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My wife and I just returned from an extended weekend vacation full of hotel rooms and travel logistics. We ate and drank more than we usually do, which is par for the course with vacations. But--surprise!--we also burned more calories than we usually do.
When you travel, whether for vacation or business, exercise is usually the first routine to go. Unless you go to a full service resort or upper tier hotel, workout facilities are often inadequate--if they exist. Pools are too tiny for laps. Single-day memberships at sports clubs are expensive. And locales can be unfamiliar and unsafe for walking and running.
But just because you're on a trip, doesn't mean you can't get in a good workout. Here are seven strategies that can help you exercise when you're away from home.
Take your walking shoes
Even when I'm traveling light, I always pack my running shoes. On some trips I don't know when I'll get a chance to workout, but if I don't have my shoes with me, there's zero chance I'll exercise.
Learn the landscape
I can't tell you how many times I've been stuck in an unfamiliar hotel in an unfamiliar city pining for some exercise. These days I try to scout before I book, looking for nearby parks, malls or other places I can get recreation. If I'm going to be in a city for an extended period, I look for nearby state or federal parks--and yes, there's an app for that.
(Many big cities have apps that help you find local attractions and recreation areas; of course, plugging your hotel address into Google maps or Mapquest can help you dial up options, too.)
Schedule extra time in your trip
Traveling is hectic enough as it is. Tight timetables can ruin a vacation and make business travel miserable. When possible, I plan my trips with additional time before departures, which can allow for physical activity.
My wife and I used this extra time on our recent trip to go shopping at a mall (lots of walking) and to take a stroll at sunset.
Plan to exercise
Of course the biggest barrier to exercise when you travel is scheduling.
Business dinners, roadside attractions and entertainment plans usually trump other plans. That's why I set an appointment to exercise. This helps me keep on my routine even when away from home.
Get exercise when you can
If you can't actually get exercise on your schedule, squeeze it in where you can. Skip the moving sidewalks at airports and hoof it instead. Changing terminals? Where possible, walk instead of taking the train. Lugging your bags will add to the workout.
In walking cities like New York, skip the taxi and walk to your next destination. You'll save money and get exercise. My wife, who wears a pedometer most of the time, racked up an additional 10,000 steps--about five miles--in one day of our trip by using her legs as the main mode of travel.
Create your own gym
If you can't leave your hotel--or if the area isn't safe for walking--take advantage of your body weight and gravity to get a good workout. Start by taking the stairs at your hotel--and carry your own bags. A parking lot can also be a good place to get your heart rate up, provided it's well lit and there's not a lot of traffic.
Finally, you can even use the furniture in your hotel room to get a good resistance workout. Try these three moves next time you're on the road and need to burn some calories.
If you've flown recently you may have noticed your eating options are getting better. True, fewer airlines are serving free meals on board, but there are more healthier dining options before you board.
More airports have added concessions with menus reflecting consumer demand for more salads, whole-wheat bread and even grab-and-go prepackaged vegetable crudités.
At America's busiest hubAtlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airportthe convenience store-like set up at Z Market on T, A and B concourses features refrigerated selections of entree salads, fresh sandwiches, fruit and cheese combos. You can also pick up an apple or a banana.
The sandwich options are getting healthier, too. It used to be that the average airport coffee stand offered only sandwiches on white bread. But Starbucks now offers sandwiches made on whole-wheat bread and they even include nutrition information on their packages.
If you're planning to travel this holiday season, here are a few tips for healthier eating:
Eat before you go.
Time allowing, have a good breakfast or lunch before you head to the airport, including a lean protein choice such as eggs, turkey, chicken, roast beef or fish. Protein will keep your blood sugar on an even keel for a few hours and your appetite in check so you're not desperately hungry before takeoff.
Take food with you.
Did you know most food items are okay to take through security? Leave the beverages behindyou'll have to buy those on the concoursesbut, save money, time and trouble by bringing your own sandwiches or healthy snacks such a nuts, dried fruit, whole-wheat crackers and hard cheese.
Note that the Transportation and Safety Administration provides a list of foods on its website that are not allowed, including creamy dips, soft spreadable cheeses and peanut butter. They fall into the disallowed category of "gel-like substances."
A special note on the TSA's website informs travelers: "You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening." Guess that's if the chocolate cake you're bringing to grandma's house looks especially delicious.
Related Links:How to make healthy eating choices at the food court
Frequent flyer? Find healthier options on the road.
It seems that every year, around mid-October, my life starts to slowly snowball out of control. First there is Halloween and the pressure of helping my kids devise (and then create) a clever costume.
Then comes November which brings with it one daughter's birthday (with attendant celebration), followed by Thanksgiving (which involves either travel or cooking or both). And then before I know it, December descends upon me and so does the other daughter's birthday, closely followed by my husband's and father's birthdays (this year it's the BIG 8-0 for Pops!) and then Christmas/Chanukah (which also involves either cooking or travel or both).
Of course, there are also holiday cards to make and mail, and "perfect" gifts to find, buy and ship. Not to mention office and neighborhood parties (which require dressing up and trying to score a sitter) and cookie-exchanges (which require baking cookies!).
If cultural indicators are to be trusted, I know that I am not alone: 'Tis the season to be totally stressed out. But, as we all know by now, stress is not good for body or soul.
According to the experts, there are steps we can take to reduce that stress, most of which is of our own making.
"One of the big things is that people do a lot of 'should-ing' this time of year," says Paula Bloom, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia. "They have an ideal in their headsfrom magazines and movies and family expectationsfor how things should be. But it does not line up with what they can or want to do." This, she says, creates tension.
The solution? "Stop 'should-ing' all over yourself" she advises. Create your own traditions based on what matters to you, not what you think you should be doing. To help you decide what is important, focus on the spiritual, instead of commercial, aspects of the holidays. And spend your financial and emotional capital wiselyyou don't want to get to January emotionally or financially bankrupt.
The second big reason holidays create so much stress is that they take us out of our daily routines. "People stop doing the things that keep them healthy physically and mentally: sleeping and eating right, and exercising," says Bloom.
"Take care of yourself. Just because you're going to party doesn't mean you throw out your good behavior. Stay on your exercise schedule and maintain healthy sleep patterns if you can. In general we do well when we have routines," says Bloom. She notes that it's much easier to maintain an existing routine than it is to start one.
For many people, the Granddaddy of all stressors is interacting with family. "We all have our issues with our family," says Bloom. "Holidays are often time when people get mega, mega doses of their family. It can be intense." Her advice to counter family-induced stress: spend time with the people you enjoy.
The American Psychological Association advises people with family issues to be realistic about the situation. "If you have bad feelings about someone, try and avoid him or her and not make an issue of it but don't pretend that all is well. This will enable you to feel true to yourself and less stressed out."
The Mayo Clinic counsels people to set aside grievances until a more appropriate time to discuss them, and to remember that others are likely feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.
To reduce my stress level this year, here's what I'm going to do: Cut my trip to my hometown from 10 days to four. I'm sure the change will greatly reduce my parents' stress level, as well. Happy Holidays, Mom and Dad!How to relax your body
Can knitting really relieve stress? Our resident humorist unwinds this yarn.
Dietitian Carolyn O’Neil comes to the rescue of a busy business traveler whose on-the-go diet is high in unhealthy airport food.