Staying Healthy on the Road

When drinks and late nights are your biz, make time to get that workout in
Belfast native Jack McGarry
Belfast native Jack McGarry, owner of New York City's The Dead Rabbit and Blacktail (right, with co-owner Sean Muldoon), takes some time for himself in the morning or evening to hit the road for a good run. (Photo: Jack McGarry)

Prioritizing your health in an industry where excessive drinking, eating and late nights are the norm is challenging enough. Add travel to the mix and it’s easy to let healthy habits slide — or abandon them altogether.

“I used to go to the airport and feel like I was going on vacation and think, ‘Hey, I want that candy bar and that trashy magazine,’” says Lindy Colburn of St. George Spirits. Colburn travels an average of two days a week throughout the year across seven states. “It took a while to get out of that mindset and remind myself that it’s not a vacation, it’s work.”

“Traveling is hard on your body, and it’s easy to get run down,” says Seattle-based beverage consultant Lara Creasy, whose travels as owner of Four 28 LLC and beverage director for Ford Fry Restaurants frequently take her overseas.

“I maintain a 50 percent travel schedule most months. Home a week, gone a week. It's been pretty brutal, and in modern life, we try to push through, which does a number on your body’s ability to function. I’ve done a lot of work figuring out how to take care of myself while managing the demands of travel.”

Here’s how Colburn, Creasy, and some other frequent fliers (and drivers) keep up with healthy habits while on the road.

Take Advantage of Your Surroundings

Colburn often chooses hotels based on their gyms and proximity to other activities, such as parks and running paths.

“The Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit has guided group runs and a great gym, so I try and stay there when I’m in town. And the Holiday Inn in Louisville has these amazing new Concept2 rowing machines, which I love,” she notes.

Jack McGarry, owner of New York City’s The Dead Rabbit and Blacktail, hits the streets for his workouts. The avid runner logs between 30-50 miles a week, even when traveling internationally.

“My time can get taken up by other people, so I make running part of my morning or evening routine. That’s my time, my space, and I don’t let anyone take that time away from me,” he says.

If running isn’t your thing, most hotels have basic gym equipment. Or you can even knock out push-ups, burpees or stretches in your room.

“My trainer, Ethan at FitWit [in Atlanta], puts together travel workouts for me I can do in a hotel gym or wherever I find space,” says Colburn.

Don’t have access to a trainer? Instagram and YouTube are stocked with videos for moves that work for small spaces with minimal or no equipment.

Dragos Axinte, founder and owner of Novo Fogo, a Seattle-based cachaça company, admits he doesn’t have time to work out when he travels.

“But I do like coffee, so I try to book a hotel with a good coffee shop in walking distance and walk there and back in the morning. It might not be an intense workout, but it gets your blood flowing and gets you up and moving and is better than an Advil for a hangover.”

Restaurateur Azhar Hashem, owner of San Francisco’s Tawla, adopts the same strategy.

“I make a point of walking everywhere when I’m out of town, especially when I go to urban destinations. I’ll even skip the metro for longer walks.”

Be Prepared

The Boy Scouts’ motto is one that works for road warriors as well.

Hashem packs snack bars and raw nuts, which are “great for long flights, but also if I’m jet lagged and wake up at night with the munchies.”

She also shops for local and seasonal fruits to keep on hand for her hotel room or Airbnb spot.

Colburn has her own secret stash.

“I always pack protein shake mix and stay in a place where I have a fridge, and then hit up a local Whole Foods for almond milk and do a shake in the morning. I try to make sure not all of my meals are out.”

If she does eat out, she opts for a big salad with clean protein like chicken or fish.

David Shenaut, operations manager and beverage director at Portland’s Raven & Rose, looks for “simple foods” for snacking while on the road, like dried fruit, nuts and yogurt.

“Fast food is off limits for me. I’d rather have a smoothie. For me, travel is centered around food and drink, and there are so many healthy options. So skip that half ass’d airport Bloody Mary and wait for the good stuff at your destination.”

Hashem agrees with the balanced approach.

“A big part of enjoying travel is eating local! I don't try to deprive myself of that experience. But I make a point of eating enough vegetables and fruits which often get missed while traveling.” All that can help balance out excessive food and drink.

Pace Yourself

“Part of my job is going out and having drinks, and it’s easy to overindulge,” says Colburn.

“Especially if you travel for wine sales or consulting,” Creasy says, “you’re going to have to indulge. Be smart about it. When there are times to drink less, drink less. You’ll feel better in the long run.”

Axinte advises against going to meetings or events on an empty stomach.

“Eat small meals wherever you go, and pace yourself. You don’t have to feel obligated to finish every drink. Just have a sip and move on.”

He’s a fan of drinking non-alcoholic beverages, like Mexican Coca-Cola with bitters, recommends making client calls during the day when you’re less likely to drink too much and often alternates booze with a glass of water.

Hashem limits her evening drinking to one glass of white wine or rosé and also keeps a whole bottle of sparkling water nearby to sip on during meals and social engagements.

“I’ve noticed that red wine interferes with my sleep, so I stay away from it during the evening.”

Rest Up

Making time for sleep is important.

“Getting enough rest is key for me,” Axinte explains. “It’s the No. 1 thing you can do to support your immune system.”

Colburn often makes a morning running date with friends on the road, be it other members of her sales team while visiting clients or supplier friends at trade shows.

“It makes it much easier to get up in the morning when someone’s waiting on you. It adds accountability, for sure.”

Creasy says, “The No. 1 thing you can do for your body is get an adequate amount of sleep. When you’re in it for the long haul as a beverage professional, you have to get real with yourself. You can’t drink heavily at nights and then pound coffee in the morning indefinitely. It doesn’t work long term.”

One Day at a Time

Whether you’re used to maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road or trying to incorporate new habits, remember to take baby steps to set yourself up for success.

“A lot of people think they need to make these monumental changes, like they have to go from eating junk to nothing but vegetables or do really intense workouts when they haven’t worked out in a year,” says McGarry.

“They go from zero to 60, and that’s going to lead to failure. I like the whole ‘Couch to 5K’ approach for life. Start small and build slowly, allow yourself to make mistakes. Take it easy on yourself and make slow, consistent changes. Those are the ones that stick.”

Laura Scholz is an Atlanta-based writer who believes that life, like a good cocktail, is all about balance. When not writing about or enjoying cocktails, she teaches Pilates and runs marathons.

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