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Maintaining Fitness While Training

Keeping up a consistent training schedule is especially tough for the many D.C. area triathletes who travel for work. Jet lag, irregular sleep, lack of access to training space, packed schedules, and unusual or unhealthy food can threaten months of good training. (In this slowtwitch blog Jordan Rapp writes that stress is stress, i.e. work anxiety or exhausting travel tax your body even if you don’t get in a workout.) I work in international development, which takes me on overseas trips of 2-3 weeks a few times a year. A unique “training” experience on a recent trip to Botswana got me thinking of some strategies I’ve learned on my own and from friends:

1. Use whatever resources are available. Many international hotels have a gym or pool, however small or hard to find. That can be the only option if safety concerns keep you inside. In West Africa for three weeks, I hit the treadmill the first week when I had access to one, focusing on intervals to keep me mentally engaged; then I swam every day. In Haiti the two weeks before my first race of 2011, I water-jogged in the tiny guest house pool, did strength training in my room, and hitched a ride with coworkers one day to crank out 7 miles on a hotel treadmill while they got massages. If you’re near an ocean or lake, by all means get in an open-water swim!
2. Look for social opportunities. Check with local running stores or tri/bike shops ahead of time about weekly group workouts or ask a gym about a day pass and join a class. A friend travels every other month to the same city and plans travel around a favorite running store’s Wednesday group runs. Maybe a co-worker traveling with you would love a running buddy. In Botswana last month, our office manager invited me to an aerobics event; it turned out to be a six-hour, 500-person “fitness carnival.” At a gala dinner after, a Ministry of Tourism rep sang praises of the aerobics community for combating heart disease and obesity and strengthening social ties. I had a killer workout that broke up my training routine and learned about the culture from like-minded “fitness enthusiasts”—way better than the stationary bike!
3. Modify your training plan to be realistic. As amateur triathletes, our day jobs sometimes take us away mid-season. Try to adjust your training plan based on what you’ll actually be able to get done so you’re not stressed about missed workouts. Plan a recovery period or even a mid-season break to coincide with travel. If you can only swim, zero in on technique and do some high-yardage days. You can do strength training anywhere with no equipment. One advantage of triathlon is you have many things to work on.
4. Bring water and healthy snacks everywhere. Unless you’re lucky enough to fly business class, airplane food is not high on the nutrition scale, and water comes in 4oz servings. Eating out can take a toll too. I bring a water bottle and fruit or energy bars everywhere I go in case I’m stuck with no food—or with goat meat and French fries. Look for a grocery store to get familiar foods (and save some money). Ask coworkers about healthy eating options or do a Google search. Vitamin C, Echinacea, Airborne etc. can help fend off airplane germs.
5. Keep moving. Sitting for hours on cramped planes and in airports is not only detrimental to training but actually dangerous. If you get to the airport early, walk as much as possible before boarding. Get up at least every two hours on flights, even just to stand and stretch, and change position in your seat. Compression socks are also a huge help). Once arrived, if you’re in long conferences, consider standing at the back wall for periods and walk the hallways on breaks.
6. Get creative. If you’re likely to be going out for dinner or drinks with coworkers, try early morning workouts. Consider a bike bag (buying or borrowing) if you travel a lot and to bike-friendly places. You can make oatmeal in your room if you have a kettle or coffee maker and use plastic utensils from the plane or hotel restaurant.
Or do it like Trevor & Heather Wurtele: buy an RV and live like nomads. J

Share your travel tips for triathletes!

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About Dawn

Dawn is a top tier Age Group triathlete, long-time swim instructor, and soon to be a USAT Level I Certified Triathlon Coach. Dawn has raced 16 triathlons, including four half Ironmans; more than 35 road and trail races; open water swims and endurance ride events. She is a member of Ignite Endurance.

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