Let’s not pretend that being healthy while traveling is easy. We all know there are many challenges we face. If we’re flying the questions you may ask yourself are: can I bring food into the airport? What restaurants are in my terminal? What snacks are served on the plane? Will I be able to drink enough water during the day?
If you’re driving the questions can be different because yes you can have your own food packed, but is it easy to eat your meal while driving? Is that safe? Will you eat a hot meal cold? How often will you stop to use the bathroom if you’re drinking enough water? Will that add a lot of time to travel?
Also, planning to be healthy on travel is a pain in the ass. Let’s be honest.
Once you’re at your destination there’s a longer list of questions. Will I have access to a gym? Do I have time for a gym? What food is available to me?
I love lists. I love spreadsheets and I’m a planner. I’m organized because it helps me stay on track, not just in my healthy life, but my work life too. I’m in week 9 of prep and I had to take a 3 day trip to Washington DC during week 7. I have a lot more flexibility than most in my work travel because I do say where I’m traveling to and where I’m staying. So let’s start there.
How am I traveling?
Living in Massachusetts I knew I only had the option to fly to DC, so that meant I needed to look at my flights and determine what my eating schedule would be as well as what I would want to eat for the day, including in the airport and on the plane.
As long as your food is solid, it will most likely get through security. You can’t bring water or liquids in, but you can bring in an empty bottle – I brought in a blender bottle since I had packed a protein shake for later in the day while navigating the airport. As a pancake lover, I decided that since my flight was over brunch-ish time, protein pancakes were the way to go. I could make them in muffin form, they’re solid and they travel well. This would be my part of my airport meal. I also packed half a nut butter sandwich because again, solid and portable, but the carbs and protein from the nut butter keep me full for longer, which can make it easier to stick to your plan and not snack throughout the day, like when the stewardess hands you a bag of pretzels. You can also say no to the in flight snack.
Since TSA is a little tricky, I had given myself some extra time before my flight. At home I had looked to see what would be in my terminal – a Starbucks, the love of my coffee life. I had a black coffee with my lunch and I filled up my blender bottle with water I had purchased.
Now it was time to sit back and relax until my flight boarded.
Where am I staying while I travel?
Figuring out the hotel can a pain in the butt because it’s really about your schedule and what you want to accomplish. It’s also about affordability. I’m a fundraiser and I knew where my meetings were going to be, so I looked at hotels that were kind of in the middle. After I found one that fit my budget, I started looking through their site. Having a gym on location is important to me because regardless of how busy my day is, I will get up and make time for my workout. I could tell they had a lot of equipment, but I decided to call and ask the front desk about the facility. Most places don’t mind if you do this, not everyone will be knowledgeable, but they’ll try their best. This hotel had the best gym I had ever seen and I will probably continue to stay there when I travel to DC.
A girl has to eat, what’s going to be on my plate?
Since I knew most of my meals would be out at restaurants, I wasn’t concerned if there was a fridge in the room that I would have access to. If that was a concern I would do the same thing I did with the gym and ask if there is a fridge guests can use for free in their room. Most of the time there’s little space, but you can use the fridge – helpful if you bring yogurt or small snacks with you.
Since I was gone for a few days, I knew I would have to check a bag, this meant that I would also have some space to pack snacks. Snacks are important to me because they help me get to the next large meal, they also help supplement what I can’t get while on travel such as protein. Here’s what I packed for my trip.
- 3 Quest protein shakes
- 2 servings of Amino Energy aminos
- 2 Oh Yeah ONE protein bars
- a bag of Goldfish Grahams – vanilla cupcake flavor
- a bag of Boom Chicapop Kettle corn
- a bag of snyders pretzels
a blender bottle
* also pictured: FlapJacked protein pancake muffins and half a CashewFit on whole wheat cinnamon raisin sandwich
It sounds like a random assortment, but bear with me, because it’s actually quite strategic.
This trip had been planned weeks in advance, which meant aside from planning my snacks, I had time to look over the menus for restaurants I would be going to and planning what I would pick from those menus. Some restaurants can be hard because nutritional information isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions when you’re eating out. On Wednesday (the day I landed), I had dinner over happy hour and thankfully the restaurant is a global chain, which means they are regulated to provide nutritional information on their menu. This made happy hour the easiest meal I was having with a donor on this trip. I also was able to enjoy orange glazed sriracha chicken because it fit.
On the Thursday I was in town, I had breakfast on my own, two coffee meetings, a lunch and a dinner. For breakfast I had researched and found a Starbucks near my hotel, perfect for my own morning coffee and I knew they had some healthier options for a meal. I don’t usually eat at Starbucks – those little calorie signs freak me out, but I had posted on IG and got some great feedback from those who do eat there. I got the spinach and feta egg white wrap. Old Cristina or fat Cristina as I call her sometimes, would’ve appreciated the fact that the wrap tasted like a hot pocket. it was really kind of awesome and it kept me full until my mid-morning meeting.
Instead of diving into every meal and every decision I made, here’s the spreadsheet I made when I was planning this trip. I shared this with my coach because it helped us figure out if I would be eating enough on the trip – definitely a fear of mine because I want to leave room for some of those restaurant treats, but under-eating is just as bad as over-eating.
I know this looks ridiculous and to some it’s intimidating, but my current goals are different than someone who wants to be just healthy. I used GoogleSpreadsheets to create this, which allowed my coach to update it if she wanted to. On Thursday because 2 meals were hard to fully track you notice there’s a discrepancy in the macros, but trust me they were consumed :]
Will I actually get in a good workout? What if I don’t have time?
This piece truly is up to you. DC is a walking city and I knew I would have a ton of miles on my shoes, but I’m also in competition prep. It’s a very different goal than someone just wanting to make better decisions when on vacation or on work travel. For me, getting my workout in was necessary. In my daily life, I get up at 435/450 – that’s when my alarms go off – for the gym. I also go to bed around 9 pm every night to accomplish this task. Since I had control over my work schedule while in DC, I was able to be in bed around 9/930 every night, so keeping up with my early morning routine was a piece of cake. In fact, it was easier because all I had to do was go to the 2nd floor for the facility in the building – I save 15 minutes of driving!
Like I mentioned before, this facility was THE BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A HOTEL. I only had to change one exercise on Thursday – bicep curl machine to bicep curls with dumbbells.For my HIIT circuits, I used 2 different bikini body guide or BBG workouts because the only cardio equipment available were treadmills and ellipticals.
Look at all that equipment!
When I came home from DC, I was exhausted according to my Fitbit, I had walked over 50K steps in the 2 days I was actually in the city. I felt good about the decisions I had made with my eating, I also felt good about my workouts. So I wasn’t completely surprised when I checked in and had lost a full pound that week.
Planning can be stressful. Being organized can be hard. My advice would be to write down your goals of your trip and plan according to them. If you want to be healthier, but not perfect – because we’re not, maybe it’s not having bread at the table when you go out. Maybe you have dessert one night, but not two nights in a row. Maybe you are careful about breakfast, but have some fun at dinner. I will encourage you to look at menus before heading out to a new place. I would also encourage you to call ahead at the risk of sounding crazy, trust me they get crazier questions than “how many ounces is the salmon?”
I have an overnight trip to New Jersey this coming Sunday into Monday and then I head to Florida for 5 days for work the following week. I have called the hotels and they all have gym facilities on site.I have also checked about amenities and they have fridges and microwaves so I’ll be able to pick up yogurt or make a microwave protein muffin. I’m exciting to see how I do while I travel. I’m currently 8 weeks out and I’m loving my progress, but I know as the stage day gets closer the struggle may become harder.
Stay strong my friends!