Training While Traveling for the Busy Business Person

by Mike Hendersonflying-business

How many times have you gotten to your hotel during a business trip, looking forward to a workout only to realize you didn’t have your clothes.  Or, maybe you had your clothes but it was late at night and you were just too tired.  Or worse yet, you had your clothes, you’d made the time but when you got to the hotel gym you found a broken stationary bike.  Now what?

I travel a lot during the week.  I represent HP products in the west for a computer distributor and cover 13 states.  I live in San Diego and often have to drive or fly to other states in my territory.  I’ve been doing it for well over 8 years now and have learned by trial and error how to stay on my training program when I’m away from home.  One year I put this to the real test when I committed myself to coaching a Trek Century program on Saturday, training on Sunday and during the week with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) (prepping for a 620 mile San Fran to San Diego), fund raising $10,000 for CAF and performing my day job.  Here’s how I did it.


Each week I review what type of training I should be accomplishing in the days to follow from my program.  Are there intervals involved, strength training, speed work.  What about intensity, low, medium or high?  How much time do I need for the type of workout I am planning, etc.  These are the essentials of the plan.

Where will you be staying?

Because my territory is very large I often find that I am away from home during the week, which means different cities and hotels.  If I am driving, I can sometimes take my bike with me.  Then all I have to do is figure out riding routes from where I will be staying if there is enough daylight.   There are lots of internet resources providing local areas to ride for most of the medium and big cities ( If I’m familiar enough with the area and know it will be dark, but I want to get a ride in, I’ll bring along my lighting system.  (Helmet and handle bar lights)

Sometimes it’s a short drive up to LA for me but the traffic is horrible coming home.  No problem.  I take my bike and cycling clothes with me.  I have several areas where I can stop and get some training in after my meetings.  By the time I get back on the road the traffic has subsided.

What facilities do they have?

If I’ll be flying or know I’ll not be able to take my bike with me, then I research the hotel or local fitness centers.  A lot of hotels these days have some nice equipment in them and others it may not be perfect but often it’s better than nothing.

I first look on their web page.  Once in a while specific equipment is listed there, maybe even pictures, and but more often it just states  “Cardiovascular Equipment”, which is not a good description to me.  I want to know specifics.  Next step, I call the front desk and ask.  If they are unsure I have them send someone down to the room and come back with a manufacturer, model and condition of the equipment.  I once arrived at a hotel after speaking with the manager who assured me they had a stationary bike, only to find that the seat was broken and one peddle was missing.

Another option is local fitness centers like, 24-Hour fitness, Lifetime Fitness, Bally’s, YMCA, etc.  Some hotels will have a free pass or discount to these if they have no facilities of their own.  Having an annual membership might be worth the cost.  I usually pay the fee if needed and my company will reimburse me.

What clothing/equipment do you need to take with you?

I like to be prepared so I take more than I need on my trips. Here is a list I use.

– Cycling clothes – Shoes or Tennis Shoes, Socks, Bibs, T-Shirt

– Water Bottle – Mix if I have long workouts planned

– Heart Rate Monitor – track my pace and progress

– iPod-I have some workouts on there to follow as well as music

– Towel – hotel usually provides this

– DVDs- I can run training DVDs on my notebook computer

– Training Outline or Schedule – I keep a log on my notebook and schedule in my Outlook

– Plastic Bag – put my wet and stinky clothes in

What’s the agenda?

When I travel I either am away at a company function or at meetings with customers.  If it’s a company function I have an agenda and can plan out when I will have time to hit the gym.  Unfortunately most companies today do not build in personal time to train so often I am up early in the morning or going late at night.

If I am meeting with customers, and control my day, I will have more flexibility.  However, things change at the last minute sometimes.  What I’ve learned is not to get too stressed out over missing a workout.  It’s part of life and the job.

How much time do you have?

I don’t need a lot of time to get in solid training unless I’m putting in base miles.  But base miles I normally do on the weekend so it seldom is a problem.  If you have 30, 45 or 60 minutes, you have plenty of time to get in some quality training.  It’s just a matter of planning.

What type of workout will you be doing?

What is in your plan for today, Speed, Intervals, Power, Strength…? If you have a plan you will more likely meet your goals.  However, maybe you are in between seasons and just want to get a ride in.  That’s OK too.  I often use the settings or modes on the electric stationary bike just to see what they are like.  Sometimes they are challenging and other times…not so much.  One of the funkiest was in Disneyworld.  The display had me racing against other riders and the system would add resistance as I climbed a hill.  But the coolest thing was the buttons on the handlebars.  I could punch the riders beside me, on the screen, and receive points.

Other times weights, running, stairs, swimming, etc are in order.  Exercise is often specific but if you don’t have a bike there are plenty of other activities that can improve your cycling performance. Ask your coach what sort of cross training makes sense at a particular time of year.

I used to hate seeing a recumbent in the hotel facilities.  But then I noticed upon my return that I was a bit stronger when I got back on my road bike.  My theory is that the recumbent uses muscle in a different position, which challenges them.


It’s hard to stay on track when there are late night dinners, rich foods, expensive bottles of wine, and the business demands to participate.   So what do you do in order to keep your job and yet still stay nutritionally focused?  Here are some of my tips and tricks when it comes to calories.

During the day I try to eat smaller meals.  I carry some good nutritional bars and look for portable fruit and drink plenty of water.  Most dinners are late, after 6 and often as late as 8 or 9 in the evening.  I will have a salad or pick at a dinner when it’s late without completing it.  I find if I engage in conversation I don’t have to eat.

I definitely stay away from the alcohol.  Too many calories and if others want to head to a new locations for another beer or two I just opt out.  My excuse of “… I need to catch up on work” or the truth that I’m watching my calories and need to get a workout in goes over well.  I’m surprised when I see a client months later and he asks how that event I was training for went.  There’s a level of jealously and admiration for those who can stay focused on their personal goals in today’s business world.

Lastly, I don’t think training and working or traveling are mutually exclusive.  You might find that you are more organized when you have a lot to accomplish and your time is limited. 2008 was a time when I had huge increases in the amounts of training, coaching and work on my plate and yet at the end of the year I was selected as 1 of 100 people to attend our annual Presidents Club in Aruba for my sales with my company, a $33 billion worldwide computer distributor.


If we were professional cyclists we would get paid to train, but since that is a very small percentage of the population, we then need to find ways to fit it into our business travel plans.  If you have a training plan, know where you will be staying, have an agenda, and can squeeze out 30 minutes or more, it’s possible to stay on track.