Business Travel and Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

What are the healthy lifestyle challenges that a business person faces every day?

I’ve been a consultant to the gas and electric utility industry for over 30 years and spent a lot of time flying across the country, staying in hotels, entertaining clients and eating in restaurants.  While I have loved the lifestyle, it definitely took its toll on my health and physical fitness.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was working 60+ hours a week at my office, in meetings, on conference calls, leading planning sessions, attending board meetings, holding staff meetings, or presenting in client meetings.  I rarely left the office from the time I arrived at 7am till I left for home sometime after 7pm… six or seven days a week.

If you search the Internet for ‘success habits for long-term weight loss’ you’ll find a study that lists the following traits for people who lost weight and kept it off for several years.  The traits are:

  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Get proper sleep
  • Drink water
  • Take vitamins
  • Reduce stress

I had two reactions to this list after reading it… one was “Duh!” – because it seems so obvious, and second was, “Yeah, and who has time for any of that.”

  1. It’s hard to eat well when traveling or leaving my house at 6am to make the commute to the office or catch a 6:45am flight.
  2. It is darn near impossible to make time to exercise when 12 hours a day are dedicated to work and I still have to make time to help raise my children, do household chores and maintenance, take the car for an oil change… etc., etc., etc.  And even harder when traveling, where getting to an airport, flying, getting bags, picking up the rental car, driving to the client’s office, making a sales presentation, taking the client to dinner and drinks, finding and checking into the hotel, and prepping for the next day, often took 18 to 20 of the 24 hours in the day.
  3. Proper sleep?  You’ve got to be kidding!  If I got more than 4 hours a night I thought I was wasting time.
  4. Drinking water and taking vitamins.  Sure.  I’d try, but first the coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee… (and donuts).  Then maybe.  Maybe.
  5. Reduce stress? Reread the four items above and ask me why I felt stressed.

All of this leads to being overweight, putting an undue stress on the heart and immune systems.  Over use of caffeine and alcohol create potential blood sugar and blood pressure issues, chronic tiredness, headaches, and other ailments.

It is difficult to eat well when “ordering in” at the office because the meeting is running long, or when dining/entertaining at nice restaurants with drinks and appetizers.  It was either the BLT (with the half a pound of bacon) from the local deli, or too many drinks, too big of a steak, and rich deserts when at Smith & Wollensky.

Develop a regular routine for proper eating or exercising is difficult when you have no regular routine.

When I traveled I was always subject to someone or something else dictating when and where I’d be… a client, employees, Delta, the weather.  My schedule wasn’t my own.  When I wasn’t traveling these same entities were usually still in charge of my time and schedule.

Even if a hotel had a workout facility for guests, many weren’t 24/7, so it would be closed during the four hours between 1am and 5am that I had targeted to sleep or to try to hit the gym.

Joining a health club at home was problematic because I either wouldn’t be in town or by the time I got home, it would be closed for the evening.

Stories of business people sharing their experiences about health problems they face because of the lack of a healthy routine.

The business lifestyle – that of business travel, long hours at the office, eating on the run or eating and drinking excessively while entertaining, getting little sleep, not making time to exercise, and living in a high stress environment, will eventually catch up with anybody, regardless of how well they ate or exercised before being overcome by the lifestyle.

Being out of shape becomes an inconvenience and situational hazard.  Struggling to carry a briefcase, a computer, a load of manuals, a screen and projector, from a parking lot into your clients building, can cause you to sweat through your shirt or get so out of breath that you can’t speak.

It could be dangerous and embarrassing such as not being able to fit into a restaurant booth or needing to ask for a seat belt extender.

Your image suffers when your client is a workout fiend that takes the stairs from the third floor to the twentieth and expects you to do so with her.

I used to sit on the airplane and pray that nobody would be assigned the seat next to me because I was so big that I might make them uncomfortable by spilling over into their space.  In fact, I used to watch people boarding the plane and actually had the following preferred order for who might sit next to me:

  1. Any child.  ANY!
  2. A skinny teenager
  3. A small woman or man
  4. A medium-sized woman or man
  5. Everybody else

I’d take any child, crying, whining, talking… a baby, it didn’t matter as they were usually small and we wouldn’t be fighting for arm space.  I had similar fears when meeting people at a restaurant.  I prayed they had a table and not a booth.

Other issues that poor health problems could cause me were, low energy levels and a lack of confidence in myself.

What kind of health and fitness tips are business people on the
lookout for that would fit their business schedule?

In order to work into the busy schedule of a traveling business person, any eating or exercise solution has to meet the following criteria. It:

  • Must not add significant time for preparation or execution. It must either save time, or be able to be done during some other activity… i.e. while on a conference call, while sitting in a meeting or on an airplane.
  • Shouldn’t require special equipment, which cannot be brought on an airplane or placed in luggage, or take up space in an office.
  • Is best if whatever exercise is done in an office environment can be done in a small space – especially if the person doesn’t have his/her own private office.  And it can’t be noisy or disruptive.

When possible, select a hotel that has a 24 hour fitness center, and a large one so that it isn’t full just when you try to use it.

What kind of workout would be suitable for business people on the go?

When I decided to get serious about finding a way to exercise and workout while traveling, I decided to use the tools available to me where I found them.  That is, while at a hotel, if there was no workout room, or if it was closed or full when I wanted to use it (as is often the case), I started walking up the steps in the fire/emergence stair wells.  After all, what’s more like a stair step machine than a set of stairs?  Even if the hotel was only two stories, I’d walk up and down for a half an hour.  It’s an aerobic and weight training exercise all in one!  Easy – I didn’t even have to leave the hotel.  Simple – ‘Always Open.’ Great exercise.  My office building was three stories tall, so this worked there also.

A couple of us started a lunchtime walking ‘club’ where we would take our lunch and walk a couple of miles around the building and around the block. This had the added benefit of keeping me from eating the two-story Reuben sandwich and instead have a protein or fiber bar while walking.

In the airport, I started taking the stairs and avoiding escalators and moving walkways.  Even a little exercise helped.

I brought a set of 10 pound hand weights that I could use in my office – doing arm and wrist curls, even in meetings, and overhead presses and chest fly’s when in my office alone – sometimes during conference calls when I’d normally just be sitting there.

When I’d get back to the hotel I’d watch the news on TV while doing sit ups or push-ups, or doing a leg squat against a wall (great for leg strength).  I also bought two resistance bands, one kept in my luggage for travel, the other in my office.  With these I could do several resistance training exercises in my office or hotel room.

I purchased an arm band that tracked my steps and calorie burn each day.  Because in the back of my mind I knew I was being monitored and would be able to see what I did at the end of the day, my competitive nature caused me to walk more, and walk faster, so that I would always be trying to top my record number of steps and calories burned.

There are hundreds if not thousands of videos online (YouTube and other sources), everything from P90X to general calisthenics, that I could easily watch on my laptop or tablet using my office or hotel Wi-Fi.

To help me eat better while at the office, I started a brown bag partnership with a workmate.  For each day that we were both in the office on the same day, one of us would make a two healthy lunches at home the night before and bring them in to share.  I could have done that for just myself, and sometimes did.  However, when everyone would head out to lunch and I’d be the only one staying back and eating in the office by myself, I’d usually just toss my healthy lunch and go with the group.  But because there was two of us, I always had a buddy to stay back with me and eat healthy while the rest of the group went out and over ate at the local deli or Mexican restaurant.

When traveling out-of-town, I packed several protein or fiber bars in my luggage and have them in place of airplane or hotel or fast food options that usually were high in salt and calories and low in taste anyway.

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