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Healthy Traveling: Easier Said than Done

One last thought about traveling. When we're on the road, it can be downright tricky to stay healthy. As fitness professionals, we know what we should eat and how often we should work out, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Unexpected barriers always pop up.

I recently visited Sin City, otherwise known as Las Vegas. Now, I had already resigned myself to a not-perfectly-healthy time, but by no means was I ready to throw all my healthy habits by the wayside. Although I might indulge in a few “off” days from exercise and a buffet or two, I still wanted most meals to be somewhat nutritionally sound. I was also under the impression that most restaurants would be happy to accommodate their guests' nutritional needs. Not on this trip.

At two separate buffets I was baffled to find no light or non-fat salad dressings. I already knew the buffet would be filled with fatty, tempting foods (that I did enjoy a bit of, mind you), but I thought I'd balance out those bites with a decent-sized salad of spinach leaves, strawberries and red onion. After assembling my colorful, healthy salad, I was puzzled to see that the salad bar only had full-fat versions of ranch, Thousand Island and Italian dressings. Heck, if I'm going to eat a lot of calories, it's going to be on something much larger than two tablespoons of dressing (can you say chocolate?).

The day after my dressing debacle, I visited a brewpub that from first glance seemed to offer a wide range of options. I was wrong. The restaurant offered no substitutions and honored no special dietary requests. Well, they might if I had feigned a lethal allergy to fried foods, but I didn't go that far in my attempt to secure a healthy meal. The conversation with my waiter went something like this:

“Can I get a side salad or steamed vegetables in place of the fries?”


“Can I substitute a low-fat mayo in the tuna salad sandwich?”


“Could I have my dressing on the side?”

“Not a chance.”

Honestly, it's no wonder people say they have a difficult time eating a healthy meal while traveling.

Then, there's working out. Although some airports are outfitting the premises with a fitness center, most of the ones I visit don't. So I, like many other fitness professionals, strapped on my pedometer to see how many steps I could log during my layover. I didn't mind the stares I got from bored travelers wondering, “What the heck is she doing?” as I lugged my carry-on around and power-walked through the throngs of people. Most got out of the way thinking I was late for my flight, but after seeing me bustle by them for the 20th time, I think they figured out why I was speeding through the terminals.

These recent road experiences are not typical of most of my trips. I know many restaurants that offer healthy options and will make substitutions. Also plenty of hotels and airports have fitness centers or offer a free day pass to a nearby health club. Unfortunately though, on this trip that just wasn't the case. And many of your members may have had similar experiences but faced them without the extra knowledge we have as fitness professionals.

You can help. During high vacation and travel times you can post signs with tips about eating healthy at restaurants. You can offer handouts that list workouts that people can do in their hotel rooms. Don't forget about travelers staying in your area. If you haven't already done so, set up relationships with local hotels so guests can exercise at your facility for free or for a discounted daily fee. It gives your club more exposure and a good name. Although it may be easier said than done, traveling and being healthy can go hand in hand — especially with a little help from the fitness world.

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