I LOVE to travel; seeing new places, making new friends, and going on adventures. I love living a life where I'm excited to see what is just around the corner... or more accurately, around the globe!
You know what else I love? Staying healthy and keeping physically fit.
If you are a frequent traveler, whether for pleasure or business, you know that being on the go and a healthy lifestyle are not always the most compatible.
At home you visit the gym four times a week, when travelling it can be hard to even find a set of weights.
At home you have no problem getting to the Farmer's Market for some fresh produce to prepare dinner in your kitchen. Travelling, on the other hand, offers culinary challenges from eating out of hotel rooms to the edible holiday indulgences that we don't necessarily want to miss out on.
Travelling has its challenges when it comes to keeping in shape and staying healthy, but wellness is a way of life, no matter where life takes you. Whether in the busy hub of a unknown city, on a sandy beach of a tropical paradise, or in the comfort of your own home, a commitment to health is something you take with you, no matter where you are.
But it takes effort and planning to make healthy choices when travelling and not leaving it up to chance that you'll sneak in a workout after the all-you-can-eat buffet at the resort.
Here are 5 tips any traveler will find useful to keep yourself feeling strong and healthy even when you're miles from home:
1. Adjusting Your Internal Clock
Whether you've booked the Red Eye, had a long layover, and especially if you've traveled to a place outside of your time zone, it can be difficult to adjust while travelling. Jet lag, or that uncomfortable, tired, downright exhausted feeling you get into a new time zone is due in part to a disruption of your circadian rhythm, or internal "body clock".
Responsive to the regular changes in light and darkness, our circadian rhythms can take days to adjust to new surroundings, leaving you feeling as though it's time for bed when it's just time for lunch!
The best way to treat jet lag is to shift your circadian rhythm to your new time zone as quickly as possible. This will help to reduce stress and improve your sleep, important factors to our health. Here are some suggestions to get you feeling like a local sooner than later:
- Get up and go to bed earlier several days prior to your trip when travelling eastward and later for a westward trip.
- Change your watch or phone to the destination time zone upon boarding your plane in an effort to psychologically prepare you for the change in times.
- Use earplugs and an eye-mask to help reduce noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping to ensure you're getting sufficient shut-eye.
- Get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is essential for regulating your biological clock, while staying indoors can worsen jet lag.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
2. Working Out
While it can be difficult to get out of bed in the morning while travelling, it may be the only time of the day that you have complete control over, don't waste it!
Don't wait until after the conference or work event to get some exercise in. Do it before everyone else is up. If you don't have a gym where you are staying, make do. A quick swim at the pool, a jog through the city streets, even a brisk walk; where there's a will there a way to keep physically active.
I often travel with resistance bands which give me the opportunity to get a workout in no matter where I am or where I am staying. You can adjust the tension of the bands to your preferred resistance and the best part, they pack away neatly into your suitcase when it's time to hit the road.
3. Efficient exercises
But you don't need to spend hours at the gym. Set a buffer of 30 minutes of high intensity and stay on track. Once you start, it's easy to take long breaks or get distracted by other people. Get in and get out. Have your routine set and focus.
- Burpies: push-up to stand with a jump
- Squats: knees following over the toes
- Push-ups: on the floor or elevated surface
- Jumping jacks (or tuck jumps for a challenge): don't stop
- Lunges: alternating legs
- Scapular Y's and T's: Raise your arms at a 45˚ angle (Y's) then at 90˚ angle (T's) moving them 2 inches back or as far as your shoulders will retract with a strong core. This helps build a strong core and healthy posture.
- Plank hold: front and side alternating
4. Eating out
This one is tough for most travelers. No one wants to stand out as the "healthy one" ordering salads, it's your reputation on the line, I get it.
But whatever you order, make sure you are eating some vegetables and approximately a palm-sized portion of protein. Skip the heavy-carbohydrates, appetizers and desserts, they have bad news written all across them.
Or set limits to your indulgences so you don't go overboard. While you don't want to miss out on all the delicious local delicacies, make sure not to jeopardize your health goals. You'll thank yourself later.
I try my best to stay in places with access to a kitchen. This way, I'm able to make a healthy breakfast, lunch and shake for the day. Dinner is often a social event out with colleagues, so I usually save my one meal out for the evenings.
5. Drinking out
When you travel you may find that many social events revolve around alcohol. If you have difficulty limiting yourself to 1 or 2 drinks, just avoid it all together. And maybe think twice about that virgin margarita or daiquiri. While you might think it's a better choice than the alcoholic version, all that sugar is just empty calories better spent elsewhere. Ask for a soda water with a wedge of lime or lemon in a normal glass instead.
I've never heard someone say they regret travelling. Wherever you go, travelling does wonders for social consciousness, opening your eyes to new ways of living, thinking, and being.
What you may regret, however, is letting your health goals fall by the wayside while wandering the globe. While I encourage you to thoroughly enjoy your travels remember that good health and fitness can be taken anywhere; don't leave home without them.
Bon voyage and stay well!
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As Steven W. Lockley, a member of NASA's fatigue management team, told the New York Times, the direction you fly makes a difference on whether you'll want sunlight earlier in the day or less sunlight. This is due to the way time zones are spread across the globe. It's easier to add hours or daylight exposure if flying east because you'll be adding hours to the clock. Flying west means to set the clock back and it's harder to take away daylight unless you're already something of a night owl.
Lean protein (turkey, chicken breast and fish) tends to keep bellies full over a long period of time and will help passengers stay awake when they arrive at their destination, thanks to the constant energy released, writes Janet Kinosian. Conversely, avoid fatty foods as they'll put you to sleep. After all, it's called the "meat sleeps" for a reason.
Try moving your body every two hours while on the plane. A walk up and down the aisle will help with blood circulation within the body. Exercise, whether done it's before, during or after the flight will keep the body energized during the day and asleep at night, notes Amy Korn-Reavis, a registered sleep technologist.
Think jet lag is bad? Try being exhausted and drunk. Staying hydrated will help keep the mind functional, whereas alcohol interferes with sleep, according to Vivek Jain, medical director of the George Washington University Hospital Centre for Sleep Disorders in an interview with Fairfax Media.
The only thing worse than arriving half-dead with jet lag is being half-dead and having to deal with hotel accommodations. By anticipating how many days you'll need to recover from jet lag, you can plan accordingly; adjusting to whether you'll want to wake up later and staying up longer or going to bed earlier and waking up sooner to soak in more sunlight.
Photo Credit: Puerto Rico Tourism Company Where: Vieques, Puerto Rico When the Spanish first encountered Puerto Mosquito in Vieques, they attributed the underwater neon-blue lights to the work of the devil; a more plausible explanation attributes the phenomenon to dinoflagellate, a microorganism that glows in response to movement. We can thank the Spaniards, who blocked off the entrance of the bay in an attempt to drive out evil spirits, for preserving the unique ecological environment in Puerto Mosquito. Visitors to Vieques can experience the bioluminescent bay by booking a kayak tour after dark (several companies operate in the area; try Kayaking Puerto Rico). Plan to visit on a night with no moon, so as best to see the lights in the shallow bay waters. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Puerto Rico Travel Guide
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Follow Dr. Alison Chen, ND on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrAlisonChenND