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3 Ways to Stay Too Fit While Traveling in 2018
February 1, 2018 • Josh Uptmore
Stay disciplined, not motivated.
2017 brought me to new cities I had never heard of, showed me landscapes I had never imagined (and never believed were not Photoshopped), and served me foods I never thought would be edible. But to get me there, 2017 also squeezed me into tinier budget airplane seats than I thought would be legal, left me stranded in a couple foreign countries, and put me a couple train stops away from a bombing tragedy.
In short, 12 countries, 47 flights, and hundreds of hours on planes and trains this past year showed me the good and bad sides of traveling like never before – the incredible, inexplicable moments that inevitably go hand in hand with the frustrating, ugly parts that never ever make it onto anyone’s Instagram account.
While a large majority of frustrations from traveling stem from external factors that are out of our control (flight delays, tour guide scams, etc), I’ve also learned that a good amount of stress during and even after traveling actually result from my own failure to keep up with my fitness habits while traveling.
When I travel, I seem to think I suddenly don’t need to eat well or stay active – vacation mode is on and everything else goes out the door. Unfortunately, as I started traveling more frequently and taking long haul trips, the bad habits (or lack of habits all together) started taking a toll.
After years of trial and error while traveling, I’ve come up with 3 simple tips to stay fit and feeling your best while on the road this year, because a little really does go a long way:
1) PICK YOUR BATTLES WHEN PICKING FOOD.
Pick your battles when picking your menu items. Enjoying the local food and dining scene is a huge part of experiencing a new city or country, so I’m not asking you to tearfully order a kale salad and forgo the locally roasted barbecue meats while dining in a Brazilian churrascaria.
I’m not asking you to bury your head in a calculator at the dinner table to count calories instead of enjoying the atmosphere. I’m just asking you to be mindful when holistically considering your entire day’s worth of food choices, and to be selective about your splurge food items to make them really count.
I personally opt for a lighter breakfast so I can eat a heavier lunch, or split a dessert item after lunch so I can hog my own dessert for dinner. Cut out the mindless junk food and snacking so you have room for the dishes you really came to try and still feel great at the end of the night – eat right so you use your travel days to the fullest, not your stomach.
2) SKIP THE ESCALATOR & THINK ON YOUR FEET.
Taking the stairs is obviously easier said than done when you actually find yourself lugging a suitcase through another airport terminal after yet another red-eye flight connection. But contrary to how my jet-lagged self usually thinks at 4AM, taking the stairs rather than the escalator and elevator will get your blood circulating after sitting motionless for hours on the plane, and will actually leave you feeling energized rather than more exhausted.
I promise this isn’t just a subjective experience unique to my own travels – humor my inner biology major nerd and let me throw some anatomy factoids in here: there is a mechanism in our body called the “skeletal-muscle pump” that consists of a series of skeletal muscles that assist the heart in blood circulation.
Essentially, the alternating relaxation and contraction of muscles physically aids with pumping blood en route to the heart, which in turn increases venous return, cardiac output, and stroke volume (all good things!). So when you jog down a flight of stairs after sitting for 10 hours on the way back from Europe, you are doing your heart a favor and will definitely feel the thank you.
3) PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE.
Waiting is an inevitable part of traveling – waiting at the airport for your flight to start boarding, waiting on the street for the restaurant to open, waiting at the curb for your friends to finish souvenir shopping. In our digital generation, we are conditioned to instantly whip out our phones when asked to wait for more than 0.003 seconds, and commence the mindless Snapchat story watching until the wait is over.
The moment our phones are out, however, the moment we lose all awareness of where we are and what is around us. We essentially choose to root ourselves to one spot and dive into the digital world rather than look around and enjoy the foreign sights that we flew so far to see in the first place.
So train yourself to put away your phone, keep it tucked away, and look up. Duck into that crafts shop next door or stroll across the road to get a better view of that river. Strike up a conversation with the local family waiting nearby or go peek around the corner of that building.
Observe, engage, move, and repeat, because this is the essence of what traveling is all about. You won’t gain a life changing shift in perspective unless you keep yourself in motion and take the first of many steps to shift yourself from a standstill.
Happy traveling and happy near year!