Every consultant knows that traveling for work is not always as sexy as it seems. From the outside, people see first class flights, room upgrades, nice suits, and corporate cards. But the truth is it is very hard to stay healthy while on the road. Consultants often eat fast food in the airport because we simply don’t want to deal with making dinner (and have empty fridges at home anyway). We sit motionless in front of our computers for long periods of time. And while the late nights, rushed meals and little company don’t have to define our lives, they definitely can if we aren’t careful. Taking care of your body is hard on the road, but avoiding these habits makes staying healthy a whole lot easier.
Exercise is easily the most valuable and most difficult part of my travel routine. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that “routine” is something that isn’t always in a consultant’s control. It isn’t unheard of to frequently travel to different locations, stay at different hotels, and never be exactly sure when you will be able to leave the client. A late day in the office, delayed Thursday flight, or mandatory team dinner can mean no evening workout. Regardless of how willing you are! Let me tell you- there is a such thing as not having enough time. But since our lives can be so unpredictable, I rely on rules rather than schedules.
For example, my basic rule is that I work out if:
- I didn’t fly that day AND
- If I can finish the workout before 11PM
This usually results in me logging about 4 workouts/week. I also have a rule about the intensity of workouts:
- At least 3 sets of 6 weight lifting exercises
- I have the option to trade 15 minutes of cardio for any 3 sets of an exercise
These rules enforce consistency. I may never work out super often or with super high intensity. But I have found these rules ensure I do enough to stay healthy and in good shape. And sometimes, enough can feel like a hell of a lot.
Overeating on Per Diem
Anyone on per diem can relate to feeling like they have to spend all of it. It is free money after all! However, that mentality has some negative consequences. Sometimes I go out to get food when I’m not necessarily hungry. Even worse, I order more food than I need just because I have money to blow. Both of those behaviors can reinforce one of the most dangerous habits a consultant can start- overeating.
However, I have come up with a satisfying alternative. I use per diem as an opportunity to try new foods or products I wouldn’t otherwise buy. Think: $13 beef jerky from Whole Foods, or a really fancy $8 bottle of pressed juice.
Another tip: choose one night to have a weekly decadent dinner, and eat modestly for the rest of the week. Bonus points if it is a restaurant you have never been to before! Thinking in terms of quality rather than quantity can save you calories and also help sustain your bougie lifestyle.
No one would blame you for wanting to vegetate in your hotel room after 12 hours at the client. Consultants often have to sit together in large conference rooms while on site, working in close quarters with one another. Trust me, the number of overheard conversations and loud chewers would drive anyone crazy. Still, it isn’t an excuse to spend every evening in self-imposed solitary confinement.
Pleasant conversation with strangers can boost feel-good chemicals and decrease stress. After work, I too need some time to decompress. I get “me time” by working out and taking a bath. Only after sweating and soaking my stress away do I go out. I make an effort to have a sit down dinner at least 2 of 3 nights. If part or all of your team is going out, you should go with them.
When I don’t have a dining companion, I eat at the bar. This almost always results in my chatting with another solo diner, a group of friendly people, or the bar staff. This is especially true if I am wearing my work clothes. Interestingly, people wonder why my spiffy looking self is eating alone. And the ridiculous life of a consultant makes for a great conversation starter!
Ignoring the Germs
It is no secret that frequent travelers come in contact with an absurd amount of germs. Just think about how many different people you come into contact with on a travel day! Consider the airports, Ubers, restaurants, and hotels! Pair that with a high-stress lifestyle, and you’ve got the consulting cocktail for illness. You can imagine your immune system is fighting with everything it’s got just to keep you going.
A routine that has worked better than anything is taking supplements daily. I take a multivitamin, Airborne, electrolytes, Emergen-C, and a greens supplement. Giving my body essential vitamins and minerals improves my ability to fend off whatever pathogens I come into contact with.
Another simple yet invaluable tip is washing your hands every time you arrive at a restaurant. We actually eat with our hands more often than we think, even if it isn’t the whole meal.
Lack of Sleep
It is easy to tell someone to get more sleep, but awfully hard to make that commitment. Especially when your boss sends you a “pls fix- urgent” email at 11PM. Some people have to get up as early as 4AM on Monday to get to their project site on time. So how do you get rest when you really don’t have any time?
First, nap on the damn plane. Nap Monday morning, nap Thursday afternoon. Nap before takeoff and maybe even in the Uber from the airport. Second, improve the quality of your sleep. If you have an apple watch, consider the the app “Sleep Watch”. It tracks your sleep schedule, quality, and even allows you to note external factors which may have affected your sleep.
Noticing that your sleep quality suffers after late workouts can help you reschedule your day. That way you maximize the little energy you do have. Try and wake up at the same time on the weekends- even if you nap later. Your body likes predictability. Even when you aren’t giving it exactly what it needs, it still performs better if it knows what to expect.
Hopefully you got something out of this post, and are better prepared for the next time you hit the road. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to hit the like button if you enjoyed it.