It’s 9pm, I’ve just returned to my hotel after a 12 hour day, I still have some work left to do, and it seems like there may be very little time left for myself that evening. How do I stay healthy in between the long hours, take-out meals, and cross-country flights?
Fact: I struggle with work life balance
Further fact: I very much enjoy eating ALL the food while traveling
The ultimate fact: There never seems to be enough time in the day to work, sleep, eat right, and take care of myself.
But despite all the barriers to staying healthy while constantly traveling, I know that my health is the one thing I literally cannot live without. I want to be a hiking Machu Picchu when I’m 60 and still eating all the foods I love. And I’m not heading in that direction if I sit for 20 hours a day and sleep the remaining 4. So what’s my trick to keeping healthy while on the road?
It’s a bit paradoxical – I try not to do too much. No crazy diets, no overly ambitious workout plans – the crux of my plan is moderation. Seriously, I can’t do anything intense anyways.
Tips and hacks to a healthy lifestyle while traveling
Walking is seriously underrated. It’s not a marathon, but if you walk, you’re moving, stretching your muscles, and burning some calories.
No matter what city I’m in, I prioritize staying in a hotel that is a 10-15 minute walking distance from where I need to work. By walking to work, I know that no matter how busy my day ends up being, I will at least walk 30 minutes.
Set flexible exercise goals and routines
The number way to stop exercising regularly? Setting exercise goals that are too rigid. You don’t want to miss a workout because there are no weights in the hotel gym, or because you’re simply too tired to run 5 miles. To be flexible, I focus on exercise I can do anywhere, such as running, body weights, and programs such as Blogilates or Sweat, and I make my timing flexible as well.
Rather than saying I must exercise 3 times a week, I give myself a goal of 180 minutes. A 15 minute treadmill walk at midnight counts towards that goal. Every minute counts, and this mindset reduces the barrier to getting my lazy self to the gym. After 5 minutes walking on the treadmill, I’ll often find the motivation to speed up into a run and then do some Pilates as well.
Practice mindful eating
I salute the people who have the time and self-control to think about macros and calorie counting while traveling. I have enough self-awareness to know that I am not one of those people, and that focusing too much on sticking to a strict diet only leads to obsessive thinking.
So instead, I practice mindful eating. The core of this is listening to my body, including cravings. I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and there are no “bad” foods. If I want a cookie from Levain Bakery, I sure will eat that cookie. I just won’t eat until I’m beyond stuffed, and I try and get some vegetables and fruit in on a daily basis. And whatever I eat, I deeply enjoy and savor. Only in dire circumstances will I be shoveling food in while staring at a laptop. Food doesn’t taste as good if you’re working while eating!
Create a list of go-to, healthier eating options in the city you’re traveling
Have you ever just had a massive I Have No Clue WTF to Eat For Dinner moment as you scroll frantically through Yelp? That’s me, all the time. I want something tasty that’s relatively nutritious, and I end up waffling back and forth and back and forth and burning a ton of time. Save yourself the pain – come up with a shortlist of repeat restaurants that have healthy options and quick service. My personal favorites in New York are sweetgreen, Roti, and Dig Inn.
Drink plenty of water (and little else)
In a given day, I drink water, tea, and black coffee. No alcohol, no juices, and no creamer, except on special occasions. Water keeps you hydrated (and is great for your skin!). Alcohol and sugary drinks do the opposite. But again, if I want a drink or a smoothie, I’m flexible!
Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night
I cannot emphasize how important it is to sleep! Whether you’re traveling for work or fun, there can be a million and one things you need to do in your day. But if you don’t sleep, you’ll lose focus and the ability to enjoy your day. I promise you – whatever you need to do at 1am can be done tomorrow. I proactively let my manager know how important it is for me to sleep, and I set a bedtime so I won’t be distracted.
Practice routines of self-care
Physical health is crucial to make sure you don’t die at age 40, but mental health is critical to feeling your best. I have small things I take 30 minutes to do every day that are just for me: reading, journaling a few minutes on my phone, and my 5 – step skincare routine. It’s also easy to get lonely when you’re never at home, so make sure to reach out to friends and loved ones – you can read more in my post, How to beat loneliness as a solo traveler.
For me, the core of maintaining a balanced lifestyle is creating routines I can maintain no matter how crazy life gets. I try to forgive myself when I don’t hit my goals. Yes, there are 100% days when I crawl home at midnight, don’t go to the gym, and eat a pizza in my underwear on my hotel bed. But the next day or week I’ll readjust and figure out what I can do so I’m at my best again. I strive to be healthy because I strive to love and respect my body and mind, no matter how hard that can sometimes be.