How to Stay Fit When You’re Travelling for Work

How to travel for work, health and fitness by Lorna Harper, Vice President of Transformation at American Express Global Business Travel.

Should I have a wine with my meal?  Should I go to the gym? Should I have a desert?  Are your answers different when you’re away from home?  Why do most of us throw away our good intentions and healthy habits when we travel for business?  

As I look around the train on my regular trip from the North East to London, it appears that most people treat business trips like a holiday.  It’s not quite airport beers at 6am, but it is bacon sandwiches at 7am and coffee and biscuits at 8am. This is before most of us have done any kind of movement.  All the Fitbits on the train wouldn’t add up to more than 1000 steps.

When I first started to travel regularly for business I had no time or energy for the gym.  A 3-hour train journey and 7 hours of meetings. Sitting for 10 hours is exhausting! A glass or three with my meal, side orders and buffet lunches shuffled into my life.  If you travel every 3 months for work it’s like a mini break and probably fine. As I joined the growing number of people who travel weekly I started to see the impacts of applying holiday rules to more than 6 months of the year.  

I did what we’ve all done and made some big plans for change, but things got in the way.  First I planned an early morning session in the hotel gym, but all the machines were taken apart from arm cycling.  I considered running, but I look like Phoebe when I run so that didn’t last. I tried a bit of hotel room HIIT, but I kept banging into things.  There were plenty of things getting in my way, but over time I developed ways to adapt. 17 years later, I’ve become a little bit obsessed with health, fitness and nutrition.  I’m vain and that was part of it at the start, but now, I love the routines I have set for myself and the energy I have.

Let me save you a bit of time and share some simple things I incorporated into my life, that you might chose to do for yourself.  


  • Get rid of your stories


We all tell ourselves stories about why we don’t make the choices that we know are best for us.  AKA excuses. Why do you not exercise when you travel?

    • Are you shattered from your early alarm?
    • Do you have a full day of meetings?
    • My guess is you don’t have time
    • And you don’t have your gym kit
    • It’s hard to find a gym
    • There is no gym
    • What is a gym?


  • Prepare


Never be more than 2 feet away from your trainers

Your excuses can be eliminated with preparation.  Prepare mentally and practically.  All the mental discipline in the world won’t help you if you forget to pack your trainers!

  1. Think of your gym kit like your mobile.  Would you leave the house without your phone or would you have a mild to major panic attack if you left it behind?
  2. Book hotels with gyms (with lots of machines).
  3. Build a library of UTube workouts.  
  4. Walk
  5. Map out your week in detail.  Know precisely when you will exercise.  Book it into your calendar, like a meeting with your boss, or your best friend (if he/ she is more appealing)
  6. Make exercise a priority.  It’s not about time it’s about what you decide to put on your `must’ do list.  If it’s on your `should’ do list what do you think will happen?.

A quick word about time;

You are away from home.  The place where wives, husbands, kids, friends and family need your time.  Where you cook, load dishwashers, iron clothes, water plants, mow lawns and empty dishwashers.  These things don’t exist on your trip. Start to see your trip as the ultimate opportunity.

We all have the same 24 hours.  Make a choice about how you use yours.


  • Decide


By deciding right now you can guarantee you will follow through

Make the decision that you will ALWAYS exercise when you travel.  Start to tell other people that’s what you do. Build a detailed image in your mind of what that looks and feels like.  Soon, you will be that person. With your decision pre-made, you will never again have to debate whether you should go to the gym.  You won’t be sitting in the office weighing up the pros and cons, you will be outside walking in the fresh air before you can ask yourself if you should send just one more email.

`Should I go for a walk…?  Now and forever, your answer to that question is yes.  Better still, you don’t even ask the question.


  • Keep it simple


I spent some time travelling in Europe and had to book budget hotels.  They don’t have gyms so I started walking. I walked 30 minutes before work and the same after work. I found out that walking burns calories like you wouldn’t imagine.  I was amazed at how quickly I noticed a difference by adding 60 minutes of walking into my day. Now, if I ever want to get rid of a bit of weight quickly, I chose daily long walks over killing it in the gym.

Walk.  Walk anywhere.  Walk fast. Walk up the escalator, walk up the stairs.  Think of your bags as little dumbbells.

If you remember one thing and all else fails, just move!

Next Month – Turn your work trips into the reason you eat the right things, in the right amounts for amazing nutrition and health…

SharpLifeHow to Stay Fit When You’re Travelling for Work

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