A reader asked, in The Open Thread: May 2016:
Does any of you guys have experience with staying in shape while holding a job that includes a lot of travelling?
I'm really into strength training. Kind of need it to stay sane. That goes along with a good diet (meaning I'm (pre)cooking 99% of my meals).
Now I got offered a well payed position as a consultant which requires up to 40% travelling. Has one of you guys been able to follow a strength training program while travelling alone?
Since the entire work week consists of 100%, 40% means two days on the road. If your company sends you somewhere else via train or plane, and you have to travel the day before, those two days may easily cost you four days. Let's say you're sent off on Wednesday, after work. You catch a plane, sleep at a hotel, and work for two days at a client's site. You travel back on Friday. It's not easy to hit your fitness goals given those constraints. In fact, you will have to compromise.
The bad news is that it will be very difficult if not impossible to keep your workout schedule. Ideally, your employer puts you into decent hotels with on-site gyms, but those can be hit or miss. Frankly, it's a trade-off. My goal was never to bulk up a lot, but I do like to maintain a certain level of strength and muscular tone. If there are no weights at hand, then I do push ups in several variations, and planks, or just a 30 to 45 minute Ashtanga yoga session on my own. If you are working for a big client, then maybe they have an on-site gym. At my current work we have access to a basic gym, free of charge, which is available even outside office hours. Depending on your fitness goals, body weight exercises may be a good
enough temporary substitute, but there are clear limitations compared to working out with free weights.
The bigger threat to your physique will be due to bad nutrition, which may be hard to avoid. If your employer puts you into a nice hotel, you may also get a meal allowance, but it may be tied to the hotel restaurant --- and it is rather easy to consume too many calories. It then boils down to will power. Tell the waiter that you need to watch your weight and ask for, for instance, steak without the red wine cream sauce.
In the end, though, it boils down to in which areas in your life you are willing to make sacrifices. I know nobody who didn't sour on frequent business travel. However, I also know quite a few people who took jobs that required frequent travel, powered through this for two or three years, did not get laid a lot and didn't stay in shape either, but eventually transitioned into rather good positions afterwards. If you are doing management consulting, then this is a pretty standard career path because sooner or later a client will want to take you on full-time, which normally entails a nice salary bump and much less frequent travelling.
Have you been in a similar situation? Please share your thoughts below.