Fit on the fly: How frequent travelers stay healthy on the go
For Susan Devine, staying fit on the fly is all about the small choices she makes each day.
Devine is a Boise-based consultant who manages a team in Seattle and travels around the Pacific Northwest each week.
Between early morning flights, limited food choices, and hotel rooms far from home, Devine said she is intentional about the choices she makes to stay active and eat healthy.
Devine starts by parking as far away as she can in the airport parking garage. “I rarely sit down at the airport; I’m always walking.”
She also leaves a yoga mat at her office in Seattle so she can go to a yoga class, opts for the stairs rather than the elevator, and utilizes hotel gyms.
“In the past I’ve had two different gym memberships- one in Boise and one in Seattle,” she said.
Devine said there are actually a lot of options for staying active when traveling. With Wifi in hotel rooms, it’s easy to watch a workout video or go for a run when the weather is nice.
Linda Spaulding, an employee health and wellness manager for Alaska, divides her time between Portland, Seattle and Anchorage. Part of her role is to lead wellness initiatives and work with employees to develop personal health plans.
“For those who travel for work, the biggest challenge is scheduling and trying to fit things in,” she said. “It all adds up. Anything you do makes a difference. I’ve designed workouts people can do in hotels rooms.”
Andrea Gohlke was a flight attendant for 9 years before moving into a supervisor role at Alaska.
Gohlke said she finds she has a harder time fitting in exercise with a desk job than when she flew on a regular basis.
“I now have to be a little more intentional about finding time; it’s more intuitive for me to pack a bag for a few days and pack workout clothes.”
She said it is fairly common for those who work on flight crews to be fitness-minded and talk fitness on flights.
She said flight attendants and pilots are often training for triathlons or other fitness-related events. They bring bikes that are broken down to put together and ride on layovers. On flights to destination locations like Hawaii or Mexico, they swim in the ocean.
Spaulding said getting out and walking is underrated, but is still a great fitness option. The fitness tracker craze has been really great about getting people out to walk or run.
“It makes you accountable,” she said. “Walking is good exercise; anybody can do it.”
She says the benefits of exercise extend beyond the physical benefits. It can ease stress levels and increase feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Using layovers wisely
Layovers can be a drag but they don’t have to be. Motivated fliers can do exercises like tricep dips, squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and calf raises just about anywhere.
Airports like San Francisco International (SF0) and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) have yoga rooms on site to provide relaxation and rejuvenation for passengers.
Spaulding said some airports have outlined indoor walking paths, or passengers can create their own. She recommends using a fitness tracker to track steps through the airport and taking a couple laps up the aisle during flights to help with energy, circulation, and stiffness. The Minneapolis-St.Paul airport offers a 1.4-mile walking path, approximately every 0.1 miles of which are noted on the terminal signs.
Airports like Detroit (DTW) and Las Vegas (LAS) have on-site gyms. If these aren’t available many airports have hotels with gyms or hotels located close to the airport that are available for travelers for a small fee.
Airports also provide the opportunity to indulge in some self-care with onsite spas and salons.
“Life is so full it is easy to forget to take care of what is important … You!” Spaulding said. “Get a massage, pedicure, manicure, or a haircut. Treat yourself!”
Gohlke said making healthy food choices is harder to keep up than a regular fitness routine when traveling for work, so she started bringing her own food. She would pack Mason jar salads and switch out different proteins, vegetables, and salad dressings to keep things interesting. Gohlke also packed a mini crockpot with soup or leftovers to heat up. Devine said she definitely eats things she wouldn’t eat if she was at home but she still tries to make positive choices, like opting for soup when eating out.
While on the plane, she usually chooses Alaska’s Mediterranean snack pack or Signature Fruit and Cheese Platter to fill her up.
“If I’m staying at a place for more than one day, I take leftovers and reheat for another meal,” she said.
She said that the food options for those dining out are much better than they used to be.
Even in a fast food drive-thru, there is the possibility of ordering something healthy.
Also huge: making sure you stay hydrated.
“It really can make or break people from staying healthy,” she said. “With enough plenty of water, mobility is better.”
Spaulding said that sleep can also have a major impact on health while traveling so she teaches sleep and relaxation strategies.
It might be tempting to drink a lot of coffee when you are low on energy but that can have an impact on sleep.
Devine said there is the temptation to work as much as possible on the road. When she works too long her brain can’t shut off and sleeping becomes challenging.
“I talk with employees about bringing normalcy (when traveling),” Spaulding said. “Whether it’s flannel pajamas or something else, I encourage them to bring something with them that is their own. It can be grounding.”
She said keeping work life balance when traveling is important.
Spaulding stays at the same places when she travels to add to her comfort level. She tries to stay at a hotel close to her morning meeting, so in the morning all she has to do is cross the street.
Devine said that keeping up her healthy lifestyle is a conscious decision and she couldn’t imagine living her life another way.
“Decide you will continue to be healthy even though you are traveling,” she said. “It takes a toll over time if you don’t make healthy decisions on a regular basis.”