Staying healthy while traveling can be challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible. And with technology advancing rapidly, it’s getting easier all the time.
Still, many people haven’t given much thought to how they can avoid the ravages the road can inflict on their bodies. So allow me to offer some tips, gathered from two decades of travel experience. They fall into three basic categories: sleep, food and exercise.
I know I sound like your mother, but you know what? She was right. Sleep is the foundation of everything else.
Time zone changes, unplanned naps during your flight and late dinners with clients can affect your sleep patterns. So to help me get to sleep in my hotel room, I often take melatonin, a natural and effective sleep aid. But before I climb in bed, I take two other key steps.
Related: 6 Ways to Curb Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue
First, I set my alarm and call the front desk to set up a wake-up call. That way I feel confident that, one way or the other, I’m going to be awakened when I need to be, so I don’t have to wake up every hour just to check the clock.
Second, I make sure the windows are completely covered by the curtains so the early morning sun won’t disturb me. When necessary, I use the clips from the closet hangers to close up gaps.
And, by the way, you won’t catch me working on my computer in bed, or even in my hotel room at night. Nothing more clearly tells your brain not to relax than opening your email. Go to sleep. Get up a little earlier in the morning instead, and check your email then.
Before you board your plane, pick up a bag of almonds or trail mix -- enough to last a few days -- so that when you get the munchies, you won’t hit the potato chips or candy bars. When you arrive at your hotel, help yourself to the free fruit that many set out these days.
If you have any say about where you’ll be eating dinner, do a little research to find out where the local foodies go for healthy dining. And even if you don’t have a voice in that decision, remember that most restaurants offer a lot of healthy options. Ask for your chicken grilled, not fried. Skip the bread. Order an extra side of vegetables. Pass on dessert.
Most hotels have gyms now, but before you reserve your room, confirm that the hours of operation will accommodate your schedule. If you don’t want to use the gym, exercise in your room with the help of one of the myriad smartphone apps or YouTube exercise videos available.
Or, after getting a little guidance from the concierge, go for a walk or jog -- great ways to get to know a little about the city you’re visiting. And don’t cheat yourself. Book your exercise time into your Outlook or Google calendar before you leave, and keep that appointment with yourself.
Here’s another way to keep things interesting: Try a different workout in each different city. For example, do yoga in Chicago, Zumba in St. Louis and spinning in New York. You’ll not only keep fit, but also you'll get out more and to gain a new perspective on the city you’re visiting.
Also, if you’re traveling through Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or another international airport with exercise facilities, arrive at the airport early or take advantage of your layover to squeeze in a workout.
I know that sometimes it’s not possible to do all these things, that sometimes travel schedules are too brutal or that your day can careen out of control. But I’ve found that more often than not, I’m able to employ some or all of these tactics.