surviving a business trip - health on the road

I spent a few days this week on a business trip. Not a shoe-string budget, get lots of work done kind of trip.  More of a supplier throwing a party to say thanks and to ask for more business from its best clients kind of trip.  3 days of socializing, eating, drinking, being entertained, eating again, drinking, and eating some more.  After two months of watching my diet carefully in an effort to shed body fat before my race, this had the potential to be a big setback.

Here's a review of the key things to watch out for.  (some I did well, and some...  not so well.)

1. Fitness - ideally, you don't want the trip to throw you out of your routine.

  • Get in a good workout before you leave & when you get back.  If your trip is only a couple days, this may be enough to keep you on your plan.
  • Use the hotel gym.  It may not have every machine you're used to using, but it will have something there to help you burn off those extra calories.
  • Use the stairs.  Going up & down a few flights of stairs, a few times a day, could make a good substitute workout.
  • Walk to your meeting.  Depending on what you're carrying, and wearing, and how far away the meeting is..
  • I did great on this part.  I squeezed in a swim on Monday morning before heading to the airport.  I used the hotel gym for a long workout on Tuesday morning.  And I hit the stairs one time on Wednesday - 20 floors was enough!

2. Eating - vacation eating, especially business trip eating, can wreak havoc with your fitness game plan.

  • Order carefully.  One bad order isn't the end of the world, but a series of bad orders, spread out over a few days, could cause a major set back.
  • Portion control.  You probably didn't get to choose the restaurant.  You might not have even gotten a say in what was ordered.  But you do get to control how much of it gets stuffed down your neck!  Regardless of what ends up on your plate, there's no reason you have to lick the plate clean.
  • Eat slowly.  Take small bites, chew your food well, and make lots of conversation.  You'll find yourself filling up before you get to the bottom of that giant bowl of pasta.
  • Split the dessert.  Offering to share a dessert is a great way to show you're in control.  It's also a friendly gesture.  And you cut your dessert calories in half.
  • Meeting snacks.  They rarely offer a vegetable tray in a meeting or conference room.  Usually the room is filled with M&Ms, popcorn, yogurt pretzels, and other sweet & salty snacks.  The less of these you eat, the better.
  • I failed miserably on this part.  Although I was able to avoid the meeting room snacks, I stuffed myself at dinner as if it was my last meal. The food was good, and I was hungry.  I'm not proud of that.

3. Drinking - alcohol can be dangerous, and I'm not even talking about what it can do to your life (drinking & driving) or your career (bad judgement can have bad effects - you don't want to be the person everyone else talks about for years to come.)  Losing control while "business drinking" can be a double or even a triple whammy on your fitness plan.

  • Alcohol has calories.  The more you drink, the more calories you drink.
  • Mixers have calories.  If you're mixing with fruit juice, or sugar filled soda, you're doubling up on your calorie intake.
  • Alcohol impairs judgement.  A couple drinks with dinner, and suddenly that giant cheesecake sounds too good to pass up.
  • More judgement - The more you drink, the more likely it is that you'll stay out, and stay up, drinking - especially if you're with a big group of others who are all drinking.
  • Even more judgement - Drinking too much, and staying out too late, and suddenly your morning workout is in jeopardy; nobody wants to go running while hung over (or still drunk!) and only a few hours' sleep.
  • Helpful Ideas:
  • Drink Slowly - pace yourself.  No need to slam a bunch of drinks in a row - sip your drink and make it last.
  • Diet Mixers - for every Coke you can avoid, you save yourself about 100 calories.
  • Alternate non-alcoholic drinks - mix in a water, or a regular Diet Coke, in between drinks.  This slows down your drinking and keeps you hydrated, which will help lesson your hangover in the morning.  If appearances matter, and the bar serves different drinks in different cups, you can ask the waiter/bartender to serve your n/a drink in the same glass you were drinking from before.
  • Light Pour - you've heard of a "double", right?  This is like a "half" instead.  Ask the bartender to give you a light pour.  If you're trying to keep up with the heavyweights in the group, and you don't have the tolerance you used to, this can help you drink without drinking as much.
  • I did well here.  While I drank more than I would have liked, and far more than I do at home, I used a combination of the above techniques to keep myself in control.
Business trips are a hard place to stay on track, especially if it's a lavish event and somebody else is throwing the party.  But it doesn't have to derail you.  A little planning, a little moderation, and a little effort, and you can be successful while you're on the road.

-Chris Butterworth