Active Travel, Business Travel, Travel Narrative

Running Shoes and Carry On Bags: How Travel Made Me Fat

Taking a selfie of me and my new hat in San Juan, I was struck by my multiple chins and arm rolls.  Something must be done.

Taking a selfie of me and my new hat in San Juan, I was struck by my multiple chins and arm rolls. Something must be done.

The other night I had dinner with an old friend and his wife.  She’s expecting, and her adorable baby bump is just beginning to show.  I’m very excited for her.  He’s been working out and counting calories, and I could see his abs through his shirt.  Allow me to repeat that: I could see his abs through his shirt. 

I’m very jealous of him.

After noticing said abs, my first thought was: well sure.  Of course he can be in good shape.  I was in good (ok, better) shape once.  But then I started traveling full time and, well, how am I supposed to keep up with a fitness routine on the road?

I used to run.  I loved running.  Running was up there with ‘wine drinking’ on my list of Things Which Make Me Happy.  But I have not run in maybe three months.  I have not run regularly in almost a year.  (I do, however, continue to drink wine).

And when I ran, I felt better.  Please let me be clear: I’m not trying to get thin (and there’s no way I will ever, EVER have abs which can be seen in any light, unless I airbrush them on or wear one of those t-shirts with the fake hot bikini lady printed on the front).  I just want to feel better.  Currently, I do not feel well.  The last time I ran–on a treadmill in the gym at the Charlotte Marriott–I could feel my belly bouncing.  It was…unsettling.

Of course, I have many reasons for not getting any exercise whatsoever.  I call them reasons because they really, truly are not excuses.  And they all come back to the problem which is: constant travel.

Reasons I Do Not Exercise

4.  I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing any other kind of exercise other than running.  So even when presented with a very nice Marriott gym, I do three miles on the treadmill or elliptical and call it a day.  This is not super helpful, especially when I only do it every three months or so.  Which brings me to my next point…

3.  The single most important factor in a successful diet and exercise plan is: routine.  My life (quite purposely) is completely devoid of routine.  I do not have a time I go to bed or a time I get up in the morning.  I don’t even have a TIME ZONE.

2.  When I am traveling, I am often doing so at a frantic pace.  I will work all day, fly all night, and then work the next day.   I’m lucky when I have time to find food; a workout is often just not going to happen.  But this is not the main problem and yes, really is a kind of excuse.  The next issue is the biggest challenge…

1.  Even when I’m not being frantic (sometimes I am in the same town for more than one night), I do not have the proper gear to work out.  I can only travel with a carry-on, and carry-on requirements are becoming more strict.  I just got a new and improved will-fit-the-new-United-measurements wheeled bag the other day; it is smaller than my previous carry on by almost 50%.  I often travel for more than days at a time–often weeks, often for both business and pleasure (so work and play clothes, tech and camera equipment) I cannot use a quarter of my luggage space to contain running shoes and workout gear.  I just can not.

To be fair, it is not all lack of exercise.  I also really, really enjoy food.  My Instagram account contains the following photos from the last month alone:

Crab legs and oysters in costal North Carolina.

Crab legs and oysters in costal North Carolina.

A brisket sandwich (on two potato pancakes) in Brooklyn.  I only ate maybe 1/3 of it, but still.

A brisket sandwich (on two potato pancakes) in Brooklyn. I only ate maybe 1/3 of it, but still.

Ribs in St. Louis.  Now in the top three things I've ever eaten list.

Ribs in St. Louis. Now in the top three things I’ve ever eaten list.

And do you know what?  Enjoying good food on the road is important to me.  After all, what’s the point of visiting new places if you can’t try the local specialty?  There is no point, that’s what.  Which is why exercise is even more important.  When I’m in St. Louis, I’m going to eat ribs.  I’m not going to finish the entire plate, but I’m going to eat them.  Because that makes me happy and that is what living is about.  But some of my living must then also be about exercise.

I am trying to be optimistic.  There must be a way to overcome these obstacles, I just do not know what it is yet.  I’ve looked up ‘business travel fitness’ and the results are unhelpful–it is mostly suggestions of how to utilize a hotel gym.  Some advice even includes ‘bring a lot of work out gear’.  Which, as I will say over and over and over again: I cannot do.  So, dear internet–what do you suggest I do?  Because I need to do something.  I do not feel well, I do not look good, and I am the only person who can change that.  But, uh, I sure could use some help.

So please, dear readers–chime in in the comments below, or comment on Facebook or Twitter.  What can I do, exercise-wise, on the road?  What have you found that helps you?  I’m open to all suggestions (other than ‘check a bag’.  Sorry, that really just is out.) If you know of a plan or a product or a website that will help me, share that, too.  And I’ll report back in a couple of months with how well my on-the-road fitness routine worked out.  For now, I just need to find one! 

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