Traveling should be a fun experience whether it be for work or vacation, but most of the time it ends up being stressful and causing some logistics issues, especially during contest prep. Not only are you dealing with the usual packing and transport, but you also have to figure out your nutrition and workout game plan for your time away. This can cause some intense anxiety when trying to strategize your best options while still being able to stick to your regiment and enjoy yourself at the same time. Today we’ll look at a few things to consider when traveling and some tips on how to stay on track.
When it comes to exercise, this should be a fairly easy fix. Many hotels and resorts have gyms with plenty of equipment, machines and free weights, so be sure to choose one that offers this service. Check out the hotel’s website for photos of their fitness center and maybe check out some guests’ reviews to get a better idea of what you’ll be working with ahead of time. You also always have the option of sending an email to the hotel to get some more details directly from the source so that you can be prepared and maybe tweak your usual workout routine if needed. Some resorts even offer Zumba and yoga classes right on the beach for no extra fee, so take advantage if this is available to you. If you are renting a home or apartment during your time away, do a quick search a few weeks before your trip to find nearby fitness centers. Most will offer a short term weekly or daily membership for a small fee and some offer free trial for a few days or a week. If neither of those options work for you, then the next best thing is putting together a body weight training workout during your trip that you can easily do in your room or take it outside, weather permitting of course. Include squats, push-ups, lunges, plank, burpees and different variations of each in order to hit different muscle groups. Never neglect cardio either; go out for a run, hike or bike, but make sure that you really push it and give it your all. Consider bringing along resistance bands and weighted wrist and ankle wraps for added intensity. There are plenty of example strength and cardio training routines available on pretty much every fitness website, so do some research and get cracking.
The biggest challenge that you may run into in terms of getting in your workouts, is stepping away from what you’re doing and actually exercising. Think about it: you’re lying on a beach, listening to waves and enjoying the sun and then you realize that you need to get out of your bathing suit, put on your workout gear and hit the weights … just thinking about it sounds pretty unappealing. Whether you are exploring historical sights, lying around on a sandy beach or enjoying a shopping trip with friends, exercise is crucial not only during contest prep, but for anyone living a fit lifestyle. In the past, anytime I would travel I would always plan to workout and I would even bring all my gear with me, but then I would never do it. I would think: “Whatever, I’m on vacation. I’ll get back to my workouts when I’m home again.” Then I would get back home and realize that I’ve gained 6 pounds in a week and my clothes feel tighter than before. Don’t let this happen to you; learn from my mistakes and get your workouts in. Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste, keep at it and remember that being healthy, fit and well is a lifestyle, not a short term crash diet/workout routine that’s used to squeeze into a bikini. It does take discipline and commitment, but it is so worth it. You will have far more energy and be able to enjoy yourself even more during your travels by treating your body with the respect that it deserves.
Nutrition is a real tough one, especially if you’ll be traveling outside of the country and have to pass through customs. On the other hand if you’re staying within the same country, then no problem. Most athletes will prep, freeze and pack a good portion of meals with them in a cooler and a lot of bodybuilders even travel with their version of a mobile kitchen which includes a small portable grill and rice cooker. This is perfect if you are in the last few weeks leading up to your competition and will be staying at a hotel without any kind of kitchen equipment. Most hotels will have the option of a mini fridge and microwave upon request, but you may be limited, so by prepping everything and bringing any extras, you end up taking a lot of the guess work out. If this sounds like too much of a hassle or if you are staying at a place with a fully equipped kitchen, then find the nearest grocery store and stock up on all of your usual essentials. If you are traveling to another country, then you’ll need to seriously research and prep yourself ahead of time. For the most part, you can’t cross borders with any dairy, meat, fluids, eggs and produce, so don’t bother prepping any meals in advance because they will just get tossed out at security. In this case your best option is to bring along supplements and certain dried foods that are all fully sealed. Vitamins, protein powders and others are fine so long as they are fully sealed in their original packaging and list all of their ingredients. Other good options to bring with you are individual serving sized packs of plain oatmeal, brown rice cakes and crackers. If you are flying out to your destination, you can choose the inflight cuisine, but check out what they offer in advance to be on the safe side that it goes with your diet plan. The good news is that most airports offer healthy options at their shops and restaurants, so you should be able to find a healthy meal or some snacks as needed. Even most fast food places offer salads, so worst case scenario order the veggie burger without the bun and opt for salad instead of fries. Certain items that you should always stay away from include any kind of breaded meats, creamy sauces and dressings, fruit and yogurt parfaits (they tend to have tons of added sugars, syrups and fats), same goes for granola and protein bars (read your labels carefully!). Also try to stay away from smoothie and juice bars as most of these places use juices that have added sugars or have way to much fruit or grains or fats (like nut butters and avocado) which will ultimately end up throwing your macros and overall calories out of whack. Although these things might be healthy in small doses, if you eat too much of a fruit, whole grain, or healthy fat, it will affect your body composition and progress. In terms of snacks stop by one the airport’s shops or restaurants for some crudité and hummus, or small packs of unsalted/unsweetened nuts and consider bringing along a few individual serving sized packs of protein powder just case there are delays and what-not so you’re not stuck somewhere starving.
When you reach the destination, the hard part is again actually sticking to your plan. It’s tough, especially when you may have special events planned or want to visit restaurants and try the local cuisine. If you are in contest prep, well this is just non-negotiable, but if not and you just want to stay on track without overdoing it, then you may want to opt for the 80/20 rule. In this case, each day 80% of your nutrition is in keeping with your goals and the other 20% comes from some more decadent sources like a few bites of desert or pasta, a small slice of pizza or a few French fries, etc. That way you can still partake without stuffing yourself. Just be sure to eat loads of veg and some lean protein first that way when you get to the treat, you’ll already be pretty satisfied and will be less likely to overeat. I know that many people right now might be thinking that these strategies totally suck and sound like no fun, but do you really want to waste all of your hard work for some unhealthy greasy food, that will only lead to your feeling bloated and insecure about your body yet again? Spending your travel time eating junk food is no way of loving yourself and rationalizing with yourself that “you’re on vacation and deserve it” is really no way to live; you’ll just end up gaining back any weight that you’ve worked hard to lose and start the yo-yo diet cycle all over again.
Two months before my first competition I will be heading out to my honeymoon for a week at a beach resort, so I’ll definitely be following very specific strategies during my trip; although it certainly helps that my future husband trains and eats as regimented as I do. When planning out trip with the travel agent the must-haves that we were looking for in our destination included a fully equipped gym and plenty of food/restaurant options. We were easily able to find the ideal spot for us, I’ll be able to still get in my workouts and follow my nutrition plan while still enjoying the sun. I’m sure that it will be tough with all of the exotic cuisine being right in front of me, but I know that I can still enjoy food without feeling obliged to eat everything insight just because it’s there. It also helps that I don’t drink anymore and that I’m vegan; most deserts at hotels and resorts typically have dairy and eggs so it’ll make it easy for me to make smart choices. I’ll be traveling when I’ll be eight weeks out of my competition and I will still be able to have a fantastic experience while staying on track.
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