We know how difficult it can be to stick to your diet, exercise, and sleep routines when crisscrossing the country or planet for work. So today, some leaders from American Express Global Business Travel who often travel for work share their top tips for maintaining their health and well-being on the road … and confess about what sabotages their efforts.
For the Mind and Body
To maintain her physical and mental well-being, Michelle Dyer, vice president of Risk and Compliance, Corporate Development, and Responsible Business in EMEA, says she practices yoga every day, even on the road.
“I use the Down Dog app, which has several different types of yoga, and I prefer restorative, full practice, and quick flow. It also allows you to choose a focus area, such as breathing or back strength.”
She says she also loves the meditation app Waking Up. Despite its name, it has some great practices for falling asleep.
When traveling, Dyer maintains a diet high in protein and veggies – and can’t resist the breakfast croissants available at her preferred hotel.
“They are delicious with butter and jam. I don’t even try to resist them!” she admits.
“Instead I try to practice intermittent fasting (six hours on and 18 hours off) and fasting dinner-to-dinner every few days.”
David Levin, chief information security officer, also watches what he eats, limiting his carb intake. “It is really hard, but I always feel better when I get back home,” he says.
One thing that derails his healthy efforts? “Late-night dinner and drinks are hard [to avoid], especially if they bring bread to the table.”
But Levin is committed to burning those extra calories off, taking the stairs when he can and making sure the hotels he stays in have a nice gym so he’s motivated to work out.
“I also use the app Sleep Cycle, which helps me fall asleep and get a good rest so I can feel good when I wake up and want to go work out.”
Preventing a Flight Risk
David Thompson, who flies a lot for his role as chief information technology officer, is vigilant about preventing deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. It can develop during a long-haul flight and can cause a serious issue if it breaks loose.
“I practice techniques in my seat and while in the cabin to prevent occurrence,” Thompson says.
Some preventative exercises include heel and knee lifts, toes raises, and ankle turns. It’s also important to wear loose clothing on long flights, to stand up and move around the cabin, and to avoid keeping your legs crossed.
To help her stay healthy and well rested during long overnight flights, Melissa LaPorta, vice president of global marketing brand and content, always uses disinfecting spray and hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay, wears comfortable clothes, and packs a cooling sleep mask and lavender essential oils.
“As soon as I am able to recline, I put on my mask and focus on my breathing so I get some rest on the flight,” says LaPorta.
Her one guilty pleasure when traveling? While she generally tries not to drink her calories, she admits, “When I’m traveling, I do tend to give into the chai tea lattes and flavored coffee drinks more.”
Tricks for Alleviating Jet Lag
When Patricia Huska, chief people officer, flies to Europe, she makes it a point not to fall asleep on the plane if it’s a day flight. After checking into the hotel, she will get some exercise and fresh air by taking a walk and then going to bed at the normal local time.
“If I’m taking an overnight flight, I eat dinner before getting on the flight and try to go right to sleep and not start on emails or a movie. I find that’s my most effective way of adjusting to the local time zone,” she says.
Evan Konwiser, vice president of marketing and global product, follows a similar strategy when departing on a flight from New York to Europe (though he may watch one show to “settle in”). He then will try to sleep through the in-flight breakfast and eat a protein-rich meal when he lands.
“You can grab something on the ground, but you can’t grab more sleep,” he explains.
Konwiser says eating meals at the appropriate local time is key to resetting his clock and combatting fatigue. He also uses caffeine strategically to adjust, loading up in the morning and cutting himself off around 4 p.m. so he can go to sleep at a reasonable time.
To alleviate jet lag, he also suggests making plans with people who are operating on local time.
“You naturally mimic other people’s energy, so when you hang out with locals in the evening, you get their energy and it keeps you going the extra few hours you need.”
Unlike Levin, Konwiser doesn’t cut out carbs and admits to eating up to three baguettes a day in France.
“I dare you to try and stop me,” he says.
Besides walking, he also admits to doing little exercise on the road. “I hate carrying my sneakers – they add so much bulk to a slim packer – so I rarely exercise,” he explains.
Mark McSpadden, vice president of global product strategy, may have just the solution. When he travels, he brings a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes – which weigh less than a half-pound and take up minimal space.
“They are sturdy enough for my gym and road workouts, superlight, and even ‘fold up’ to pack,” he says. “Regardless of what pair you find, making the investment in a solid-performing and lightweight shoe is one you won’t regret.”
Something that McSpadden maybe does regret? Candy purchases at the airport.
“For me,” he says, “the airport is a labyrinth of well-being choices that I have to navigate carefully. While the number of healthy snacks and restaurants has definitely increased, it is hard for me to pass up a bag of Sour Patch Kids that’s been strategically placed between myself and the gate, especially at the end of a long travel stint.”