When you’re at home, in your groove, it’s easy to stay on track: You hit the gym, down a protein shake, and whip up fresh home-cooked meals in your kitchen.
“There’s nothing like feeling good from being consistent with healthy eating and working out,” says Remi Ishizuka, a health coach and blogger who travels the world.
Problem is, when we leave our comfort zone and hit the road, it’s all too easy for healthy habits to fall to the wayside. Room service, dinky hotel gyms, and jet lag can leave you dragging — and skipping the things you love to do at home.
Fortunately, there are ways to stay on track on-the-go. And doing so pays off. “When you actually stick to a plan while you’re travelling, it’s the best, most accomplished feeling ever — even more so than when you are at home,” says Ishizuka.
Here’s how to stay healthy while travelling, no matter where in the world you are.
Make A Hotel Feel Like Home
Call it the “first night effect.” “In a new environment (like a hotel room halfway across the world), we have a hard time falling asleep,” says Raj Dasgupta, M.D., an assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Blame your brain. “We’re hyper-alert and cognitively aroused.” The trick to finding shuteye: convincing your body that you’re somewhere familiar.
Bringing a small blanket or a photo of family members — something that reminds you of home — can help, he notes. So can playing favorites when it comes to hotels. Staying at the same chain every time you travel doesn’t just mean loyalty points, it also means your body familiarizes itself with the decor, lighting, and room style — making it feel more like home. When your body feels more familiar with its surroundings, you’re less likely to suffer from the first night effect and get better sleep, says Dr. Dasgupta.
Send Jet Lag Packing
Rapid, long-distance travel to a different time zone over a short period of time leaves your body playing catch up. “Our internal body clock is essentially set at 24 hours per day and regulates sleep and wake cycles,” explains Dr. Dasgupta.
And if your internal clock thinks it’s 2 a.m. when it’s mid-morning in your destination, you’ll feel groggy, feel sleepy, suffer from stomach troubles, and find it difficult to sleep at the right times.
Your body’s internal clock is regulated largely by sunlight (and a lack of it) — so if you land in the morning, seek that sunlight, stat. One way to do it: “Explore a new or unfamiliar place by lacing up and tackling a few miles,” suggests Emily Abbate, an ACE-certified trainer, UESCA run coach, and founder of the podcast Hurdle. “Use an app like Strava to check out popular running routes, and make sure to chart out a few sites you want to see along your way.”
Getting some sun will help you reset your internal clock, and exercise can help you fall asleep more easily later.
And since dehydration can also contribute to feelings of fatigue and lethargy, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your trip. This is especially important if you’re staying at a high-altitude destination (where it’s even easier to get dehydrated).
Stick To Your P.M. Game Plan
When you’re travelling, nights can be consumed with dinners, drinks, and social outings. In order to keep all the excitement from doing a number on your sleep, be sure to stick to at least some elements of your normal pre-bedtime plan. “I love having an evening routine before bed because it allows me to gradually wind down,” says Ishizuka.
Do the same things on the road as you do at home so that your body knows that it’s time for bed and feels more at ease which will help you stay healthy while travelling.
Add Fruits And Veggies To As Many Meals And Snacks As Possible
Eating foods without much nutritional value on vacation can throw your body out of sync. “If you are eating fewer fruits, veggies, and 100-percent whole grains, you may find yourself dealing with constipation issues leading to bloating and possible cramping,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.
Your best attack plan: lots of water, exercise (even light cardio like walking can get things “moving”), and fibre-rich foods (think: oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables), she says.
“If you don’t want to return home from vacation in a food coma, you need to stay close to your normal food routine,” admits Gans. But vacation is vacation, so the solution boils down to balance. “I’m all about enjoying food and not overly restricting myself especially when travelling,” says Ishizuka. “If you got a workout in and are feeling good about yourself, why not enjoy a midday cafe break and have some truffle pasta?”
Just remember: “Decadent meals should be savoured but not necessarily eaten until you are stuffed,” says Gans.
Plan Your Sweat Sessions
It’s a good idea to research whether your hotel has a gym and the equipment you need to stay on track with your workouts. Many hotels have large gyms with just about every accessory you can think of which will help you stay healthy while travelling.
“EVEN Hotels is a great option for people who want to make fitness a priority — we have designed our world-class fitness studio with 3 distinct workout zones—cardio, strength as well as stretch and stability,” says Jason Moskal, Vice President of Lifestyle Brands of the Americas for InterContinental Hotels Group, the parent company of EVEN Hotels. “If you prefer to work out in the privacy of your own room, you will find a variety of fitness equipment with our in-room fitness zone which features over 18 custom workouts that span across different cardio, strength and stretch routines.”
To make sure you’re always ready to take advantage of your hotel’s fitness facilities while you travel, bring a stocked gym bag along on your trip. Ishizuka always packs a small, pre-filled drawstring sack in her suitcase. When all of the essentials — a water bottle, headphones, a sweat towel, an outfit with socks — are in one place, it’s easier to stick to your workout routine.
And if you aren’t staying at a hotel like EVEN and aren’t sure you’ll have access to equipment, it’s not a bad idea to pack your own lightweight options, like resistance bands, a physioball that deflates, and a stretch strap. They’re good staples to have on hand for both strength and flexibility, says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and trainer based in New York.