Incorporating healthy habits into ordinary life is hard enough, but add sprinting for a connecting flight, lugging your bags to a hotel, the dreaded jet lag, and all the other travails of travel, and suddenly fries at 3am seem like an especially good idea. But it is possible to make good choices and come home feeling even better than you left, while barely making a dent in your travel schedule. We talked to self-described “Bad Yogi” Erin Motz, Kevin Houston, head coach of REM-Fit’s “Workout for the Road” YouTube series, Ariane Hundt, clinical nutritionist coach at Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp, and Elizabeth Shores, a certified coach who’s currently traveling the world, about how to stay on point in transit.
Pack some snacks
Sadly, this not mean a suitcase of chocolate cookies and barbecue chips. But if you really want to skip the greasier extremes of the food court, or buying one of those 1,000-calorie cinnamon buns at the hotel vending machine, pack a few healthy snacks in your bag, like almonds, protein bars, fresh fruit, or even beef jerky. If you forget all that (we get it, you’re busy), just make this balanced meal at an airport news stand as you wait for the plane to board.
Get out and explore
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Google results (which we all know becomes a total time suck), take a walk through the neighborhood after you check in. You’ll be able to determine if there’s a not-heart-attack-inducing lunch spot or a grocery store nearby, get in a quick workout, and get a sense of where the hell you are. Plus, getting in some sunshine can help beat jet lag, if you’re cursed by that too.
Before you scoff, no we’re not asking you open your heart chakra or mutter in Sanskrit. For this particular “meditation” (a loose term), you don’t even have to close your eyes, so feel free to do this while standing behind the guy who's trying to squeeze a giant duffel bag into the overhead. Just complete a few super deep breaths in and out of your nose (imagine you’re trying to fog up a mirror) and you’ll actually get a lot of the benefits of doing a full meditation -- like reduced cortisol, which is the stress hormone that makes you gain weight.
One of the surest ways to feel like garbage while traveling is dehydration, which exacerbates jet lag symptoms, or a hangover. The quick rule is one glass per hour, and there’s even an app that will remind you. Also, avoid paying $5 for a bottle at the airport by bringing an empty water bottle with you and filling it at the airport water fountain. This way, you aren’t relying on the the flight attendant and those itty bitty water cups.
Choosing the fresh fruit at breakfast over a bagel isn’t easy, but at least booking your flight from LA to Dubai can be. From July 1st, fly day or night thanks to Emirates’ new second daily flight from LAX.
Work out before you get up
Yes, really. There is a core strengthening workout that you can do in a minute, without even getting out of bed, so jet lag is no excuse. And an intense 1-minute workout can be just as good for you as 45 minutes of more moderate exercise. Raise your feet to the ceiling with your ankles together. Using your core, draw figure eights while holding your legs together. You’ll tone your core and leg muscles, and… get to stay in bed, technically, for a few more minutes.
Hit the free breakfast
But not all of it. While there are few things more glorious than a free bagel, all those starchy, sugary (read: delicious) carbs are not the healthiest to start your day with. Instead, go for hard-boiled eggs for natural, high-quality protein that make you feel full 'til lunch, and stock up on the free fruit for your room. If you’re bored by day three, move on to oatmeal or yogurt -- the next best choices.
Use your luggage
Go beyond using your own body weight (without having to get dumbbells through security) and use your luggage as a weight, as demonstrated by Houston in this seven-minute workout video. You can stuff your bag with as much (or as little!) as you want, just be sure to move faster if you’re using less weight.
Make your hotel room a gym
Just because your hotel doesn’t have a fitness center doesn’t mean you can’t get your sweat on. You can get an intense cardio session from just 50 jumping jacks in your hotel room. Plus, the bed (if it’s sturdy enough) can be used for step-ups and lunges. If you have a chair in the room, get your chair squats on; squat down into the chair and stand back up. If you have seven minutes (of course you do), check out this intense 7-minute body weight workout app.
Bring resistance bands
One of the easiest tools to use when trying to fit in a quick sweat, resistance bands cost less than $15, and can be snaked around the perimeter of your suitcase, thus taking up zero space in your carry-on. Motz recommends 10-20 standing rows for a quick, effective workout: stand in the center of the band with your feet equally spaced, then bend over at a 90-degree angle while holding the ends in each hand. Now “row” your arms back to a 90-degree angle, then lower them down. You can also work your glutes by getting on your hands and knees, wrapping the band around your foot with the ends under your palms, then doing reps of kicking back your leg.
Live a little
Ultimately, you’re probably not going to be your best “healthy” self while on the road/in the air all the time. But a good rule of thumb? Give it about 80%. If you can go for the odd walk, squeeze in some workouts, and eat pretty healthy, most of the time, you won’t wreck your current health routine -- or contract the dreaded FOMO.