Today's guest post is by Trade Show Strategy Speaker, Trainer, and Consultant Robyn Davis.
You’re a smart, confident, well-trained professional. You can talk your way out of an expensive speeding ticket and into the hottest, invite-only party. As your mom always said, “You can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it,” and that’s great, right? Not always.
There are times when your impressive powers of persuasion work against you—for example, when you tell yourself that, because you’re traveling, you don’t have to worry about maintaining your healthy habits (like exercising your body, eating smart, enriching your mind, and obtaining quality sleep), even though you know deep-down that you should.
Here are the “realities” you need to control the 12 most common travel excuses and take back your health (even when you’re out of town).
Healthy Habit—Exercise Your Body
EXCUSE: “I can’t do my regular exercises away from my gym/fitness studio.”
REALITY: You can do something in your hotel gym. Even though you won’t have all of the resources when you’re traveling that are typically at your disposal, most hotels have great gyms (and some offer additional services, including workout clothing, exercise DVDs, on-site classes, etc., that will allow you to continue exercising.
Before you leave, determine what aspects of your regular workout you can modify to enjoy out of town (with basic equipment expected to be available in the hotel gym) and which ones you’ll need to substitute for another type of exercise. If you use a personal trainer at home, ask him or her which substitutions would be most appropriate. If you don’t use a personal trainer, work towards matching the components (i.e., cardio could be rowing or riding a bike or jumping rope or climbing stairs).
EXCUSE: “I didn't travel all this way to stay inside.”
REALITY: You can enjoy the city and exercise—outside. From a walking tour or a bike rental to yoga or Zumba in the park, most cities have some outdoor activities that show off their best qualities while incorporating exercise. A quick internet search (or stop by the concierge’s desk) can show you what options are available to you.
One of the most important parts of exercising outside is remaining safe. Verify that any classes you’d like to take are legitimate by looking for their website/reviews and work with your concierge to map out an appropriate path for biking, running, or walking. Then, carry your ID with you (along with your hotel address and telephone number), leave a note with your planned path/schedule, and minimize any distractions that could make you less aware of your surroundings.
EXCUSE: “I don’t have time to work out.”
REALITY: Any small efforts you make will add up. Some people think that they need to spend an hour or two in the gym in order to get in a good workout; however, if you can’t make the time to do everything you want to do all at once, you can still exercise by breaking your regular workout into smaller chunks. Look for 5- to 15-minute segments where you can sneak away to focus on working various body parts (for example, even a few minutes of wall sits or body-weight squats could burn your quads; a few minutes of crunches or planking could strengthen your core; and a few minutes of push-ups or dips could strengthen your arms, etc.).
If you can’t carve out even a few minutes here and there, choose the path of more resistance for every activity you have planned. For example, you can offer to carry your luggage and any necessary meeting materials yourself, take the stairs instead of the elevator between your room and the lobby, and focus on maintaining perfect posture (standing tall, tightening your core, etc.) at all times.
Healthy Habit—Eat Smart
EXCUSE: “Unfamiliar menus can be overwhelming; I never know what to order.”
REALITY: You don’t have to make this decision alone. If you know where you will be going before you get there, call ahead (or look online) to obtain nutrition information for various menu items; this simple process can help you to make a more educated decision for all of your meals, before you even leave your house.
However, even if your group is more spontaneous with their restaurant selections, you can still use the menu and servers to help you make a good choice on the spot. Many menus highlight healthy dishes under clear headings or with special icons—if yours does, use its suggestions to narrow down your options. Otherwise, ask the server (after excusing yourself “to go to the bathroom,” if discretion is preferred) for their advice. Many people are health conscious, so any good server is likely to have a number of recommendations ready.
EXCUSE: “The food I like is not healthy.”
REALITY: Talented chefs can make a healthy version of almost any dish. When you’re dining out, temptations can be even tougher to tackle than at home, but, if you really want (or need) to remain healthy, small compromises are the least you can do. Even simple changes (like asking for sauce/dressing on the side or no extra salt) are easy to accommodate, provide you with more control, and can make a big difference in your final calorie count.
Bigger changes (like selecting baked chicken instead of fried or asking that your fish be cooked in olive oil instead of butter) can still maintain a similar flavor profile, but be better aligned with your health goals—read the menu carefully to choose wisely and don’t be afraid to ask for additional accommodations.
EXCUSE: “I was invited to attend a special meal (with a pre-set menu).”
REALITY: You are still in control of what you eat. If you will only have one special meal and there won’t be any healthy options available, choose to enjoy that one splurge meal. As long as you maintain a strict diet for the rest of your meals and snacks while away (no excuses), you’ll be able to balance your overall eating habits.
If, however, you will have several special/pre-set meals, plan to only eat a small amount of what’s offered, extra slowly, during your official meal times and bring healthy snacks that you can consume between meals. This will also help you to focus on connecting with others during mealtimes (because you won’t be focusing on the process of eating) which will make it easier to maximize your time away from the office.
Healthy Habit—Enrich Your Mind
EXCUSE: “I am always in my car.”
REALITY: You don’t need to use all of your senses to enrich your mind. Multitasking (in a safe and non-disruptive manner) makes it easy for road warriors to learn while they’re traveling. The key is to match your method of education to your mode of travel.
When you’re driving around town, you may not be able to read or write, but you can listen to an audio book or a series of short motivational recordings instead—and you can work on memorization by repeating key statistics, affirmations, or relevant stories aloud.
EXCUSE: “Sometimes, it’s not even my fault when I miss the time I set aside to study.”
REALITY: When you’re properly prepared, an unexpected change of plans won’t ruin your educational efforts. In order to maximize your time while traveling, most professionals will leave little breathing room in their agendas. So when your flight is delayed or your room isn’t ready on time, you may have to miss concentrated time you had scheduled for personal enrichment; however, by taking advantage of your “waiting” time, you won’t have to miss out on your educational efforts entirely.
Keep a few books cued up on your tablet or smartphone, download a few educational apps (or bookmark your favorite article resource sites), and keep a pen and some paper handy (for those rare times when you’re stuck and you can’t use your technology). By planning to enrich your mind whenever you have a spare moment, you won’t have to worry if you have to make unexpected adjustments later.
EXCUSE: “By the time I can catch a break or my day is finished, I’m too tired to learn.”
REALITY: You can enrich your mind in other ways (and/or at other times) too. Shifting your schedule to prioritize your educational efforts, by making time for them earlier in your day, may be the only step you need to take in order to avoid falling asleep while you’d like to be enriching your mind. However, if you can’t muster the time and attention for formal learning at any time during your trip, consider turning your focus inwards instead. Learning to meditate, or more simply, visualize can be just as beneficial to your personal development goals.
Think about where you want to be in the short and long term (or how you’ll feel after conquering a difficult challenge you’re currently facing) with as much detail as possible. Then, brainstorm potential paths to your success—practice feeling the future you desire and then implementing the necessary actions to make it a reality.
Healthy Habit—Obtain Quality Sleep
EXCUSE: “It’s too loud to fall asleep quickly and too bright to remain asleep.”
REALITY: The right tools make it easier to tune out the world. Before arriving in your destination city, call ahead to your hotel and request a quiet room (away from elevators, ice machines, and other foot traffic) on a high floor. Especially if you note that you are traveling for work, most hotels will do their best to accommodate your requests.
Then, purchase a sleep mask, earplugs, and a sleep-friendly soundtrack (on CD, through an app, or as produced by a separate noise machine) that you can become accustomed to, both at home and away. Creating a familiar atmosphere and bedtime routine will make it easier to drift off to sleep, regardless of where you are in the world.
EXCUSE: “I was planning to go to bed early; but, then, I had to take care of a last-minute issue.”
REALITY: The less you leave to chance, the more time you’ll have to deal with Murphy’s Law. Life happens, especially when you’re traveling, so it makes sense that some nights you may not be able to pack in a full eight hours. However, there’s always something you can do to make the most of your situation.
First, work to anticipate issues and prepare solutions in advance. By being equipped with the right procedures for solving any problem you encounter, you’ll spend less time searching for a solution when you should be sleeping. Then, take care of as many on-going responsibilities as possible before you leave for your trip. Having fewer little things to think about will leave you with more time to handle last minute issues as they arise.
EXCUSE: “I don’t want to miss out, especially because my colleagues are staying up later.”
REALITY: Most professionals need sleep to perform at their best. I am often the first to sacrifice a little sleep in order to maximize my time out of the office; however, every professional has a minimum threshold of sleep they require in order to do their best work—be sure that you know what that magic number is for you. Then, prioritize the activities that matter most—for example, few people will remember or mind that you left the bar at midnight instead of 2 a.m., but everyone will notice if you aren't alert during your meetings the next morning. Don’t stress yourself out when you choose to honor your priorities (heading back to the hotel to not sleep, because you’re having a pity party for yourself, doesn't benefit anyone).
If you absolutely can’t miss certain late-night or early-morning activities, plan ahead and adjust your sleep schedule gradually (in the weeks leading up to your trip) so that the lack of sleep is less of a shock to your system.
Robyn Davis is a trade show strategy specialist and the owner of When I Need Help (WINH). She works with the organizations that host events to help them help their exhibitors (and others) get even more value out of their participation. To learn more about Robyn, or to subscribe to Elevate Your Marketing Efforts” (When I Need Help's annual printed newsletter, in which this article first was published), visit the WINH website, request to connect on LinkedIn, or tweet to @Robyn_WINH.
Note from Robyn: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist or a personal trainer; so to be safe, discuss any changes to your diet or activities with your medical professional.