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Kenzai Warriors on the Road

by Patrick Reynolds

 

From Patrick: One of the my favorite parts of running Kenzai is the globe-trotting, international men and women of mystery who make up our numbers. Cruise the blog stream and you'll see people posting from every time zone, sharing tales of travel and adventure and swapping tips about how to stay fit on the road. In this week's guest post, Janet, one of these traveling heroes, steps up to share her wisdom. Take it away Janet! 

I’m just one of many Kenzai road warriors battling to get my workouts in and stick to a clean diet while traveling both short and long distances. It’s never easy. When I schedule a training cycle, I arrange things so there won’t be any multi-week business trips in the middle, but inevitably there is travel, both personal and for work. Heck – most years I spend 2-3 months on the road, so trying to eat right and work out away from home is unavoidable! Here’s a collection of the tips and tricks I’ve collected over the years.

At the Airport

The airport lounge can be a mixed blessing. Generally the lounges in Asia and Europe offer better choices than the US, though increasingly fruit, mini-carrots and other healthier snacks are available even in the US. But there are also lots of fatty temptations laid out, so I’ve found it’s best to stick to lounges I’m familiar with and to bring my own snacks were possible.

On the Flight

Step one is to try and make your flights as compliant as possible. If meals are served on your flight, it’s particularly important – especially in economy class – to pre-book a low fat/low cholesterol meal (merely picking low calorie can set you up for some garbage like “lite” baked desserts).

A "healthy breakfast" on the airplane.

Typically vegetables are the missing ingredient, so I try to bring some carrots and celery, which can withstand long periods without refrigeration. Apples are also a staple travel companion – though China customs recently confiscated one of the finest apples I brought, a Japan import. Yogurt can be tricky, as depending on the airport, it may not make it through security. You also need to be careful of food restrictions at the port of arrival.

Business class typically offers better options. The protein portions are adequate, salads are available and generally there are more vegetable options. First class is even better if you’re lucky enough to travel up front – they will cook your eggs to order at breakfast on Cathay Pacific! The real challenge is avoiding all the other tasty items thrust under your nose, from the nut assortment offered on takeoff to free wines and spirits. Know that you’re going to be tired and stressed at the end of a flight, and this is when temptation will strike hardest.

In the Hotel

I do my best to research food options at hotels where I’ll be staying and choose options that will work with me. I like Hyatt hotels that offer the healthy choice menu of a reasonable protein served with two vegetables. Smaller boutique hotels are usually happy to work with you if you call in your preferences beforehand. Some Kenzai road warriors ask for the mini bar to be cleared so they won’t be tempted by a midnight snack. I don’t have a problem resisting snacks I’ll be charged for. Paying $5.00 for a tiny can of Pringles is annoying enough that I can fight the craving. Where I have more trouble is with mini-bars stocked with free snacks (i.e. at Andaz hotels).

Some Kenzai warriors, especially in the US, will often take advantage of supermarkets nearby to fill the fridge in their rooms with healthy foods – or pack a cooler of food if they’re driving. This works well if you’re in one location for a sustained period. As I am typically no more than one or two nights in a hotel, with meetings often starting at 8 a.m. and then an evening flight to a new city, this is rarely an option for me. In these cases, the room service menu is what I live off of. That said, hotels are usually prepared to be pretty flexible about altering menu items to make them compliant. Just ask! I have no qualms about asking them to weigh out a protein portion for me or leave out the salt. The US is typically the biggest problem for getting vegetables for breakfast – a fried hash brown is often the only vegetable of choice. Typically I’ll ask for the juice to be substituted with a piece of fruit. I’ve also asked for a plain salad off the all-day menu (usually I can negotiate this as a sub for the breakfast meats).

As I am often traveling in the evenings, dinner can present a challenge. Egg white-apple-yogurt dinners sound easy, but getting yogurt through airport security is a challenge – as is getting plain, low fat yogurt anywhere. My default dinner is a chicken Caesar salad, as the “extras” like dressing are on the side, and the protein is a reasonable size. In general the US has better salad options for sale in airport take-out shops than Asia, where instant noodles appear to be the snack of choice.

Workouts on the Road

Exercise is important, but I’ve come to realize that sleep is even more important. When I did Kenzai Body I would sacrifice the zzz’s to ensure perfect compliance on the workouts. No more. Lack of sleep sets you up for major diet failure as your willpower is depleted from the moment you wake up. So rather than working out from midnight until 1 am ahead of a 6 am wakeup, I go straight to bed. While I’m not a morning workout person, the morning is typically the best time to get a workout in, especially when jet lag is involved. After ensuring I will get at least 6 hours sleep (my “norm” at home – though I am trying to get more!), I set the alarm to give myself time to work out before I leave. More and more hotels have 24-hour gyms, but a few – especially in Japan – don’t open until 6:30 or 7 am, so it’s good to do a little research. It’s also worth checking (either by contacting the hotel or looking at photos) whether the ceiling is high enough to jump rope – definitely the most time-efficient cardio option.

You might have to stand up for your rights from time to time. During a recent hotel stay in Tokyo, I discovered that the gym was too cramped to jump rope without bothering a lot of patrons, so I decided to jump close to the entrance to the pool and spa – a nice open wood-floored area. The staff didn’t take well to this… so I suggested perhaps I should go jump in front of the hotel (which I did on a recent trip to Paris as the hotel gym was being renovated). Funnily enough they escorted me to a spacious room off the pool area with a high ceiling – perfect for jumping! Remember that we’re the customers here – hotels need to secure repeat business from us!

Endless unused treadmills, but nowhere to jump rope!

As with all aspects of Kenzai, planning is what leads to success. Equally important – don’t beat yourself up if you miss something. I’m a perfectionist, but I’ve learned it’s okay under trying circumstances to miss a workout, go a bit off diet, or even completely screw up a meal. Bosses and clients can make it difficult – but with a little creativity and discipline you can get by. I’m frequently forced to eat Chinese food (I’m based in HK) as part of client events. Sometimes I’ll just order steamed vegetables; other times I won’t eat at all. And sometimes I just concede that it’s an important meeting, and will try to avoid the worst dishes and minimize the damage. That’s how it goes.

Just because you’re on a business trip doesn’t mean you have to stumble on your training. And there’s no better feeling than arriving back at your doorstep knowing you’re in better shape than when you left!

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