Healthy habits for when you’re on the road these Christmas Holidays

WORDS: Alistair Mitchell PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

When travelling, it is hard to maintain your usual exercise routine. Your favourite gym sessions, pilates classes etc do not travel with you. The foods you consume may also vary from your normal routine at home. There may be less access to the healthy options and these, regrettably, are often replaced with fast food choices. So here are some helpful ideas to keep you alert, active, and healthy when you are travelling (often for long hours in a car,  plane, train or bike!)

Preparation is key for any road trip or long haul journey, solid snacks like bananas, apples, trail mix, nuts, carrots, celery sticks, and energy bars will pass muster. Pack a few of these in a small light weight cooler that you can hand out when people start getting hangry (hungry angry).

The most important travel essential for any road trip is water and plenty of it. On a normal day I would recommend between 4 to 5 litres of water, and on the road it’s extra important as water keeps you alert and hydrated, prevents those sleepy yawns, and keeps you stopping for toilet breaks where you get out of the car and stretch every few hours. Try to have a good supply of water within arm’s reach, purchase some good water storage bottles (try to avoid plastic) and refill with water wherever you stop. This makes certain you have a constant supply at the ready. A big key for hydrating is to avoid coffee and soft drinks – both can dehydrate you. Water is always your best bet for staying hydrated and watching your food intake remains healthy.

Long hours of sitting in the car and eating fast food at every rest stop can derail a diet faster than you can say ‘road trip’. How can you break the cycle? Bypass rest stops and seek out independent cafes and restaurants – not only will you eat better, but you’ll also meet locals and get a better flavour of the town you are in. For help finding healthy local eateries, try the Urbanspoon app, which offers listings of types of local restaurants even vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Before you travel it’s often a great idea to seek out any useful apps or reviews that will point you to farmers’ markets, healthy eateries, juice joints, and more.

Once you have all your dietary needs under control its now a matter of keeping alert energised and exercised each day. Particularly for long car trips, be sure to stop at least once a day for an exercise break. Check your road map or GPS for nearby national, state or local park where you can go for a walk, or spend some time exploring a new town or city by foot.

A great form of exercise that you can do anywhere is using resistance bands. They are a great addition to any strength training routine or rehabilitation program and come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and strengths. This portable exercise equipment is also easily stored, making it perfect for carrying in the van or car. Just like free weights, exercise bands come in a range of resistance levels, from light to heavy-duty strength.

The most common types of bands include tube bands with handles, loop bands (aka giant rubber bands), and therapy band. When in doubt, a fitness professional can help determine which band is right for you, depending on your fitness level and specific workout plan. For most exercises, try aiming for 7-10 reps for two to three sets per exercise.

Some simple exercises are pictured below:

Hopefully your destination offers a fitness centre, gymnasium, pool or even an activities program – make sure you use it once you get there!

If your park or destination doesn’t have a gym, you can break out the bands again or go for a walk. For those who are well prepared, get the push bikes out and go for a ride to check out the local area. Remember to search your local markets and stores so when you’re out on your bike ride you can pick up your local fresh produce supplies. I also suggest if you have enough room to try and squeeze a set of dumbbells into your car or van just for that extra bit of help, but it’s easy enough to make your own exercise routine of jumping jacks and squats, or do some early-morning stretches or stomach crunches before heading out for the day.

Travelling isn’t supposed to be hard and neither is your general health and wellbeing, with a little bit of forward planning everyone can enjoy the highlights and memories of travel, while still be able to maintain the healthy habits you have at home.

Safe and healthy travelling, Alistair.