Business travel and fitness do not go together.
Trust me on this. I’m pretty much a full-time business traveller and a very part-time ‘trying to get fit’ guy.
It’s not just that those trips get in the way of your home routine, but so many aspects of business travel are by nature anti-fitness.
Spending hours sitting in a plane? Tempting spreads at airport lounges and hotel breakfasts, plus those working lunches and dinners? They’re the easiest way to pile on the kilos.
Keeping fit when you travel doesn’t get any easier when you’re trying to contend with too little sleep due to jetlag or extended working hours.
I find that time is the biggest challenge when I’m travelling. My usual working day is at least 8am to 6pm, but being on the road can easily add a few hours either side.
And no matter how handy it is to have a hotel gym just one short elevator ride away, when you’re getting by with barely five hours’ sleep there’s really no time left over.
Even so, the basics of ‘eat less and move more’ remain the best guidepost for business travellers who want to stay in shape.
Here are six strategies I’m using – or trying to use – to stay fit on the road.
This is easy enough: most airlines offer at least one healthy dish as a main meal. You can also order a ‘special meal’ in advance rather than rely on the usual “beef or chicken?” choice.
I tend to rely on airport lounges for a more substantial meal and then eat light during the flight. There’s much more variety, especially if you have access to a good first class lounge, and it’s all fresh.
This strategy also works well on long flights with stopovers.
On a recent British Airways flight from London to Sydney via Singapore, for example, it made more sense to skip the ‘breakfast’ served as we approached Singapore and enjoy a freshly- prepared dish of barramundi and cous cous at the Qantas Singapore Lounge before continuing on to Sydney.
Few meals on your business trip are as geared towards temptation as the morning buffet in a five-star hotel.
Ironically, however, the choice offered by a good breakfast spread works in your favour – provided you didn’t leave your discipline in the room. Scrambled eggs, soggy bacon and Danish pastries don’t put themselves on your plate.
Most hotels can whip up a healthy omelette made to order, with sides of fresh fruit, yoghurt and orange juice … even a piece of wholemeal toast, if you’re not avoiding the morning carbs.
Business lunches and dinners
A business lunch or dinner doesn’t have to mean copious food and booze.
Even if the menu doesn’t seem diet-friendly, be mindful of portion sizes and ask the waiter about leaving off any rich sauces which might otherwise smother your meal.
Add a large salad and a plate of steamed vegies for the table and you’re set.
As for alcohol, it depends on how seriously you’re watching those calories.
I rarely drink at home, but when I travel I’d rather not live like a monk. I limit myself to two standard drinks a day and choose which meals they’ll be served with.
Fitness-oriented colleagues tell me that hotels are finally getting serious about their gyms and going beyond the clapped-out bikes and a multi-purpose ‘home gym’ machine.
The best hotel gyms can now match up to slick fitness studios with cross-trainers, ample free weights plus machines and, in some cases, a personal trainer on call.
Just be sure that gym access is included in your room rate, as some US hotels charge extra for using the gym.
Hit the pool
If swimming’s your thing, there are few better ways to stay in shape than a daily swim at the hotel pool.
In fact, a dozen laps can be a perfect way to counter the lethargy of jetlag when you arrive at the hotel. It gets you moving and fires up those feel-good endorphins, which give you that much-needed energy boost, and also spurs your appetite.
Follow the swim with some protein and greens and your body will be in fine form to take you through the rest of the day.
Go for a run or walk
There’s no reason to stay within the confines of the hotel.
A morning amble lets you see the local sights in a healthy way, and many hotels now provide a runner’s map with suggested routes for pounding the pavement.
Want to mix things up a bit more? Search the web to see if the city has any regular morning or evening running meets where you can mingle with locals on a guided group run.
What are your top tips for staying fit on business tips?
David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.