Travel is a great excuse if you want it to be.
I work nights, weekends and spend upwards of 200 days a year away on the road. And I’m constantly asked the same two questions by colleagues, friends, members of other gyms I visit. Sometimes even players.
How do you manage to not gain weight eating out all the time?
How do you keep up your workout schedule?
The simple answer is by choice. I choose to not let lifestyle factors get in the way of my goals. I chose to spend the little free time I have at the gym, or to plan ahead when possible with nutrition. It’s taken me years to figure out a system that works (most of the time) for me.
Here are my best tips for keeping your sanity and not losing your gains on the road.
Stick to your program.
If you’re someone who travels frequently you have to get used to the notion of working out alone. Lifters are used to being on individualized programs, but being in a new gym with no buddies or your coach adds another element.
You have to be mentally strong enough to hit hard reps and sets. Be your own damn cheerleader.
If you’re a CrossFitter you’re thinking, ‘But drop-in WODs are great!’. They are when you travel a handful of times a year. If you’re routinely in different cities you’re at the mercy of their programming and it’s a really easy way to blunt your progress.
Front squat? Again? But you haven’t done anything on the pull-up bar in weeks!
There’s a purpose (hopefully) to all of these boxes GPP programming and your random travel is essentially like cherry picking.
I don’t care if it’s your home box’s programming or something you pay for online. Stick to a program as much as possible. The occasional metcon elsewhere won’t kill you, but having no structure or strength and gymnastics movements will really stall progress for all but the very beginner athletes.
Do your research.
Because you can’t always stick to your programming at every gym. For lifters, more and more CrossFit gyms are adding open gym hours and platforms. Do your homework before you go to a city and look at the schedule.
Can you go during peak times and still accomplish what you need to? Can you drop weight? I’ve been to places in New York and San Francisco where you aren’t allowed to. That can be dicey on max-out days.
There are ways to try to get around it. Network. I’m part of a few communities on Facebook and I’ll generally solicit advice/recommendations for upcoming cities. Very often, someone knows someone who coaches at/owns/attends a gym in that area. Sometimes all it takes is mentioning a name to get to attend members-only open gym or to score a discounted drop-in rate.
If that doesn’t work, call ahead and state your case (nicely, obviously.)
I don’t remember the last time I didn’t wear gym clothes on the airplane. First, it’s comfortable. But more importantly you have to eliminate excuses whenever you can. Travel delays or unexpected traffic has taken away my plans for a hotel nap or lunch with a friend who lives in the destination city.
But my training is the last thing that goes.
I’ve gotten off the plane and shown up to many gyms with all of my luggage. I also try to find gyms with showers so I can avoid making another stop at the hotel and go right to work. Since most people work during the day, bring your luggage with you if you have to. Have your gym clothes, and snacks, ready so you don’t waste time. If it’s that important to you, you have to find a way.
Are there things that happen in travel way out of your control? Yes. But if I can take the 45 minutes it would’ve taken to get to my hotel, check in and unpack and instead use it to get through most of my daily training? It’s an easy choice.
Go heavy on the snacks. Especially protein.
It’s tough for a lot of people to ingest as much protein as they need with whole foods alone. That’s why proteins shakes are so popular. When I’m gone, I not only pack shakes on workout days, but smaller versions for rest days.
At first, I tried to “save” my protein for days when I was just lifting. But being on the road, especially if you don’t have a room with a fridge, limits your snacking ability.
So, I started making ziplock bags with just scoops of just Driven’s Whey protein to pack for rest days as an emergency. I almost never have any extra.
Is buying protein pricey? Yes. But so is asking for an extra chicken breast at every meal.
Hitting your fat as eating out is traditionally not an issue. But bananas and hard-boiled eggs (I eat half as whites only) are two of the easiest —and typically readily available—snack options.
If you get a place with a fridge and/or microwave, I’d highly recommend using a meal service. Even if it’s for just a meal or two a day, they can help you stay on track. And most will deliver right to your hotel.
I used Trifecta for 90% of my lunch and dinners when I was gone for six consecutive weeks in Spring Training. I returned home the leanest I had been in three years. Otherwise, find a grocery store with a decent hot bar- the microwaveable packs of rice are your friend.
And light on the gear.
Are you an athlete as your full-time profession? Or traveling to a lifting or CrossFit competition?
If neither, great, than leave most of your goodies at home.
First, as a traveler (or just a person who wants to keep their sanity) not checking a bag is a huge time-saver and avoids the disaster of your luggage being lost. Second, if you’re an athlete who cares about avoiding injury (who doesn’t) you SHOULD be able to lift a few times without all the bells and whistles.
You should be able to keep your core tight without a belt and lift weight overhead without wraps. Regardless of whether it fits in your carry on.
Travel beats your body up, it makes things tight and sore and zaps your energy. And the first thing that goes when you’re cramped for time (or just feeling lazy) is the warm-up. So, slapping on lifters gives you a false sense of range of motion and that is a troublesome road.
There’s exceptions (you’re planning a max out day, coming off a wrist injury, etc.) but I encourage you to try it. Not only will it spotlight your deficiencies (we all have them and you need to know where they are) but putting yourself through that increased range of motion builds a better movement pattern and will make you a stronger athlete in the long run.
It also looks extra badass if you PR your snatch in flat shoes.
Realize it’s not always in your control.
Most of us, myself included, aren’t training to be Olympians, elite powerlifters or CrossFit Games athletes. Recognize that travel is an additional challenge and treat it as such.
Some days you’re able to work, nap, lift and stay on track nutritionally. Some days your flight gets cancelled, you miss a workout and you eat ice cream for dinner.
Travel can be an excuse, but if it’s a big part of your life (and if your job isn’t to work out) you can get better. You just have to be smart about it.
Brittany Ghiroli is one of the founders of Athlete Daily and has spent nearly a decade in the professional sports world, including the past seven years traveling with the Orioles for MLB.com.