Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, there’s no denying it’s difficult to prevent all your healthy decision-making from going out the window. With many expats heading abroad for the holidays – not to mention the many business trips that we or our partners are required to take – we thought it would be wise to get some expert advice on keeping fit through it all. Here, Chris Richards, general manager of Ultimate Performance (UP) Singapore, weighs in with his top tips for making healthy choices on the plane and exercise at your destination.
“Travelling is a necessity for many of our clients, which means they can’t use it as an excuse! Instead, we need to be proactive with our planning, and hold ourselves accountable to ensure it’s not a case of three steps forward, two steps back, every month,” says Chris. “What I’ve found is that those who exert the most discipline during the outbound journey are most likely to make the trip a business success without compromising their physique related goals.”
Three things to be wary of when flying:
Most business executives are accustomed to having a few drinks in the airport lounge, followed by a few glasses of wine on the plane to relax and kill time. However, according to Chris, this is without a doubt the worst possible start to your trip. Hello dehydration, empty calories and the increased likelihood of making poor food choices!
If you must drink, either in transit or during your trip, Chris suggests sticking to one type of booze and exercising restraint. “Make the best ‘bad choice’ by avoiding beer and sticking to clean spirits,” he advises. “Alcohol has the greatest potential to cause slip-ups, so I always encourage clients to stick to the likes of gin or whisky, with zero-calorie mixers, and limit themselves to two or three drinks. And make hydration a priority, both during and after drinking alcohol.”
Humidity is significantly lower in the cabin of a plane than in our typical indoor environment, making dehydration a real issue. To combat this, Chris recommends drinking approximately 250ml of (nonalcoholic) fluid every hour.
3. Aeroplane food
Aeroplane food is always a tricky hurdle, which is why Chris suggests packing meals for the plane, or buying something like fish or cold meats with a bag of salad at the airport; the key, he says, is to opt for lean cuts of protein with vegetables. Alternatively, consider taking on some protein powder so you can prepare a super shake during your flight.
If you can do it, fasting may be a viable option, especially for overnight or short flights of less than four hours, says Chris. For an overnight trip, the fast will also help with jet lag, as you’ll be able to regulate your meal times – it’ll be breakfast in your new location!
Training while travelling
“When travelling, it’s imperative to maintain your training schedule,” says Chris. “The only time a break would be worthwhile is if you’ve been going hard with your training and diet for a long time, you’re on vacation, and you simply want some mental relief from it all.”
One of the main issues of long-haul flights is the accompanying jet lag. “Exercise is one of the best ways to mitigate jet lag, as it can help with time-change adjustments and speeding up the return to a normal circadian rhythm – our internal body clock.”
Chris adds that there are two ways to utilise training to help with jet lag. Firstly, train as soon as possible after you land. “This approach works superbly for eliminating the nauseating fatigue that long flights can create,” he says. “In professional wrestling, where the travelling schedule often requires wrestlers to travel to multiple cities each week, one of their secrets to staying fresh and focused is to do some form of exercise when they land after a flight.”
Secondly, do your training first thing in the morning. So, if you land at night, set your alarm at your usual wake-up time the next day, and train! However, replicating your home training regimen in a hotel gym or somewhere else can be tough, especially if equipment and time are limited.
“Efficiency is the priority here; five to 20 minutes is all you’ll need,” Chris says. “All hotel gyms will have some cardio equipment that you can use for this, and, at the very least, a treadmill. Instead of using it the traditional way, try ‘deadmills’! For example, go hard for 10 to 20 seconds, then go slow for 40 to 50 seconds.”
Additionally, Chris suggests getting outside for some physical activity. “Walking and running are great ways to see a city,” he says. He notes that it’s best to get out early in the day, as exposure to sunlight will help your circadian rhythm to readjust if you’ve switched time zones.
So, before you take off, here’s the take-away…
“If you’re someone who travels, don’t use that as an excuse to go backwards,” says Chris. “Focus on what you can do, and set a goal of at least maintaining your current fitness so that you can push on further when you return.”
Short on time and space? Chris advises following one of these systems:
- EDT (Escalating Density Training) Pick two exercises – they can be anything, as long as the muscle groups used for each exercise don’t overlap; then set a rep target for each exercise, and perform as many sets back and forth as possible in the time you have.
- Rep goals Rep goals work well in exercises like chin-ups, dips and pushups, but can be used with any exercise. Set a rep target, set a rest interval and get to the number in as few sets as possible.
- Bodyweight circuits There’s no excuse with these, as they can be done anywhere, even in limited space – for example, 10 reps of super-slow squats (squat up and down, five seconds each way), or 10 to 15 reps of “squeeze press-ups” (regular push-ups made harder by squeezing your hands inwards and against the floor, as you go up and down), among other exercises. Packing some resistance bands can also be very handy (and it’s easy to slip them into your suitcase!).