Imagine a line that goes on and on in both directions from where you are now. This is your health continuum line graph. There is one arrow going in the unhealthy direction. There is a midpoint we call “wellness.” In the other direction, it is healthy living.
For most of us staying in the “well” category is something we are proud of. We value eating healthier food as much as possible with the time and access we have. We are busy around the house and yard, running errands and managing our family schedules. There’s just enough time for “well.”
We enjoy wellness! Being well allows us to live our best life. However, stress is a wellness-interrupter. Unmanaged stress pulls us from well to unhealthy. It wreaks havoc on our sleep, our brain health, and how we manage our time.
Take away our comfortable routines at home and we have a recipe for slowing progress. If you are reading this, you have likely practiced healthy habits consistently. Here are five healthy ways to keep work travel from ruining your progress below, read on!
Work Travel Tip 1: Head Check
On your health continuum, move towards well and healthier little steps at a time. Every step you take to buffer yourself from unhealthy choices will help. Unhealthy choices rarely happen by accident. Start by establishing what healthy habits you’d like your perfect day to include. Coffee, quiet time, eggs and oatmeal? Getting to the gym first thing in the morning and getting ready for work there? Going for a walk during your lunch hour and not sitting at your desk finishing up work?
Now, try something differently! Maybe it’s cooking eggs Monday morning and making extra for leftovers? You could start with a walk and eating during your last 15 minutes of lunch? This way, you won’t procrastinate on the walk? Maybe you just need more sleep, turn off the television and phone at a dedicated time every evening?
Above all, have two plans. Have an ideal plan and have a worst case scenario plan. Somewhere in the middle is probably where you will land.
Settle for better than what you would have done had you not had a plan, but settle for less than perfect if it doesn’t go to plan.
Work Travel Tip 2: Maintenance is a Strategy
There are so many holidays, birthdays, vacations, and sporting events. The new, healthier routines that people start end up getting interrupted by work/kids/caretaking or one of the things mentioned just a second ago. Something will cause you to press “pause” on your health.
What if you started your healthy habit(s) on New Year’s Day? You began letting one or two days slip here and there, and then lost momentum? You pick back up in April or May before vacation. Your habits fade on vacation and afterwards. You pick back up before the holiday season as kids go back to school, and summer traveling ceases. Sound familiar?
Let’s rethink this: What if you start on New Year’s Day, you begin to tire of the effort it takes to keep up all the things so you go into maintenance? Maintenance? Yes, find the minimum amount of impact you need to have on your health to maintain the results you get in that first month. In April, you push yourself to give 100% before vacation. The first day of vacation, you begin your maintenance phase again. Next thing you know, Fall is here and you have some time to give another push, maybe until Thanksgiving. You go into the holiday season doing maintenance habits. This is the third time you’ve found maintenance this year and it’s getting easier to see how you can continue to progress in the right direction.
Traveling for work doesn’t have to set you back. It can delay your long-term results by tiny amounts that you probably wouldn’t notice a day or week at a time. By using the year-long example of 100% versus maintenance at let’s call it, seventy percent, we don’t see steps backwards.
Recently, I was introduced to the Habit Share app and it has been instrumental in helping my family and a few friends track our maintenance minimums. Some examples of items to track include:
- Hydration – number of bottles or ounces
- Produce – cupped handfuls or number of meals that include it
- Protein – one source at each meal or palm size portions per day
- Physical Therapy – minutes of prescribed maintenance or selecting one exercise in the morning
- Limit Technology – number of hours per day or create do not disturb settings
- Journal – word of the day or write down all your worries in one column and solutions next to each
- Movement – complete intentional minutes per day or schedule a planned workout
While traveling for work, find your maintenance minimums.
Work Travel Tip 3: Rank Your Actions
Maintaining any routine has its challenges until it becomes an automatic habit you don’t think about. For instance, you decide to get up early to workout in the basement every morning. Did you know the decision would only last for two to three weeks before you’d barter sleep and exercise?
No matter what the new action is that you “need, want, or should” do, it has to align with your schedule and values.
Test this out. If you say, “I want to____.”
As I coach, I ask you how likely you are to complete that daily on a scale from one to ten. If you say an eight or above, it sounds like it will be manageable for you. If you say a six or seven, I may have you shrink that action a bit. Now, is your action an eight or above? If not, let’s shrink it again.
Shrinking the Action Example: I would be willing to exercise in my basement every day before work.
- 30 minutes each weekday morning.
- 15 minutes each weekday morning.
- 30 minutes three times per week.
- 15 minutes three times per week.
- Climbing the basement stairs up and down for 5 minutes each morning.
- Climbing the basement stairs up and down 5 minutes sometime each day.
- Putting on your workout clothes and doing a wall sit while you brush your teeth.
Shrinking each action brings you closer and closer to your “need, want, should” without setting you up to fail. This system will set you up to be consistent. Dial these actions up and down depending on the circumstances of the environment and time by doing this same ranking method. Finally, try to find actions that include “while traveling.” Now, scale those actions the same way and you’ll have something to try on your next trip.
Work Travel Tip 4: Hunger is not an Emergency
Hunger is not an emergency. There is time to plan out where, when and what you are going to eat in a rather short amount of time.
Think about hunger differently.
Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable for a little while. Slow down and pay attention to your physical symptoms. Hunger can come and go.
With practice you will be able to decipher between physical hunger, a desire to eat, and food cravings. A reaction like stress during work travel may produce similar emotions that you would typically sooth with food at home.
Drink some water and see if your thirst is what you have mistaken for hunger.
Additionally, consideration should be given to your state of health. Do you need to watch your blood sugar, insulin levels or eat with medication? Always follow a doctor’s orders if you should follow a specific timing for your intake.
Dr. Michelle Sands, author of Hormone Harmony Over 35, states, “In a perfectly working body, ghrelin tells us to eat so we don’t die of starvation, and leptin tells us when to stop. Unfortunately, hormones aren’t always in such a perfect balance. Obesity, genetic predispositions or health conditions, diet, sleep and lifestyle can throw our hunger and satiety out of whack, as well as compromise how efficiently our hunger hormones function.”
Obesity has a hand in playing with ghrelin levels and the brain thinks more food is needed which can lead to overeating. Avoid sugar, eat smart carbs, get enough sleep, and stay hydrated to help improve ghrelin regulation.
Work Travel Tip 5: Take 5+ Minute Walk Breaks
When coaches and apps calculate caloric requirements for users, the equation takes into account your height, weight, gender, goal in a certain time frame, and your activity level. Let’s highlight the activity factor. The equation takes into account your intentional activity (exercise) and your non-exercise activity (daily movements you need to perform to go about daily life.)
You might find yourself between sedentary and light-activity selections on nutrition tracking apps. The difference between these two might be a job sitting at a desk 95% of your day or a job as a teacher mixed between sitting, standing and easy strolls on the playground. More movement means more calories burned or more calories to eat depending on your goals!
When you travel by car from meeting to meeting, take a walk around the parking lot or building you are visiting. You might work out any presentation jitters or ponder some ice breaker questions.
Break for five minutes each hour for the restroom (find the one farthest from your office), or take a walk to your car and back to your desk, or use your lunch hour for a walk in a nearby neighborhood.
The terminal is an excellent place to get your steps in! Choose to walk to your departure gate instead of riding a train or shuttle. Next time you fly, walk a few extra gates in each direction. You can pull your bag along for extra resistance. It would be even better to have travel buddies who might watch your luggage while you get your heart rate up!
Back in 2021 there was a TikTok trend called the Silly Little Walk. It wasn’t defined by a time or a place, a speed or a distance, making it a popular reason to move outdoors. Fresh air can reduce stress, heart-healthy activity is low-impact and it may protect against cognitive decline. A study of six-thousand women over the age of sixty-five found that those who participated and walked more often were less likely to experience an age-related memory decline.
Also, going for a short walk increases your overall blood oxygen level. It also has benefits like improved digestion and more energy. Take a Silly Little Walk for five minutes at a time between meetings and projects. If walking isn’t your thing or the weather is less than ideal, try climbing the stairs, or do some squats with your chair as a target or support
Vault Health & Fitness is located in the heart of Perryburg, OH Voting won Toledo City Paper’s Best of Toledo for Best Gym, Best Classes, and Best Bootcamp Studio 2020, 2021, and 2022
Vault offers group strength and conditioning classes, personal training, online training, in-person nutrition coaching and online nutrition coaching. When you are on the road a lot, it’s hard to find a routine that will be consistent and sustainable in many different environments. We have trained coaches to meet you where you are to lead you with a caring hand to your best health. Visit our website to book a free No Sweat Intro. Tell us about your challenges and hear the ways we can build a short-term or long-term plan for you!