Travel and Training Revisited

I was recently doing a bit of traveling. As is often the case, I found myself pondering and reflecting on the human experience, at least my version of it.

I don’t travel as much as I used to. I know that’s true for many of us, and for a variety of reasons. A number of friends, colleagues, and family members have expressed similar conditions. The pandemic has certainly had a major impact on travel, although it appears to be lessening. I have far less requirements for business travel than I once did, and this is due as much to role changes as to the harnessing of technology. Some of my vacations have been local, and that’s been great. But the real reason my travel frequency has decreased is because the travel experience is just not what it used to be. 

Travel for me has never been glamorous, but it used to be a bit more enjoyable. The cost was less prohibitive and the pace less frenetic. It felt more personable and less dehumanizing. I realize I’m supposed to be talking about training while “on the road” and I’ll get to that shortly. 

I just got back from a trip around the country to visit some family members. My memory of the travel experience is fresh and I have some pertinent information to share. This begins with an epiphany of sorts, which I had the day I left. I decided that what the world needed was not another disgruntled person, disgusted with the drudgery of the travel experience, who stared straight ahead with a scowl on his face as he endured the presence and actions of fellow travelers and service workers. I decided I was going to make an effort to get a little more eye contact, smile when appropriate, and offer a kind word here and there. I’m not a cheerleader type but I was determined to have, and maybe help others in achieving, a more positive experience. Nothing fake, just some sincere goodwill and pleasant attitude.

So that’s what happened. I thanked workers a little more enthusiastically than I might have. I gave more smiles and nods than usual. And I had several engaging conversations with strangers that either I, or they, would have blown off in other circumstances. It was good. My travel was not stressful and even if it wasn’t totally “fun” it was better than the “tolerable or worse” situation which I could have made it and which I think I saw a lot of people doing. Spreading a little kindness helps the world, but also, it helps you or I to be a little healthier. Keep the old hormones balanced and the metabolism regulated. Have a stronger immune system. And be able to train while on the road.

Thus the title for today. I’ve touched on this topic a few times previously, and my perspective continues to evolve. I’d even say it sharpens. Here’s a razor-sharp list of some cutting edge factoids that just might be helpful for you in managing your training when you are on a trip.

  1. You are going to be stiff. No matter how good your posture, ergonomics, and habits may be…there will be more sitting and standing than you’re used to. Just walking around a lot and moving as much as you can will help, as some of that stiffness is simply circulatory stagnation. But you’ll also need to realize that your tissues can shorten a bit and you’ll need to have some mobility routines at the ready for when you get a chance to apply them. It won’t be perfect but you can minimize the “Tin Man” effect.
  2. You will have less energy. Your reserves are finite, and because you are using some of them in other ways (even if you are on a family beach vacation), you just won’t have all of your normal capacity in most cases. Life balance is more than just a cutesy phrase. Keep your expectations in check and meter your output so you have enough mojo to go around.
  3. Your recovery abilities will be diminished. Just as you can’t hammer your biggest workout, you won’t be able to bounce back as easily either. The conditions present in most travel situations will have you less able to get quality recovery or access to all the modalities you might normally utilize. Hold back a little here and there and expect it to take a little longer to be completely refreshed.
  4. Your sleep will be adversely affected. Different beds and sleeping environments will have an effect. It will probably be difficult to maintain the same rituals around sleep that you enjoy at home. That’s OK. Protect your sleep as best you can but accept that it might get knocked down a notch or two.
  5. Your food choices will be different. In and of itself, this can be fun and delicious, but digestion and fueling might get impacted. Calories, macronutrient ratios, and meal timing can change. Eat the way you want and can, but just be aware that dietary changes can have profound effects on how you feel and perform.
  6. Your schedules and routines will be altered. This can actually be stimulating. It’s good to mix it up from time to time. However, dealing with such new stimuli can slightly downregulate your trainability. You may not be able to work out at your usual or preferred time. When we get fancy with circadian rhythms and athlete types, there may be perfect workout times during the day. But when on the road, the best time to train is when you can.
  7. No days off. Zero movement days hurt you. Even though we must modify and adapt our training schedules when on the road, doing nothing accelerates deconditioning and generally makes you feel worse. Find a way to do something – anything – that helps you stay vital and beastly…every day.
  8. Go light and don’t worry. Travel isn’t the time to plan on going big, unless it’s a training camp trip when you aren’t doing all the work meetings, theme parks, or other sometimes required and not necessarily evil activities. Have a mindset that light workouts of any type related to your program are not only just fine…they are the thing to do when on the road. 
  9. Seize opportunity and take what you get. Sometimes that’s just a brisk walk and a few calisthenics in the airport or it’s a hotel room “spritzer” fitness circuit. Doesn’t matter. It still counts and it all adds up. I always pack an exercise tubing with handles in my luggage. Low cost, low weight and takes up almost no space. Super versatile.
  10. Don’t forget…it’s only temporary. This is true for all but full-time road warriors. When you back out your view and take a long term snapshot, you’ll usually see more home time than road time. By doing what you can when on the road, you can support your gains and minimize your losses. This is especially true for The Lifetime Athlete, who simply cannot afford to fall into holes of deconditioning that get harder and harder to dig out of with every advancing year.

I applied all those principles on my trip. I made some compromises here and there but I got something in every day. I didn’t gain or lose weight. I wasn’t exhausted when I got home. After one easy day, I’m resuming my training schedule. Here are two specific asks. If you’ve had some experiences like this and would like to offer stories or tips that can benefit our audience, shoot me an email or DM on IG. And if you need some help with your own travel and training strategies, you can book a coaching consultation with me. Thanks for joining me today.

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