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Endurance Training and Business Travel: Tips for a Happy Co-Existence

If you travel frequently for work, or if business travel is ramping up in your job, you may be thinking about postponing a new race goal or training plan until things calm down. Or, you may be forging ahead with your training plan, panicked about keeping it all going while you’re on the road.

I’ve got great news. You can successfully maintain a long-course endurance training plan as a business traveler if you plan ahead and adopt the right frame of mind.

Our brains naturally default to cynicism when something knocks us our of our regular routine. We believe this impostor will keep us from achieving our goals. But this is an excuse more than it is a reality. Being flexible is key to being successful, so don’t succumb to the excuses and become a sad statistic. According to a recent study about business travel, those who travel frequently for business (21+ nights per month), are almost twice as likely to be sedentary than those who travel lightly (1-6 nights per month). You can beat the odds.

There are lots of great tips out there for staying in shape while on the road, but one of the most significant things you can do to stay on track with your training plan is to reframe the situation from one of interruption and annoyance, to opportunity and exploration.

Here are 7 ways that you can look forward to training during your next business trip, using your business travel to grow as an athlete, rather than fall behind:

Don’t fret over lost fitness.

The fitness you’ve built through consistent hard work is not going to vanish on a 3-10-day business trip. You may have a maddening trip looming on your schedule - the kind that requires a 4:00am alarm to catch a flight, followed by a taxi to the office for a meeting, then a grab-n-go lunch on the way to your next meeting, followed by drinks and dinner with a client and hotel check-in at 11pm that night. Whew! These things happen, and I promise that nothing is going to derail your fitness if you are unable to workout for a couple days during these insane business trips. If your trip is extended a bit, but still jam-packed, I would challenge you to find time for a 30-min run, or a 20-min hotel room bodyweight workout (a workout I like to call a “no excuses” workout). If you can anticipate these crazy trips, let your coach know a couple weeks ahead of time so that you can plan for it to be a rest week.

Maintain, don’t gain.

Travel is horrendously stressful on your body. Between germy airports, hotels, offices, and restaurants, and the effects of jet-lag - which can include difficulty sleeping, appetite disruption, GI distress, and even depression - you don’t need to add more to your plate by planning key workouts during travel days. If you are able to maintain your easy-to-mid-intensity workouts during travel, you’re going to be in great shape. You’re not helping yourself by trying to squeeze in long runs or threshold sessions on the hotel bike during business travel.

Enjoy your newfound free time to focus on workouts, rather than rush them

There have been many business trips that I genuinely looked forward to because I knew I would actually have more free time during the trip than I do in my daily life. During business travel, you are not responsible for taking the dog for a walk, getting the kids to school, doing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the kitchen, or any one of the 10,000 chores you have when you’re at home. Use the newfound extra time to focus on a complete workout, rather than rush through it as you may have to when you’re at home.

Work travel should not be ALL about work

Work travel can create an expectation of “all business all the time.” I remember a business trip I took many years ago with this mindset. I holed up in my hotel room to “get ahead” on emails, but my “get ahead” strategy back-fired. For every email I responded to, another one came in. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one on my email outside of business hours. Who knew?! At the end of the trip, I had just as many emails in my inbox as when I started the trip and was just as stressed out. Lesson learned - my free hour would have been better spent in the hotel gym or on a run to combat all the other travel stress, rather than trying to cram extra work into a busy work trip. Even on a work trip, your body and mind need refresh and recovery breaks.

Your good habits from home work on the road too

Not to be Captain Obvious here, but this one is pretty basic. If you plan your workouts at home, during non-travel weeks, then you can plan your workouts during business travel. This requires that you do the research on the amenities of your hotel gym, nearby pools, and run routes. It also may require that you take the lead on your team (if you’re traveling with co-workers) for restaurant bookings and client meetings so that you know exactly how much time you’ll have available each day to get your workout in. Without your workout, you know you will feel sluggish in the afternoon, irritable, bloated, etc. The stress of work travel heightens all of these feelings so, more than ever, make it a priority to workout while you’re on the road.

Become a tourist for an hour

This is my absolute favorite thing about work travel! While my co-workers are seeing nothing more than the airport, hotel, office, and a nice restaurant or two, I have made early morning runs a chance to see 6-8 miles of a brand new city. During these runs, I enjoy taking bragging insta-pics and mental notes about where to come back with my husband someday, or where to grab a quick lunch while I’m in town. My favorite places to explore on an early morning run? Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, San Francisco, and even Tokyo, which allowed me to simultaneously explore the city and get a Kanji lesson while finding my way back to my hotel. To enhance this exploration of a new city, see Tip #7…

Bond with co-workers

As I pack my workout clothes for my business trip, I think about who I’m traveling with and what the chances are that they are also packing workout clothes. I’ve been surprised with the number of times I’ve been on a business trip to learn that one of my co-workers - who did not have a regular exercise routine - also packed their workout clothes because of the peer pressure they felt going on a trip with me. “What will Cortney think if I don’t get some exercise?” I’m ok with inflicting this guilt on my co-workers and have loved it when it turns into an unexpected workout buddy while traveling.

Maintaining a training schedule as an endurance athlete and business executive requires a high level of self-awareness and flexibility; look at your next business trip as a chance to grow these superhero skills of yours. By reframing your business travel situation to one that supports your training, rather than disrupts it, you can complete your training plan uninterrupted and find even more reasons for loving your sport.

Take Action

Don’t just read, take action!

Make the most of your training on your next business trip with this checklist:

  • Add your trip on your training calendar as far in advance as possible

  • Research:

  • Hotel gym amenities

  • Nearby healthy restaurants for breakfast and lunch

  • Running routes. Be a tourist! What building, statue, park, or other landmark can you check out on a run?

  • Nearby pools

  • Spin classes (consider getting a Class Pass for your business travel)

  • Buy a Class Pass and book a class

  • Let your Coach know about your equipment and time restrictions during travel

  • As your travel schedule firms up, schedule your workouts into your work calendar

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