If not considered ahead of time, diet and exercise can go out of the window whilst traveling for business. Airport lounges, airplane food, corporate hospitality and new routines can throw out even the most meticulous planner. But jet-setting around the world doesn’t have to come at the expense of eating and training well, there is another way.
Emil Hodzovic is a medical doctor and founder of the Health Evolved Academy, which takes high performers in sport and business to the next level through health optimisation. As well as degrees in both medicine and sports and exercise science, he has competed at a high level in sports including rugby, strongman and bodybuilding, allowing him to put the theories into practice.
Hodzovic practices what he preaches; he travels the globe running a business and staying in shape and has established six ways anyone can do the same.
Reframe free food
“Whether it’s business dinners or buffets at a hotel or conference, there is going to be free food and drink.” Hodzovic’s advice is to avoid slipping into a “scarcity mindset” just because the spread is free. “Slamming the reception drinks or eating piles of free bread at breakfast is neither enjoyable nor serving your higher purpose.” Eat to fuel your mind and body, not to save money. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and the cost of overdoing it is your health and wellbeing.
Hodzovic advises that travellers, “decide which food is worth enjoying and enjoy it. Reign it in the rest of the time.” Simple tricks might include physically moving away from the buffet table, filling your plate well, once, rather than making multiple trips. Finally, avoiding copying the strategies of those grazing for hours. Open bar doesn’t need to mean drinking to excess. All-you-can eat doesn’t mean you need to eat it all.
If your normal routine includes a specific sport or a certain gym, see if you can find alternatives. Perhaps you could arrange a taster session as a group event, or research ahead of time to find out what’s around where you’re staying. You can call nearby gyms before your arrival to check they take walk-ins and earmark the time you’ll visit. Removing uncertainty about when and where you can train removes an excuse not to do it.
Make use of available downtime. An hour or so in between events or waking up before your colleagues can be the perfect time to squeeze in a workout. “A few quick sessions, whether a hotel exercise bike, push ups in your room or a brisk pre-dinner walk is going to do you a world of good on many levels,” explains Hodzovic. Entrepreneurs run at full speed or burned out with nothing in between, but where health is concerned, a middle ground “can not only allow you to sustain the habits you’ve spent months or years building but also means you’ll feel better.” Health studies also say that people who exercise tend to make better food choices.
Make a plan
If you don’t make a food plan, you’ll end up overeating from hunger. If you don’t take supplies with you, a greasy fry-up might be the only option. “I tell my clients to have a rough plan sketched out before they head out,” explained Hodzovic. Look at menus ahead of visiting a restaurant. Know the rough nutritional content of the region’s popular cuisines. Planning ahead leaves less to chance.
The plan might not be bulletproof, but preparation means that “over time you’ll get better at iterating on the fly.” Further guidance includes “taking some protein powder with you” or “checking out the hotel’s facilities before you arrive.” Most TripAdvisor listings will reveal the contents of a venue’s fitness suite and many hotels are set in land that’s perfect for walks. Hotel concierges can often suggest local healthy eateries or walking routes. Either way, planning is key and “stacks the odds in your favour when you’re in the thick of it.”
Boom and bust is not conducive to health or happiness and is to be avoided, especially when traveling for business. “The worst thing you can do after a heavy trip or hectic conference is try to compensate when you get back,” explained Hodzovic. “This only feeds into the yo-yo rollercoaster and never ends well.” Your body wants consistency and won’t thank you for wild business trips followed by a phase of strictness. Redress the balance over tipping the scales entirely.
Hodzovic advises not to punish your body for a few indulgent days out. Instead, draw a line under your trip and resume normality. “Try to avoid reactive fasting, arbitrary restrictions or detoxes or excessive exercise.” It will cost your energy and do more harm than good.
Make healthy your default mode
Almost everyone has bad eating days; when the best-laid intentions just don’t cut it. But this isn’t a cause for panic if most of your life is healthy. The law of averages works in your favour. “One suboptimal day in a week won’t make a difference. One suboptimal week in a month is unlikely to totally derail you. It’s when those couple of days spill over that you get into a pickle.”
What you do 95% of the time will prevent infrequent slip ups ruining all your progress. “Building a solid routine for your day-to-day life gives you leeway during travel.” Make stringing good days together your default mode, and it will likely all average out.
Own your choices
Whilst refining his methods further in the real world; staying healthy and in shape while travelling, running his businesses and living life to the fullest, Hodzovic emphasises the importance of enjoying the journey. “Ultimately, life is about enjoyment,” he explained, but “whatever you choose to do when you’re on a trip, whether it’s finding a gym and sticking to your routine, going all out with food and booze or something in-between, own the decision.”
Travel for business with intention, not apathy. Being led astray and then feeling guilty about it “externalises the focus of control and teaches you that you’re helpless.” But you’re not. Make choices and deal with the consequences. Hodzovic said this means you “are empowered to change even if you’ve taken a small step backwards in the short term.”
Stay in shape whilst travelling for business by reframing free food and drink, making a plan and using your downtime well. Involve your colleagues in health and fitness endeavours to make it an enjoyable aspect of the trip. Strive for sustainability over boom and bust and prepare in advance, with healthy habits leading up to the trip and in your normal routine.