It’s likely you’ve all been there. Despite the best intentions to maintain a fitness routine while traveling for business as busy meeting planners, something inevitably goes awry.
Your flight is delayed, you get to bed late, and you’d rather hit the snooze button than the gym. Your site inspections and meetings run overtime, and you opt to wind down with “refreshments” at the bar instead of a refreshing run—or walk. You forgot your cross trainers anyway.
There’s always an excuse not to focus on fitness during a packed travel schedule, yet there’s also always time to reassess your priorities, change your game plan and get moving no matter what obstacles come your way.
We checked in with Malin Svensson, fitness guru, globetrotter and president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Nordic Body, to get the scoop on strategies to stick to a healthy, active routine on the road. You might be surprised how big of a difference a little planning and a fresh perspective can make.
Making fitness essentials as important as business essentials when packing, including your “digital” suitcase, is key, according to Svensson.
“Bring your workout clothes or at the bare minimum, your walking shoes, and if you have a routine at home that requires resistance bands, for example, don’t forget those,” she said. “If you use workout or yoga videos at home, download or organize what you will need beforehand so you’re not wasting time with that on your trip. It’s like your favorite music. It should already be in your playlist.”
Also be sure to pack any activity trackers you utilize, Svensson added, and consider buying one if you don’t already have one.
“I always use a Fitbit,” she said. “It gives me a good gauge of activity, especially when I go to a conference. So if I’m shooting for 10,000 steps, it can be a wake-up call and a good motivator to get there.”
Shift Your Mindset
Exercising doesn’t always mean breaking a sweat, according to Svensson, who said there’s no need to feel guilty if you didn’t hop on the treadmill and run five miles.
“The whole mindset that the only way to get healthy and be active is to go to the gym needs to change,” she said. “The gym is one way, but you must start thinking about exercise simply as movement. Every single step counts. So take the stairs instead of the elevator, for example, and think of ways to walk and be active during, in-between and after meetings instead of continually sitting.”
Having a big-picture approach is also vital, she added.
“It’s important to create an active lifestyle that you can have year-round no matter where you are traveling or how busy you are,” Svensson said. “And think about health as not just physical. It’s mental, emotional and spiritual. Movement will make you physically healthier as well as more focused, alert and productive—ultimately happier.”
Overall, you will retain much more during your business travels and create more successful outcomes, she added.
Setting yourself up for success from the get-go calls for a bit of planning, according to Svensson.
“If you want to experience something, you have to create space for it, and to create space for it, you have to plan it,” she said. “Look at your schedule carefully and carve out at least 30 minutes per day that is specifically dedicated to being active, whether that is going to the gym or taking a brisk walk.”
In Svensson’s experience, morning is best to get the blood pumping, the oxygen circulating and the creative juices flowing, not to mention start the day with a feeling of accomplishment.
“I always recommend putting out your workout clothes the night before so there’s no excuse not to just jump into them right when you wake up and do some sort of activity,” she said. “That can be a video fitness routine, going to the hotel gym, climbing hotel staircases, doing a few laps in the hotel pool or getting outside for a walk to clear your head.”
Whenever possible, choose a hotel based on your activity preferences, she added. Amenities such as 24-hour fitness centers, lap pools, guest rooms equipped with fitness equipment and workout videos, and proximity to walking and running paths can make all the difference.
Get a Move On
Preparing is one thing, but following through with your commitment to be active is paramount.
No matter what, Svensson said, just get started and be creative and efficient with your time.
“You may have a dedicated workout routine in the gym or outside, but if you are pressed for time, think strategically,” she said. “For example, if you normally run for 45 minutes, run for half the time at a higher intensity.”
Whether you hit the gym or not, Svensson said intimidation is no excuse not to move.
“There are so many simple things you can do in your hotel room or in the fitness center,” she said, suggesting YouTube to download videos on two exercises: planks and bridges.
Planking poses activate nearly every muscle group, she said, and bridges, which entail lying on your back with bent knees and lifting the hips up and down, are ideal for those with a lot of meetings during the day.
“Bridges lengthen the hip flexor muscle, which falls asleep when we sit too much,” she said.
Even the treadmill doesn’t have to be intimidating for beginners wishing to try something new, according to Svensson.
“I recommend standing off the belt, turning the treadmill on at a very slow pace, then getting on it and walking,” she said. “Then you can do interval training that is fun and varied, like starting with an incline at 5 percent.”
The pool is another great place to get active, according to Svensson.
“You can walk in the pool to create resistance for an upper and lower body workout,” she said.
Meanwhile, Svensson suggested seeking out and teaming up with like-minded active people during business trips to schedule morning or afternoon walk-and-talks followed by a healthy meal.
Additionally, she recommended trying to arrange walking meetings with clients whenever possible and suggesting active breaks to colleagues during group meetings.
“If you open your mind and change your perspective, there are really no excuses—just plenty of options,” she said.
Originally from Sweden, Malin Svensson came to the United States in 1989 with a masters degree in physical education and has been a health and fitness industry professional ever since. Svensson is an international fitness coach, author and speaker, founder of Nordic Walking USA and president and owner of Nordic Body. She is committed to inspiring people at any age to get fit and stay fit naturally the Nordic way and enjoy a healthier, longer life. Svensson is available for private group wellness retreats and to speak about fitness-related topics.