Business travel can be exhilarating, fun and challenging. However, despite all the great experiences you get to enjoy on the road, you also have to deal with not being in your own bed and the lack of sleep that accompanies that. Add long hours, little access to fresh foods, and of course, time away from family and friends and it’s no wonder the Harvard Business Review found a strong correlation between the frequency of business travel and a wide range of physical and behavioral health risks. Compared to those who spent one to six nights a month away from home for business travel, those who spent 14 or more nights away from home per month had significantly higher body mass index scores and were significantly more likely to report the following: poor self-rated health; clinical symptoms of anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence; no physical activity or exercise; smoking; and trouble sleeping, according to the study.
If you want to be a healthy road warrior, I won’t lie to you: it takes effort. But it is so worth it. Feeling good while traveling for work leads to more productivity, better output, a superior work product, and an all-around happier life. This is my business travel wellness routine:
1. Fuel Your Body
• Stay hydrated…I drink at least 1.5 liters of water every day, whether or not I am traveling. When flying I consume at least half a liter of water for every hour in the air. (As a bonus, this forces you to get up and move while on the plane, helping to lower the risk of blood clots.)
• Limit alcohol consumption while traveling as it tends to dehydrate you and zaps your energy. And there’s nothing worse than a hangover on a work trip. You need to stay fresh for client and colleague meetings.
• Avoid red meat. Stick with chicken, fish and salads to avoid bloat and keep glucose levels consistent.
• Choose healthy snacks like almonds, fruit, vegetables and juices. It’s so easy to hit a vending machine and get some chips or a candy bar, but the temporary energy rush will wear off fast, and leave you feeling worse than before.
• No caffeine after 3 p.m. I do make an exception for green tea later in the day, due to its incredible health benefits, but never drink coffee.
2. Move Your Body
• Up and at ‘em! It can be very tempting to snatch as much sleep as you can. But I make it a point to be up early enough so that I can exercise at least 40 minutes every morning before 7 a.m. My road warrior workouts involve a balance of high intensity cardio and free weight exercises to keep metabolic levels up during the day.
• To make sure I can do my resistance work, I pack exercise bands I can use in my hotel room in case time is tight. They take up barely any room in my suitcase and make for an effective workout tool.
• Use the gym! A good hotel gym is a joy to behold. If it is available, I make a firm appointment in my calendar to go there and use that resource. One of the best things about working with a corporate travel agent is that they have access to things like Travel Leaders Group’s Select Hotels program, which can guarantee me the use of a gym, even if other guests have to pay for it.
• Before bed, I spend 20 minutes stretching and doing balance exercises to decompress from the day and get my body ready for sleep. This is especially important on travel days, since hours spent in an airplane seat can really make you stiff and sore.
• During the day, find reasons to move. Always take the stairs, stretch on flights, and try to stand as much as you can. It isn’t always possible, but try not to sit more than one hour during a meeting.
3. Rev Up Your Mind
• After I get out of bed and exercise, and before I walk out of the hotel room, I do some motivational reading, listen to TED Talks, and spend time in spiritual reflection to put myself in the right frame of mind for the day.
• It can be easy to fall into a pattern of negativity when you’re dealing with the everyday annoyances that can crop up on a work trip. But this negativity can seep into your personality, and your customers and coworkers can sense that. To keep a positive frame of mind, I always spend 10 minutes thinking about everything I’m grateful for and giving thanks for all of my blessings.
• Give at least five comments of recognition throughout the day to let people know they are valued and important to you. Those five people can, and should, be everyone involved in your day, not just your clients and team. A lot of people work at making my work trips go well, and it is important to express gratitude to everyone, from my assistant, to the travel agent who arranged my trip, to the housekeeping staff who clean my hotel room, to the receptionist at the meeting site who offers me coffee, to the pilot who got me safely to my destination.
• One of the hardest parts of traveling for work is missing my family and being out of the loop on their lives. I find that work travel is much better when I stay in touch on a consistent basis with my family so they know I’m thinking of them and appreciate them. We live in a world with a million ways to communicate, so do whatever works for you: phone calls, texting, email, social media or FaceTime/Skype.
4. Refresh Your Mind
• Get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Things like jet lag can make this difficult, but try. Your brain needs restorative sleep in order to work well.
• To get that sleep, practice good sleep hygiene: turn off the TV in your hotel room and set your phone on silent so you’re not awakened by a 2 a.m. email.
• Take 20 minutes during the middle of the day to give yourself a “brain refresh.” Meditate on positive thoughts to reset for the afternoon.
Taking care of your health and traveling for work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. For more tips on how to keep your frequent business travelers happy & healthy, check out How to Retain Your Most Productive Road Warriors.