I’m a health-consious person (but you knew that). I set up my daily life to make it easy— walk/bike/public transit. High-quality food in my kitchen, healthy snacks in my backpack, veggies with everything. Breaks for a stretch/walk. Standing and fidgeting as I work. Runs, yoga classes, gym classes surrounding and sometimes interrupting my work day. It’s easy for me when I have control.
But what happens when, suddenly, I’m stuck in an airport, on a plane, in another airport, in a hotel, in a conference center? No vitamix, no yoga studio, no time to seek out a grocery store even. I’ll tell you how I make it work, but I also have a wishlist for the hotels and conference organizers (I’m looking at you, Hyatt Bethesda).
Let’s start with the stuff I can do, no matter where I wind up:
- Pack workout clothes. No one can take this from you, even if your schedule is tight. If the weather’s OK and the location is safe, an outdoor run is the best— gets you oriented, helps your body clock, just plain feels good. This might mean packing something warm. If not, there’s almost always a gym. You can find out what they’ve got (pool? bikes? kettlebells?) before you go— website or phone call will usually do it. Yes, a hotel gym can be a sad place, but I’m like my border collie mix (hi Pippi!)
and if I don’t get at least 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, I’m a nightmare for the rest of the day. I’m not a treadmill person, but I’ll use one in a pinch. I’ve found I’m better off with a little structure for an indoor workout so I don’t quit out of boredom. I tried Aaptiv this trip, which lets you stream or download audio workouts for treadmill, bike, rower, strength training, etc. It got the job done (meaning, I got a good workout in on the treadmill and didn’t die of boredom). I’d do it again.
Bring your water bottle. Yes, you have to bring it empty through security. But you can find bottle fillers everywhere now, or at least water fountains. If you have access to it, you’re more likely to drink it (plus my pink hydroflask is just plain cute). And if you didn’t pay $6 for the water, you won’t ration it. Planes (and plane wine, let’s be honest) are dehydrating. Indoor air is dehydrating. Packaged, processed food is dehydrating. Too much coffee (guilty), even, could be dehydrating. Let’s keep things from getting too desiccated, shall we? Your skin, digestion, and brain will thank you.
- You can move around, even if the structure of the day doesn’t include it. Stand up at every break and walk outside, upstairs, to the bathroom, around in circles. Go out at lunch time instead of staying in the conference center. Walk to the restaurant for dinner (you can meet them there if you’re the only one braving it).
- Take a routine from home with you. I like to meditate, journal and plan in the morning, so I bring Headspace and my planner with me. It helps me keep some normalcy.
So, what could the hotels do better?
- There are gorgeous glass elevators in the lobby. The stairs are hard to find and kind of gnarly. Not cute. Let’s make it clear where the stairs are, make sure they’re well-lit, and, if renovating, let’s make them beautiful!
- Let’s work on the menu. The room service menu at this last hotel was considerate enough to label vegetarian and vegan options on the menu— but there were no entrees that bore that label. Menu fail. And let’s talk about breakfast, when they cater an event— we’d like some fruit, please! Just plain fruit would be nice. It doesn’t need to be in a danish, or drenched in cinnamon-vanilla stuff. Maybe some whole-grain bread along with the pastries? Can you provide non-dairy options for the coffee station?
- How’s the gym? Is the temperature OK? Is the equipment maintained? Can we find it? Is there water, towels, space to move around? Let’s make it visible, pleasant, and remind everyone that it’s there. Or even better, let’s all make like Westin and have a running concierge, gear to borrow, route maps, and juice bars.
- Your typical conference configuration has either rows of tables with chairs, or round tables with chair. Can we have some alternative set-ups? Maybe some high-top tables for standing, space at the back for the sitting-averse, perching stools, or, this is radical but, bikes/treadmills/steppers?
What would you like to see at hotels and conference centers to make travel healthier?