How One Entrepreneur (and Powerlifter) Stays Strong on the Road

  Debbie recently placed first in the Master’s Powerlifting Division at Liftoberfest on September 29.

Debbie recently placed first in the Master’s Powerlifting Division at Liftoberfest on September 29.

Debbie Hatch is, as one friend describes her, “a road warrior even among road warriors!” She spent 231 days on the road last year and has averaged 200+ travel days annually for the past 14 years.  As of July, she already had elite status on two different airlines and had locked in her 2019 companion pass.

This grueling travel schedule is made possible by a fierce commitment to her own health and fitness. At 54 years old, this motorcycle riding grandmother of five believes in doing what she can, when she can, with what’s available at the time.  We’re pleased she made time in her busy schedule to chat with us about her goals, her inspiration, and her tips for staying fit on the road.  

Tell us about your work & travel:

I am the Founder and CEO of Pinnacle Personnel Services, LLC. As an HR consultant, I teach a variety of human resources and leadership courses including retirement and financial literacy. As an entrepreneur, I’m responsible for everything from curriculum development, contract management, bidding on jobs, bookkeeping, and marketing. I write and order handbooks, make my own travel arrangements, and sometimes even manage registration.  I fly in and personally teach classes. In the last 60 days I’ve been to Missouri, California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Delaware, New Jersey, Nebraska, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

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I also maintain Family & FIT – a website and online community where I post about mindset, healthy nutrition habits, and movement. Tips for regular people in regular lives with families and responsibilities.  

 At 54, in addition to managing two businesses, and spending more than 200 days a year on the road, I love lifting weights, powerlifting, yoga, riding my motorcycles, mud runs, hiking, dancing with my grandchildren and everything in between. I am smarter, stronger, more physically fit than I have ever been. I'm living, and loving, life.

That’s the thing.  We’re not “just” road warriors, CEOs, coaches, parents, students, workers, consultants, or whatever.  We’re all of those things. Finding balance can be difficult. When I first started traveling, I forgot to take care of myself.  I was tired. I spent my time traveling, in the hotel, and then the classroom. At the end of the day I was too tired for anything except vegging in my room and prepping for the next day.  This process was on continual repeat. I had far too many restaurant meals, ate all the free hotel snacks, and did very little exercise.  I put on a not-so-nice 20 extra pounds.  Worse than that, I was lethargic and disengaged.

Working out on the road

I knew going to the hotel fitness center by myself, routinely, wasn’t going to happen at first.  I needed a kick-start. I was living in Vegas at the time, and joined a local bootcamp. Days that I was home, I went to class.  Days that I was on the road, I started doing exercise videos in my room. I started running because I didn’t need any special equipment, and could do it from anywhere. I started to feel better.  Hotel fitness centers got better too. That combination meant I began lifting weights in addition to running.

One thing led to another and ultimately, last July I decided I’d sign up for a powerlifting meet.  Hotels are not equipped for this type of training. I have a membership to Anytime Fitness. While they are not in all of the remote locations I travel to, they are in many.  With my membership key, I can access any gym at any time. I did my first meet last October and loved it so much, I just did another one on September 29th and placed first!  Many local gyms offer day passes and/or classes which range from $10 - $20.  Friends used to be surprised that I would “spend that much” just to go to the gym.  

We think nothing of spending that much on dinner, or a movie.  I am simply taking myself to the gym. This is an investment in my personal well-being!  

Hotel fitness center, commercial gym or hotel room? 

I don’t believe there’s any one exercise, time of day to workout, or any specific program that is better than any other.  As a road warrior, flexibility is key. I’ve used the hotel gym, commercial gym, and my hotel room. Any of those work – as does the local park or hiking trail.  I’ve rented bicycles, called friends in the local area to hike with me, and seen many cities on foot (most recently, I walked 5 miles throughout Philadelphia). I never sit at the airport.  I walk. I take the stairs. I’ve worked out at the playground. Seriously, you can make anything work for you if you start looking at these things as opportunities.

  During a recent trip to Philly, Debbie took a five-mile walk through the city.

During a recent trip to Philly, Debbie took a five-mile walk through the city.

 I firmly believe in doing what I can, when I can, with what’s available.  

 In the context of eating, that might mean making the best choice from what’s available at the local gas station because my flight was delayed and by the time I landed, everything was closed.  That might mean carrying Quest bars, unsalted almonds, and protein powder in my carry on for the “just in case”.  

In the context of working out, that might mean early in the morning before my flight or in the evening after a day of teaching.  What fits into my schedule changes daily. It might mean doing a short workout because what’s available for energy is very little.

All other things being equal, in order of preference, here’s where I like to work out on the road:   

  1. Anytime Fitness.  Again, I have a membership that allows me access to any gym, anywhere, at any time day or night.

  2. The Hotel Fitness Center. I love that most hotels now have weights in their fitness centers. I do circuits in the hotel - 2 weight exercises and :30 second sprints.  I’ll put together 3 or 4 circuits and workout for 20-30 minutes.

  3. The Hotel Room.  I can do pushups, mountain climbers, burpees, tricep dips, and other bodyweight movements right in the room.  I travel with resistance bands and also follow some yoga and workout programs on my laptop.

  4. Outside.  I love hiking, walking, and occasionally I will run.  I don’t always know of safety concerns in the local area though and I typically travel alone, so it’s important to (a) check with the front desk for recommendations of where to go, and (b) remain aware of my surroundings.  I keep apps like Endomondo set to private, but my husband has my password and can log in to see where I am/was, should there be a problem.  I always let someone know where I’m going and when to expect me back.

 Eating on the road

 Moderation is key.  Having a cookie, or a drink here or there doesn’t hurt.  Having a cookie every time you check into a hotel, and a drink (or 3) every evening, really adds up. If I eat a Doubletree cookie (314 calories, 17 grams of fat and 39 grams of carbohydrates) each night I’m on the road (4 nights a week), that’s 1,256 extra calories per week!  5,024 calories extra per month, and 60,288 calories each year that I travel.  That includes nothing except one cookie per day. Can you see the problem?

I decline hotel free snacks.  Instead, I opt for additional points. I don’t go to the evening receptions or, if I do, I get protein (when offered which is quite rare) and veggies.  Free wine or beer doesn’t cost me money, but it does cost me in calories!

On my way to the hotel from the airport, I swing by a local grocery store. Most hotels have a mini fridge but even if they don’t, unsalted nuts, fruit, bottled water, tuna packets, and protein powder don’t require refrigeration.  I wrote a blog about this here.  Remember though, flexibility is important.  If the gas station or the hotel “store” is all that’s available, make the healthiest choice from whatever is there, and move on.  

Why bother?

I have FIVE amazing grandchildren. They are a very large part of my “why”. They like to run hiking trails, jump on the trampoline, and get piggy back rides.  I want to do those things with them for a very long time.

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Travel itself is a great reason to stay strong on the road.  Escalators are sometimes broken. It’s not uncommon to traverse distances from one gate to another.  Connections are sometimes tight. It’s nice to know I’m healthy enough to get around, regardless of these obstacles.  I rarely get sick even with all the time I spend confined on the airplane. I never check a bag – it is nice knowing I can put my own carry-on into the overhead (and I’ve helped other people with their bags too).  

As we age, strength, cardio-vascular health, and flexibility are all critical for long-term mobility. There’s tons of science showing that not only is exercise good for our body but also as a means to decrease stress, regulate hormones, and it may even stave off cognitive decline. I also want to be mobile and active well into my old age.  I am not interested in just sitting in a rocking chair letting life pass me by.

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Hungry for more of Debbie’s insights and perspectives on fitness, business, and travel? Follow @hatch.debbie on Instagram and visit her site, Family & FIT.