Airports, travel, and fitness

I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately and spending more time than I like in airports. Tracy has written about staying active on vacation here and here. My topic is instead being active on travel days when your goal is getting from point A to point B.

I joke that some of my best workouts have been in airports. (Okay, not really but there have been trips it feels that way.) I think the best was my Heathrow 5 km in which against all odds another traveler and I made our connection home to Canada by running fast for about half an hour between terminals. The flight attendants were very impressed. ‘We can’t believe you made it.’ I think it was a PB for me.

Over the years I’ve listened to lots of fellow frequent travelers lament the lack of airport fitness centers. But I think they’re too much in the compartmentalizer mode. (I’ve written about the distinction between integrationists and compartmentalizers here.)

Once you start thinking about integrating exercise into your trip, things get better.

Here’s some advice based on some of the things I do to get a bit of a workout while traveling.

First, never sit at the gate waiting to board your plane, if you can physically help it. You’re going to be sitting in a plane for hours. Don’t sit now if you don’t have to. Walk, stand, stretch, anything but sit.

Second, don’t check bags and for added strength points, don’t use a suitcase with wheels. I have a terrific backpack that fits everything I need for traveling and I like the workout that comes from carrying that in the airport. I have the view that you shouldn’t travel with more than you can easily carry yourself. It’s a bit of an independence point. Bonus, if you end up somewhere with cobble stones or lots of stairs. You’ll have a much easier time than the folks with wheels.

Third, avoid the conveyances designed to move people around airports. You know, moving sidewalks, trams, escalators and the like. Walk fast from place to place. Take the stairs. Once you start doing this you’ll meet others with a similar disposition. And it’s amazing how much faster it is.

It’s fine to use all these things if you don’t want a workout but don’t use them and then complain there isn’t an airport fitness centre. I hate that we carefully engineer all the exercise out of our lives and than frantically work to add it back in again.

Of course, my approach means wearing good shoes for the day of travel and clothes you can move fast comfortably in.

I’ve also been experimenting with eating less, quite a bit less, on the days I fly. Some people think it’s key to help with jet lag. Me, I struggle with finding food at airports but then gradually realized it’s not like I’m doing anything particular demanding on the plane. See my post Hunger and Nutrition to read about my experiments with eating less, getting hungry, and realizing the world won’t end.

Finally, sleep (or work) on the plane. If you’re going to be sitting you should put that sitting time to good use.

Happy travels!

More reading:
How to Beat Jet Lag (Globe and Mail)
The Empty Stomach: Fasting to Beat Jet Lag (Harper’s)
Intermittent fasting and jet lag protocols (Precision Nutrition)

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