Staying healthy from the comfort of home can be hard given the many temptations of Shanghai. Throw in the volatility of a fluctuating schedule, time zone and ever-changing location, and staying healthy while on the road turns into an epic battle. For my fellow road warriors, here are some simple tips for fighting the bulge while living out of your suitcase.
Know the enemy
First, what are we up against? Fatigue, stress and loss of control are the most common culprits for poor health decisions while traveling. Think of every day on the road as a battle, and the person you are fighting is yourself:
»» Your inner athlete vs your inner sloth
»» Your motivation vs every tired bone in your body
»» Your bikini bod vs sweatpants city
Make smart choices
»» Did you win today? Did you meet your fitness and health goals? Or did you give in to a downward spiral of unhealthy habits because one slip-up paved the way for another?
»» Having a game plan is the best path to victory.
Bring your gym with you
You don’t need a gym to work out. Many hotels in Asia tend to have inconvenient gym hours (9am-8pm), times that typically mean you’re not there. Don’t let that be an excuse to not exercise. Pick your poison and put it at the top of your packing list:
»» Running shoes. There is no better way to see a city. Apps like Nike+ or MapmyRun can help make these lonesome jogs a social affair. Do you have other friends who are also on the road often? Use these apps to challenge them to virtual races, which will hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
»» Any workout DVD from your local store. The P90X plyometric routine requires minimal equipment – your own body weight is your gym. To amp up resistance training in the hotel room, purchase weight bands from Taobao. Easy to tuck into your carry-on, slip them over a doorknob or the bottom of your foot and get training. Bands are great for strength training.
»» A yoga mat. The benefits of yoga deserve their own article. Do yoga and do it often. If lack of flexibility is your excuse, here’s a tip: Crank up the heat in your hotel room and create your own hot yoga studio. Heat increases blood flow which helps relax ligaments, enabling greater flexibility.
»» If you’re at a loss as to how to go about crafting your own workout, there is a wide range of websites that offer online cardio
and yoga classes. If you have a VPN, you can find many for free on YouTube.
If possible, work out first thing in the morning. You never know what the day holds and saving your workout until the end of the day could lead to it never happening at all. It also psychologically locks you in to make better food choices throughout the day. Why would you want to ruin that great work-out you fit in first thing in the morning?
Breakfast like a champ, snack like a kid
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that impacts many body functions, most importantly, appetite, sleep and mood. 90
percent of serotonin is produced in the stomach. Unfortunately unhealthy foods such as high carb or highly processed foods can result in a surge of serotonin (like a sugar high) which may give you a temporary lift, but will also result in a rapid crash. The key is to manage your blood sugar levels so that instead of high highs and low lows, you are sustained with consistent energy throughout the day.
Breakfast like a champ
This is often the meal you have the most control over while
traveling. Make it count – it should be your biggest meal of the day. Healthy options include items high in protein (eggs, lean meats), whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy breakfast that is full of variety can help curb hunger for longer as the body works a slow burn to digest the food.
Snack like a kid
Your blood sugar dips every three to five hours after a meal. Frequent snacking keeps the metabolism fired up and blood sugar steady. Extreme hunger can lead your body to go into famine mode so that when you do eat, more of the calories you intake get stored away. It's important to always keep healthy snack options with you to keep you in a steady state of full (but not stuffed). Eat often, but just a little bit each time.
80/20 Enjoy the road!
Finally, one of the joys of being on the road is to see and experience new things. While self discipline in maintaining rituals and routine on the road are great when self-imposed during your alone time, don't let it hinder the opportunity to explore, discover and experience.