eat, when, and most importantly, their delivery hours so you know where you can get a good meal, fast.

In the absence of an organized plan, feel free to improvise and seek out resources to get your creative juices flowing. @thehealthysalesman offers some great on-the-fly tips for cobbling together healthy meals on the road. In some cases, if your hotel has a refrigerator and you prefer to cook for yourself, you may want to travel with an induction burner as @bcorbitt85 often does on his business trips.

Set Boundaries
My father, a retired consultant, always said that when it comes to business travel, employers should make every effort to ensure employees are able to lead their lives on the road just as they would at home. Certainly, this is often limited to an extent by company budgets and per diem restrictions. However, without wading into debates about whether your company should make you share a hotel room with your boss or not, remember that you have a right to stick to your commitments to yourself and your health, always.  Don’t be afraid to be the odd person out and place that complicated order for paleo Pad Thai at your client dinner. Ask for meetings to end promptly at 5:00 PM so you can squeeze in a quick workout before dinner. Your commitment to fitness is a signal to others that you are goal-oriented and achievement-driven - something every professional respects and admires.  

Follow this Bill of Rights not only in January while your resolutions are still strong. By implementing these guidelines throughout the entire year, you will achieve your fitness goals with fewer setbacks. Not only will you see a difference in your overall health, but also in the way you approach business travel altogether.

What would you add to the Fit Traveler’s Bill of Rights?