Staying Healthy in a Corporate World
Catch a plane, travel to the hotel, arrive at a meeting, eat late, go to bed exhausted, wake up early, spend the entire day in meetings, eat late, repeat. Sound familiar?
Not Just Business: It’s PersonalStaying healthy in a corporate world by Triston V. Sanders
Traveling is part of the job for 49-year-old Ron Jordan. As general manager of Reliance Aerotech Services Inc., based in Pensacola, Jordan is used to spending nearly a week at a time in hotels. His routine goes something like this: catch a plane to his destination, travel to the hotel, arrive at a meeting, eat late, go to bed exhausted, wake up early, spend the entire day in meetings, eat late, repeat.
Sound familiar? With this kind of routine, it’s tough for many executives to stay healthy in the corporate world.
Jordan is a former Marine and says his days of active duty remind him of the importance of exercise. But his life has changed dramatically since his time in the military.
“For me, it is definitely a challenge to exercise and eat right when traveling,” Jordan says. “My travels typically present long days, late nights and are often an energy drain.”
The stress, coupled with the fact that it is easy to find himself having a late-night dinner — in which nearly everything on the menu is unhealthy and comes in large portions — doesn’t foster wellness, he concedes.
“Sometimes I end up not eating until 8 or 9 in the evening, and then it’s right to bed, overstuffed and exhausted,” Jordan says. “Business travel is not conducive to fitness. I often remark to myself that I am taking years off my life each time I travel.”
Plan for Success
Adam Marshall can relate to Jordan’s frustration. The 43-year-old Marshall is a vice president with GTO Inc. in Tallahassee. Having played soccer and lacrosse while attending Furman University, Marshall says his ability to stay fit is much more challenging these days as a businessman, husband and father of three. About 25 percent of his life is spent on the road, making it an effort to stay in shape.
“Travel is usually scheduled to arrive just in time for the business requirement and depart for the next destination or return home as quickly as possible,” Marshall says. “This often results in long hours traveling and minimal time at any single location. Often the choice to exercise is at the expense of rest, due to little or no ‘open time’ scheduled.”
Marshall says he takes into consideration whether or not a hotel has a fitness center.
“Due to the time constraints, this is usually the most effective way to take an exercise break,” he says. “It is important to check the fitness center’s hours, especially if you’re arriving late in the evening and checking out early in the morning. An 11 p.m. or a 5 a.m. 30- to 45-minute workout can certainly provide both stress relief and improve your energy level.”
That takes discipline, says Marshall, and a hotel fitness center isn’t the most exciting place to be at the end of a long day of work and travel.
“But,” he adds, “I know I always feel better when I actually make the effort to exercise.”
Jordan has a similar approach.
“I try to exercise in the morning at the hotel, because every example I can think of where I put it off until evening was a failure,” he says. “I was so exhausted by the end of the day, I just couldn’t muster up the fortitude to complete the exercise plan.”
To promote this regimen, Jordan stays only at hotels that offer basic but quality workout equipment. But he admits it is challenging to maintain fitness with his schedule and job because of the travel, as well as a basically sedentary daily routine he keeps when at home.
“I tend to fall from grace and then refocus, which leaves me with two perspectives to compare with regard to my fitness,” he says. “I absolutely know that I always feel better when I am regularly exercising and eating right. I also look better and have more energy when I am seriously pursuing fitness, which I think ultimately provides enhanced self-confidence. Conversely, I always beat myself up inside when I get lazy and stop making the effort — which does happen more than I like to admit.”
Get an Expert Opinion
Rick McMillan owns a traveling fitness training business, Body Tech, that is based in Tallahassee. He currently trains several corporate executives and has a long list of credentials that qualify him for the job. McMillan is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and the International Fitness Professional Association. He is an active body builder, having competed for more than 10 years. He is a Mr. America Class Winner, an Iron Man Bodybuilding Champion, and is currently seeking the title of Mr. Universe. Needless to say, McMillan applies his knowledge not only to his own life, but to his corporate clients who are looking for guidance and discipline.
“These men and women go from meeting to meeting,” he says. “They are pressed for time and are constantly under stress. It’s important that we put a plan in place for them that is short, concise and manageable. I incorporate multi-joint movements, working more then one muscle group at a time, which helps reduce the total amount of time they’re exercising, and design a program that leaves them feeling invigorated. They’re able to leave behind some of their stress.”
McMillan says there are many steps an executive can take to make sure he or she is staying active through sports the executive enjoys, getting in a habit of doing a variety of cardiovascular exercises, and working up to at least 30 minutes a day (staying in a 70-percent heart rate reserve) of exercise, four to five days per week.
Fuel the Fire
But exercise is not enough. McMillan knows all too well the role nutrition plays in good health for those on the go. Eating right is a must.
“This is the fuel system of the furnace,” he says. “Make no mistake about it, it is challenging and overlooked.”
McMillan recommends drinking from eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and drinking one glass first thing in the morning. Breakfast is a must and consuming whole foods should be a priority (grapefruit, apple, oats, eggs or egg substitute, fresh berries, walnuts or almonds). He also suggests waiting at least one to two hours after consuming your last meal before heading off to sleep. Finally, don’t go more than four hours without eating.
Kick Start Fitness
Exercise in the corporate world requires you to be flexible and creative. Here are some ways to work it into your schedule:
- Do less, more often. Short stints of moderate exercise performed daily are better for maintaining energy and boosting performance than an hour performed only on the weekends.
- Break up the day. Find little ways to increase your activity throughout the day. Walk while talking on the cell phone, take frequent stretch breaks, park at the far end of the lot, take the stairs.
- Keep track. Log your workouts — what you did and for how long. You’ll be able to track progress, set goals and stay motivated.
- Take it on the road. Book hotels with fitness facilities or health club access. Pack a set of stretch cords for resistance training, a pair of running shoes and a swimsuit.
- Be flexible. Take advantage of an open slot in your calendar whenever it appears. If someone else keeps your calendar, have him or her schedule workouts for you.
- Mix it up. While your stationary bike or treadmill may be convenient, you’re likely to get bored eventually. When the weather is nice, go outdoors. Play a sport or a game of tag. Try a new exercise class. Or go dancing.
— Courtesy Sharon McDowell-Larsen of the Center for Creative Leadership