I did a fair amount of travel over the past couple of weeks all around the UK, in order to support my firm’s annual performance appraisal process. My journeys took me to Leeds, Birmingham and the Docklands of London, and once I nearly ended up in Manchester! As I am preparing for some races in autumn I felt it was important to maintain good levels of fitness and continue to stick to my training schedule as much as I could, even when I was on the move.
So this has inspired me to come up with my very own tips about how to survive a period of being on the road without letting your fitness or nutrition slide. The bottom line is that with a bit of forward thinking and forward planning you CAN make it happen easily!
Tiredness and stress especially due to long or hectic journeys can really decrease energy levels and undermine your training. Use public transport such as trains whenever possible, as driving can really suck the life out of you, I can speak from experience. How much more relaxing and comfortable it is to read a book/magazine, listen to music, surf the net or meditate on the train! Or catch up with sleep. (That is, if the train comes on time and does not let you down.) For the same reason, try to break longer journeys for example by staying over if necessary, to minimise travel time and to get a good amount of sleep so that you feel refreshed to face the following day.
Do your research about the weather in advance so you know what your options will be and so that you can plan your exercise routine accordingly.
I do realise that sometimes it takes a huge deal of commitment to carry on with a training plan or to maintain good levels of fitness whilst travelling. Sometimes you need to weigh up what matters to you the most – an extra hour in bed or fitting in a great run at the crack of dawn before you need to turn up in the office? All I know is that I have never regretted trading in a bit of sleep for an early morning run.
Plan your meals forward and find out when you can eat so that you are not left without food before exercising, especially if you are looking to fit it in first thing in the morning! Some hotels offer breakfast at a shockingly late time. You may need to buy some fuel for a light breakfast the day before which you can keep in the hotel room overnight. You may not have a fridge in the room so buy non-perishable stuff. Smoothies do keep well at room temperature during the night.
On my travels I try to do some running due to its simplicity and the fact that I love discovering new places on feet and last but not least, you only need to squeeze your training outfit into the luggage. Do your research in advance about what routes local runners do using reliable websites and forums such as Runnersworld or Mapmyrun or local race maps. The locals know the area best so it is always worth listening to their advice instead of trying to draw up a route yourself from scratch. If all else fails, look for parks and canal paths as they are likely to provide a good ‘out and back’ or circular option. If you have a choice, you may also want to book your hotel near these type of places.
When in a new area and trying to follow an unfamiliar route to run, for me safety comes first. Getting lost at the crack of dawn when everyone is asleep (except like-minded runners who are generally helpful) is less scary than getting lost in the dark late afternoon/early evening when all the freaks are out. You might also want to double check on the Internet in advance when the sun is due to rise or go down if you have not been running outdoors lately, it is so easy to lose touch with this especially in autumn and winter. I always bring my mobile phone with me when I do a route for the first time, in case I have difficulties navigating or God forbid, if I need to call for help.
If the weather is going to be ugly and you have no chance of getting out for a run, you will have hopefully done your research and have found out where the nearest gym is so that you can ask for a day pass. You may have booked a hotel that has its own gym. I am hesitant to suggest you prepare to do a workout in your hotel room – being painfully familiar with the standard size for hotel rooms in the UK, you may easily end up in a broom cupboard!
However, if you are lucky enough to get a decent sized hotel room, I can recommend no equipment/body weight exercises unless you want to carry along your collection of weights. However, believe me, carrying your luggage across the tube/train network will be a good cardio/strength workout in itself. My favourite workouts are Insanity, PiYO and the Nike Training Club application for mobile phones, these can be done anywhere. Of course you will need your mobile phone /iPad for the app and your (work) laptop to play the workout DVD. I would not take it for granted that there is a DVD player in the hotel room – sometimes there is not even a bloomin’ kettle which I think is the basic minimum!
Travelling and staying in hotels can easily turn into an excuse to relax healthy eating habits, however a lot of express supermarkets at stations/busy town centres such as Tesco/Waitrose/M&S have a really tasty and exciting salad selection for the health conscious ones! However, I have to admit, I have found that sometimes succumbing to certain temptations gives a greater sense of satisfaction than not doing so – I mean, if you happen to stumble across a Hotel Chocolat Café Bar for the very first time in your life, why would you want to walk past it?! I also suggest you carry some water with you at all times as it is easy to forget about hydration when you are on the move.
Well, I think that’s all for now, feel free to share any other tricks you may have up your sleeve!