There are days when my mind is ready to see an entire city by foot, but my body feels too weak to wake up in time for a continental breakfast.
I travel to a different city every week with my touring company. Between the jet lag, the late working hours, and hotels with no refrigerators or kitchen heating appliances, staying healthy can be a struggle. But because of my physically strenuous job, I’ve learned some tips to stay fit on the road.
The trick to hotel living is to stock up on foods that don’t need refrigeration or heat. On my first day in a city, I find a nearby grocery or convenience store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables. Apples, oranges, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and thick-skinned blueberries stay fresh at room temperature for a few days.
If there’s no grocery store nearby, I can rely on some foods I store in my luggage from home. High-protein energy bars like Clif bars are good snacks during 12-hour rehearsal days or mountain hikes. I can eat canned tuna or peanut butter straight, but pair either of those with bread and I’m covered for protein.
Most hotels have a kettle for hot water. While you likely can’t cook a homemade soup in there, some hot water can mix with an instant oatmeal package for a light meal that’s high in fiber. I also use a kettle to make hard-boiled eggs. Now, if you bought your eggs in the United States, you’ll need to refrigerate those. However, in many other parts of the world, eggs can be stored at room temperature. Pop a couple into a kettle of boiling water for 8-10 minutes and follow that by bathing them in cool water and you have a snack between shows on a three-show day.
While I like having a diet heavy in protein, fruit, and vegetables, be wary of many preserved substitutes. Most pre-made salads in convenience stores (or restaurants, for that matter) are comprised mainly of iceberg lettuce and croutons, both of which are void of nutrients. Additionally, most canned fruit I’ve come across has few vitamins but plenty of sugar. Dole mixed fruit cups do have a sizable amount of vitamin C, but with as much sugar as it has, you may as well stick with fruit juice from a convenience store.
Eating out at restaurants is ideal if you want a hearty, hot meal (but not if you want a fat wallet). Make the most out of your restaurant meals. Many times, restaurants will replace fries with some cooked broccoli or carrots, even if the menu doesn’t explicitly say so. As for your entree, read over the ingredients. If you can cut out extra sauces and condiments in your sandwich, you can cut out unnecessary fats and sugars. I should point out that, despite your health goals, you should indulge in at least some of the local cuisine. After all, you are traveling to explore different cultures.
Sometimes, there’s water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. If you’re in a country where you might fall victim to Montezuma’s Revenge, invest in a portable water bottle with a built-in Britta filter. Even if the water is generally safe in the country you’re visiting, a portable water bottle is a cost-saver when that country’s restaurants don’t offer tap water.
Your opportunities for exercise on the road don’t have to be contingent on the availability of hotel gyms, even if you’re lucky to have one that contains more than a treadmill and a broken StairMaster.
If you exercise within the hotel, be cognizant of the noise and distractions you make. You can run up and down stairs so long as they aren’t busy. Stick with a bodyweight routine, but don’t bounce around your room unless you’re on the first floor; try calisthenics or ask the front desk if you can exercise in their courtyard or a nearby park. My roommate bought TRX suspension cords that can hang from a door frame, and trying to exercise with them is a sufficient reminder of how weak I am.
My favorite form of exercise on the road is running. Jogging a few blocks from my hotel lets me see nearby sites at a faster pace and gives me a first look at what a new city looks and feels like. However, there are some self-imposed safety regulations I follow. I usually run mid-morning to midday, when the sun is highest and the city is busier. If I’m in the States and I have cell phone service, I might bring a cell phone in case I need to call someone for pickup; otherwise, I leave my expensive electronics at home. I do tuck in my room key and a map from the front desk somewhere since I get lost easier than a noseless rat in a maze. Even if I don’t speak the language, I can usually ask locals how to get to my hotel by showing them my room key or pointing on the map. Finally, I always let someone know where and when I’m running, whether I’m at home or on the road.
Nobody wants to say they spent most of their backpacking adventures sleeping off a poor diet. A bit of planning and resourcefulness can give you the energy you need to maximize your travel experience. Do you have any fitness tips for the road that I missed? If so, let me know in the comments!