5 Tips to Stay Fit on the Fly
I stepped into my uniform dress, readying myself for work. As I shimmied the dress on, I noticed that it felt a bit different than usual, a bit tighter. Sucking in a deep breath, I tried to zip myself into the shrunken garment, but the zipper stopped about halfway up. “Cheap zipper,” I thought, not yet realizing that maybe this was not the reason the zipper was stuck.
I’m an international flight attendant. This may conjure ideas of glamorous trips to Brazil or traveling to beaches in Bali, but the daily reality of my work is chronic jet lag, poor eating habits, and insufficient energy. These, combined with a lack of routine led to me becoming less than healthy. Over time and through trial and error I’ve discovered practices that have helped me become more fit and healthy while I travel.
5 Tips to Stay Fit on the Fly
1. Opt for Sleep
For travelers, sleep can be elusive. On layovers, I often have to choose between sleeping or working out. I opt for sleep for many reasons. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just make you grouchy. It can lead to accidents, which is a major concern on an airplane. Handling medical emergencies or leading an evacuation are primary concerns for flight attendants, and sleep deprivation can make a bad situation worse.
Lack of sleep slows down cognitive functions and negatively affects attention, memory, and problem solving abilities. As a traveler in a foreign land, you need all these functions working at full capacity to effectively handle stressful situations you may encounter. Sleep deprivation can also lead to increased appetite and weight gain, and no, you won’t crave kale and carrots, you’ll crave carbs (cupcakes).
Getting a full night of rest, between 6-8 hours is optimal. If you’re jet lagged and trying to acclimate to a new time zone, the Sleep Foundation recommends short naps of 20-30 minutes to restore alertness. Getting enough sleep is imperative to getting and staying fit while traveling.
2. Stretch it Out
Sometimes, you forget to pack something useful like a sports bra or running shoes. I may or may not be guilty of this. But even without these, you can still stretch. Tight, cramped spaces lead to tight, cramped muscles and traveling for long distances in planes, trains, or automobiles is not known to make you limber.
Stretching is a beneficial habit to incorporate into traveling for many reasons. It increases flexibility and blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. Stretching can also calm your mind and boost your energy. I keep a travel yoga mat in my suitcase. It’s lightweight and foldable, but a hotel towel works too.
3. HITT it
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) “involves repeated bouts of high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times,” according to the American College of Sports Medicine. HIIT workouts are efficient and they tend to burn more calories than traditional aerobic exercises, even after the workout. My favorite part is that you can do a 20 minute HIIT workout in the privacy and comfort of your own hotel room.
You don’t need much room and there are hundreds of different exercises and combinations that you can tailor to variables like how much time or energy you have, or which part of the body you want to focus on. HIIT training can be modified to many different fitness levels and can be done almost anywhere with little to no equipment, so it’s perfect for travelers!
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend videos by PopSugar Fitness, Tone It Up, or Pop Pilates (they are all free on youtube). Once you’re familiar with some common HIIT moves, you can start to build your own workouts.
4. Walk it Off
I walk a lot on layovers. It’s how I explore a new city and stay in shape. I walk to museums, parks, art galleries. I walk when it’s hot or cold, sunny or rainy. A common Scandinavian philosophy is that there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. I believe this. So many times, I chose style over comfort and ended up with bloody blisters after a mere two hours of walking.
Now, companies are making a point to combine style and comfort into shoes, so it’s easier to pack appropriately for different travel situations. I opt for a cute pair of mint green Nike shoes that I can walk in all day. Walking burns calories, reduces stress, improves balance and coordination, and can even lift your mood according to the Mayo Clinic. So pack appropriately, dress accordingly, and walk your way around a new city to get in shape while you are exploring.
5. Pack healthy snacks
Airport food is expensive and airplane food is unhealthy. A third option is to pack healthy, portable snacks. I’ve become a fan of that third grade favorite, trail mix! Nuts, raisins, and chocolate are easy to pack, easy to eat, and provide a broad range of nutrients. Fruits high in water density, like grapes, are a great choice and also help fight dehydration. Peanut butter and graham crackers, granola bars, and dried fruit pack easily and don’t require refrigeration.
Being mindful of these tips while traveling can not only help you maintain your fitness level but can help you achieve new fitness and health goals and enrich your travel experiences!