August 4, 2010 | by Kevin M. Norris
Fitness on the go

My friend Leonid is a frequent world traveler and manages to stay quite fit despite his hectic schedule. I am often asked, “How do I work out and take care of myself when I travel?” Leonid provides the perfect solutions.

When I was freelancing I spent days on end at the gym between projects and thought I would get progressively fit. I did, for a while. Once I hit the road for a few weeks my muscles deflated, my energy level went down and it was ever more difficult to drag my sorry fanny back to the gym upon returning home.

Once I realized I was bound to travel year after year due to my occupation, I decided to do something about it and I learned a few things about staying fit while trotting the globe.

First thing I had to learn was how to keep “juices” flowing while sitting on a plane for seven to 16 hours. I watched other passengers, especially the ones who seemed fit and energetic. They walked, stretched in the back of the plane, but never sat back and watched movies for hours. With the lower pressure in the cabin and dry air it is easy to get lethargic and sitting like an anemone for the whole flight is the worst thing you can do.

Away from home, after I check in at the hotel, the first thing I do is go to the gym. Most hotels have really small gyms with just a few cardio machines and maybe a rack with weights. Cardiovascular activity is what I need and even the smallest hotels have at least one piece of equipment. After the first 20 minutes on a Stairmaster, my energy level rises.

I always stretch before and after exercising. Stretching becomes even more important after many hours of limited mobility. I take my time and focus on my inner self as I stretch and exercise. I visualize my tired cramped muscles stretch, bend and twist.

I carry resist-a-bands and push-up bars in my suitcase. If the gym at the hotel doesn’t have much equipment, I exercise in my hotel room and it is amazing how much I can get out of it, especially if I can open a window or exercise on the balcony and have a nice view. I exercise at my own pace, listen to my favorite music or no music at all. If the hotel is close to a park I often go for a jog.

Another thing that helps me to stay fit is getting rid of jetlag as soon as you can. There are many techniques that I have learned. The best one for me is to go outside or just open a window, if you are on the sunny side of the building, and let the sun caress your face for 20 minutes – It’s amazing what the sun can do. First, it is quite pleasant after being on the plane for hours in the artificial light. Most importantly, it resets my biological clock.

I avoid naps, as taking a nap in the middle of the day doesn’t help as you just fool your body into a wrong schedule.

Alcohol for me is enemy No. 1 when it comes to travel. It may help me fall asleep initially, but sleep is intermittent. While I might fall asleep, my body doesn’t move as it does naturally even when I sleep; you just numb your senses and wake up in the same position you fell asleep in which is the worst thing to do on a long flight.

I consume lots of plain water before, during and after the flight. I cut back on eating in flight as well. There’s no way I can burn all those calories in the next few hours after a large meal on the plane. No salty chips or sweet desserts. I always keep in my carryon a bag of plain almonds and a bar of dark chocolate.

Overall, I learned to stay as fit on the go as I usually am when I am home. There’s really not too much you have to change in your routine — you just have to be open to the change of environment and commit to staying consistent with your exercise routine even while you travel.

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