Holiday & Travel Fitness Essentials

During the past few months living and working in Mexico City, I came to realise just how important exercise was to me, both physically and mentally. Without some combination of running, cross training, weights and yoga, I’d probably have murdered someone or at the very least gained 30 lbs in tacos and chocolate ice cream.

I found business travel to be lonely, and exercising was as good a way as any to while away the evenings. Plus, pushing through the tiredness of jetlag actually helped me normalise my sleeping patterns more quickly than in previous instances. So here you have the travel and fitness essentials I cram into my already too-heavy suitcase.

1. Yoga mat

I don’t know where I’d be (physically or mentally) without my beloved yoga mat. In my hotel I practiced yoga daily in a teeny tiny passageway in my room. Like, I couldn’t fully stretch both my arms out sideways for sun salutations. I managed to get creative and I made it work though! I followed Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga, because I knew I’d need the commitment of the challenge to keep me motivated. I have to say it really changed my exercise and work routine, and became a time for a bit of breathing space.

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.35.03

2. Zip lock bags or tupperware

As I mentioned in a previous post, I would head to Walmart on weekends and stock up on snacks. If I couldn’t get individual portion sizes, I would divide big bags of dried fruit or nuts into little zip lock bags. It meant I very rarely got caught out with nothing to eat. And as someone who gets serious hanger, this was invaluable.

3. Your choice of snacks

I pretty much already covered this in the previous point, but I cannot stress the importance of snacks. I headed to my local Tescos the day before I flew out, and stocked up on snacks. I recommend this for long haul flights (I don’t usually eat the plane food) and for anyone who won’t have easy access to supermarkets for the duration of their trip. Also, I’m not titling this one ‘healthy snacks’ since I definitely took some of my favourite strawberry nougat chocolate bars. Health is emotional wellbeing too!

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.23.57

4. Light Weights

It might seem entirely counter-intuitive to take weights in a suitcase when you have a weight limit, but I packed some wrist weights. Not as heavy as a kettle bell or dumbbells, but just enough to add some extra pump to my yoga routine if I just couldn’t face the monotony of the treadmill, but still wanted to get my sweat on. Given that the weights weren’t too heavy, I probably only had to sacrifice taking a pair of shoes I didn’t need in the first place!

5. Workout Shoes

Since I could only reasonably take one pair of workout shoes, I went for my trusty New Balances. They’re a running shoe but often get mistaken (even at the running store) for a cross training shoe. Sadly they got worn out from the amount of exercise I did in them over the course of six months, but I really couldn’t justify taking more than one pair. (Below are the replacement model- a very similar style from Asics). A slight cheat though- I took Converse as a good general purpose shoe since I could get away with wearing them at the office. They doubled as a great shoe for weight workouts.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.13.25

6. Plenty of workout kit

I’d say at least half of the clothing I took with me was workout kit: I decided to go for quantity since I didn’t know how much time I would have to do laundry, or even what the laundry situation at the hotel would be. I also hit up the Nike Factory Store and Forever 21 in Mexico City pretty much every weekend to stock up. Running and working out had become so crucial to me for stress relief that spending all my disposable income on running kit was definitely worthwhile. And now I look overdressed dope whenever I head out on the trail!

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.22.04

How do you keep healthy when away from home? What’s your favourite home (or hotel) exercise video?

Love,

Pippa

Five lessons I learned the hard way; or my fails in Mexican business travel

1. Don’t use your suitcase as a makeshift laundry basket. This seemed like a perfect solution at the time, especially for sweaty sports kit. However, 6 weeks into my trip when I had to pack again, some serious airing was needed. Not my smartest move!

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.07.49

2. Running as a coping mechanism has its drawbacks. (Not that many though.) The day before my 24th birthday I was getting slightly nervous about the whole affair. I wasn’t looking forward to spending my birthday away from friends and family, and I was certain homesickness was going to set in in a serious way. So my evening jog on the treadmill turned into a 90 minute run, which hurt knees, ankles and spirit in equal measure.

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.06.21

3. Even if a taxi driver charges you on the meter, there are different meters. I have to make an effort not to get the “gringo” rate. I spend so much time and energy arguing with Mexican taxi drivers that our CEO even had to have a word with me. Like, ‘Pippa, you’re arguing over less than a dollar. It’s okay. Just pay the extra and stop arguing with strangers. For your own safety.

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.02.59

4. Never make assumptions. During the very first market visit to Mexico, our Marketing Director’s luggage got lost somewhere between London and Madrid. Being the only Spanish speaker, I took it upon myself to get him to the nearest mall for some replacement kit. We duly asked at hotel reception, explaining that we needed to be back by 11 to leave for our first meeting. Having taken a taxi to the mall, we were shocked to find that none of the shops opened till 11. You’d think someone would have mentioned that to us.

Screenshot 2015-06-20 15.00.32

5. The weather in most parts of the world, including Mexico, is fairly predictable. In the UK, the weather does whatever the sweet fuck it wants. However, in Mexico things are slightly more predictable. For instance, if there was a thunderstorm yesterday at 7pm, and the day before, and the day before that, it’s probably gonna storm today. Don’t leave the office at 6.45 without an umbrella.

Screenshot 2015-06-20 14.58.04(3)How about you? What have been your biggest fails when travelling abroad?

Working after a long flight

I recently flew back to our London office. Sadly, because of the way the time difference works out, I land at around 5pm the Thursday evening and have to be in the office Friday morning. Even more sadly, I fly economy, meaning I am not well rested when I land.

I’m almost certain work would let me take a day working from home, in which to recuperate slightly (and work in my PJs), but honestly I’d rather just be in the office. I’d rather get myself into London commuter mode sooner rather than later. It staves off the jetlag, even if it is unpleasant.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far about going to work jetlagged and somewhat exhausted.

1. Be prepared

In my case, this includes topping up my Oyster and phone online (and in advance), laying out clothes for the next day, and deciding what I’m ordering from Pret for breakfast.

2. Write idiot-proof instructions for yourself. 

I’m writing a to-do list even a 5 year-old could understand.

3. Schedule an easy’ task

For me, this is updating the translations on our website. I can do it easily as it doesn’t require too much abstract thought or planning, which is something I struggle with when jetlagged. Also having a task, rather than sitting at your desk all day staring at a blank screen, will make the day go more quickly.

4. Plan a treat lunch

Take the opportunity to catch up with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while. On a side note, there’s no way you need to be thinking about bringing your own lunch (something I often do). Go easy on yourself.

5. Lower your expectations

You are not going to be your most productive self today. You know it, and I’ll bet everyone else in the office knows it. Just do the best you can, with what you have, and you’ll be just fine. Get to the end of the day, and have a glass of wine on the sofa.

Lots of love

Pippa

Keeping Healthy When Travelling Frequently

1. Drink green tea

My colleagues call this 'swamp tea'
My colleagues call this ‘swamp tea’

2. Avoid any unfamiliar foods, or places with bad food hygiene. I once walked into a salad bar, started to order, saw some flies, and immediately walked out. No excuses, no embarrassment. It’s simply not worth getting the shits for.

3. Take an effervescent vitamin in the 3 days leading up to your flight, during your flight, and in the 3 days after.

4. Make a habit of washing your hands before you eat.

5. Rest well. I keep a strong antihistamine on hand if I can tell that it’s really going to be an issue. Use with caution, it goes without saying.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.17.15

6. Be prepared. I bring along OTC painkillers and lots of tea, just to be prepared.

7. Use anti-bacterial gel and wipes religiously.

8. Eat nutrient dense foods. Get those vitamins! Even if your options are limited, orange juice is better than nothing!

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.07.20

9. Get sunlight when you can. Vitamin D is good for mental health, but also seeing the sun will help adjust your circadian rhythm and stave off the jet lag.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.10.36

10. Acknowledge when it’s all too much. In January, at the start of setting up the Mexico office, I developed cut, dry lips and painful blisters on the inside of my mouth, meaning I could barely eat. My doctor confirmed these were caused by acute  stress. But even acknowledging that this was a problem helped monumentally, and gradually, those damned ulcers went away!

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.16.08

My Favourite Supermarket Snacks

My first few weeks in Mexico were hectic. We would typically have 3 to 4 meetings a day, all on opposite sides of the city. This meant much time spent in taxis, and eating from the meagre selection of healthy foods available at mini-marts.

So what did I do? At the very first opportunity, I headed to Walmart. It was the best day ever. I spent around 3 hours there, dawdling through the aisles with a coffee, chucking pretty much everything in my trolley. At the time, I had a kitchen, but now I’m in a hotel, so snacks are what I go for.

Here is my typical supermarket snack list:

1. Cottage Cheese

I get several small pots instead of a large, because portion control. Over the weekend, I keep them in the coldest spot in my hotel room, before transferring to the work fridge on Monday.

2. Fage Greek Yogurt

Same as above. I get the plain ones, then add fruit or cinnamon if it’s available to me.

3. Fruit Chips and Nuts

These are a godsend. I found a brand called Fruta Sana that does mango, banana, apple and pineapple chips. Amazing for an afternoon pick me up!

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.32.37

4. Granola Bars

My favourites are from Nature Valley, and they get me pumped (both mentally and physically) for a run!

5. Porridge Oats

Might sound like a weird snack, but it’s good running fuel if you don’t overdo it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.35.34

6. Amaranth Bars

There’s a brand called Aires de Campo that I can get here. The bars are just puffed amaranth and agave syrup. 53 calories a bar!

7. Bananas

Or other fresh fruit. Bananas remain my firm favourite, however, since you don’t have to worry about washing them, or eating them with less-than-clean hands.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.33.33

8. Corn cakes

Like rice cakes, but with puffed corn. They taste just like popcorn and are an amazing alternative to crisps.

9. Carrot sticks

Ready prepared if you’re feeling lazy or don’t have a kitchen. Or both!

10. Cereal

In a pinch, I would buy mini boxes of Kellog’s Corn Flakes if I couldn’t get any other carb options.

So there you go, my favourite noms.

Keep on omnomnomming,

Pippa