Travel Like a Trainer and Dietitian
By by Ilana Turner, Certified Pilates Trainer and Kim Shapira, M.S., R.D.
Co-authors of the forthcoming book Travel Well
So often we prepare for trips, whether for business or pleasure, and hear one or more of the following familiar refrains echoing in our minds:
“I am so nervous that I will blow my diet/gain weight/get out of shape/never exercise again/never start exercising now/loose all momentum towards a healthy lifestyle that I have ever managed to create ever…”
It seems that no matter how well intended, dedicated, and hardworking we are, the anxiety surrounding staying on a nutrition- and fitness-track away from home is nothing short of overwhelming. And, forget starting a workout or diet program whilst on a trip – that must be impossible, right?
Not necessarily. Over our 20 combined years in business, we have built booming businesses because we keep our clients focused and grounded. Far too often, our clients, and we assume, you, lose site of everyday goals as soon as the bags are packed. The moment dietitians, trainers, home bases, and routines are specks in the rear view mirror, taking care of your body goes out of your minds. Nonsense: you can take it with you. And enjoy it.
Taking care of yourself on the road is still just taking care of yourself, the same way you would do at home. If you are lucky enough to be traveling for vacation, down time can be the best time to start focusing on your body’s needs. You don’t need something crazy, something new, or some fad that makes it safe to leave home and eat normal food out in the world. You don’t need a high-tech gym, a Reformer, or a treadmill with a program named “Fat Burning”. (This equipment is all helpful, simply not necessary.) What you need to succeed is the right mindset.
Your body’s needs change day-to-day. There is no cookie-cutter approach to diet and exercise because each body is different, not only from other bodies, but at each moment of each day. The best way to take care of yourself is to be mindful of what your body actually wants and needs as you go throughout your day. Pay attention to what you actually need in a grounded, focused way in any given situation – which is, by the way, all a good nutritionist or trainer does for you. We just figure out what you need in any given moment and how to address it in a way that supports your overall goal.
There are simple steps you can take to define your overall and immediate goals and then figure out the best way to support these goals. As you go through these steps, just be really, really honest with yourself. You only report to yourself here. Your goals are your own. Your body is your own, and it’s yours take care of and enjoy. Deprivation and mind-numbing repetition of exercises are things of the past. The more you let yourself enjoy your surroundings and your food, the happier and healthier you will be.
As we go through these steps, we’ll use a client we’ll call “Karen” as an example. Karen’s family goes to Tuscany every summer. Italian vacations come with wonderful gifts and horrible pitfalls. Read on…
Step one: Set a goal
What do you want to happen on your trip? Do you want to: Maintain a weight? Lose weight? Be able to run for another half-mile by the end your trip? Exercise outdoors? Learn a new skill or sport? Never leave your hotel room? Eat room service every morning?
It’s all up to you. Pick one or two things to start, then add on as you like. Karen’s goals are to maintain her weight and deal with the aches and pains that come with long distance travel.
Step two: Identify Assets
Where are you going? Where are you staying? A city? The Jungle? A hotel? Your family’s house? Near the water? In a treehouse in Kenya?
Take stock of your soon-to-be environment and note what it has to offer that you are excited about. What can you make use of in a way that will make you happy? Where can you exercise and how? Where can you eat or cook and what?
Karen stays in the Tuscan countryside with beautiful rolling hills, and a temperate to hot climate for 7 days. The villa she stays at has a small pool and surrounding patio, a nice kitchen. Food is fresh, coming from either local shops or restaurants. The villa is 20 minutes away from the big city – Firenze. For once, Karen actually has time to take care of her self and way less induced stress.
Step three: Identify Obstacles
What could be pitfalls for you, things that can derail your best intentions? Is your hotel room on top of a gelato shop? Will it be 110 degrees outdoors and you won’t have much indoor space to exercise? Will you be with your in-laws and thus prone to stress eating? Be honest with yourself about what your challenges are and what makes or breaks you and your psychology.
Karen will be with her family, who cook very well, thoroughly enjoy eating and drinking (as does she) in Italy, the capital of bread, pasta, gelato, and many-coursed meals.
Step four: Make a plan
How do you want to approach your exercise? Your meals? Take into account your goals, your assets and obstacles, and your level of commitment to taking care of yourself. Make a concrete plan, allowing yourself to enjoy the aspects of your trip that are most important to you.
In Karen’s case, making a plan takes into account the goals of maintaining her weight and relieving joint aches; the assets of the fabulous Tuscan countryside, fresh food, and actual downtime; and the obstacles of Tuscan food and drink and some family stress. Her plan goes something like this:
She will exercise 4 out of 7 days in Italy: running through the countryside (sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes walking) with stretching before and after to keep joints loose and muscles relaxed; and doing Pilates exercises. Pilates and running/walking can overlap days (safely), but do not have to. Most importantly, Karen will not stress out about getting her exercise because she has committed to doing the work. She will also not plan ahead of time which days or what time of day to get her exercise because she is happier keeping it loose.
Karen will eat pasta, bread, bistecca, loads of fresh veggies, and gelato. She will also drink wine and limoncello. All of this will be consumed in moderation, until her belly is full (not stuffed) and she will savor every bite. She will eat what she wants when she actually craves it, knowing that indulgence is not the same as over-indulgence. Karen will also choose not to eat something if she doesn’t actually want it right then. She won’t enjoy the food if she eats it just because she can or because it is there. She can always eat more when she gets hungry again. This way, food becomes part of her Italian experience, her memory of eating gelato for lunch with her nephew in a cobblestone ally in Firenze. There is no guilt, no stress, no should because she has picked that moment.
Step five: Stick to it
Hard, but not as hard as it sounds. Make a non-negotiable agreement with yourself that you (all of you, including your health, self-esteem, and happiness) are more important than any of the obstacles that will stand in your way. Decide that getting the amount of exercise you need and want and that eating well and really enjoying the food your body wants and needs is non-negotiable. And mean it.
Executing the Plan
Karen has taken the steps to create a plan, which she puts into practice like this:
After sleeping in, she enjoys a slice of fresh bread with jam and an espresso. She then reads by the pool and in her fabulous new Italian bikini, usually falling asleep for a bit under the big umbrella. When she wakes, she eats some lunch– maybe her favorite simple caprese or some leftovers from last night’s dinner. Karen then writes/paints/explores some local town for a few hours. She eats a few crackers and maybe has another espresso. Back at the house, she does some light stretching and Pilates (25 minutes.) She goes for a run/walk (40 minutes, give or take) at around 6 pm when the light is that unbeatable golden amber color and the air has started to cool. She then stretches (8 minutes or so) to cool down and prevent injury. After a shower, maybe she takes a quick dip in the pool for fun. Then Karen and family prepare a fabulous dinner while they sip wine or they head out to a favorite local restaurant. There is food and merriment. Karen goes back to sleep.
The Last Word
As diet and fitness professionals, we have learned that we get the most out of our travel and our lives this way. So do our clients. Years ago, we’d think, as our clients sometimes do, that we’d be missing out on something fun by *ugh* exercising. Well, the opposite is true. Karen found that Tuscany is seared into her mind in a way that it would not be otherwise. The images of the landscape as she saw it when she peacefully ran through the hills, breathing truly fresh air (we are all L.A.-based) will be with her forever. She experienced her environment in a centered, open, and aware way. She felt whole in large part because she felt taken care of. Karen took care of herself - she gave herself that gift and she had a blast doing it. She also looked and felt great when she came home.
Stay true to yourself, your goals, and your needs when you are on the road, then you won’t be surprised at the version of you that comes home.
About Kim & Ilana
Kim Shapira, M.S., R.D.
Kim Shapira, M.S., R.D., has been a dietician in Studio City and Woodland Hills, CA for 10 years. Kim's unique emphasis is in helping to develop normal eating habits, thereby preventing obesity and heartache. Kim teaches clients of all ages to approach meals in a planned fashion, without stress. Ultimately, she seeks to help clients make food and nutrition a part of their "normal" life, taking up only a small fraction of their time and energy. Kim has appeared as the nutrition expert on Fox's morning news programs’ “Ask the Expert” segments and has appeared on L.A.’s KABC-TV “Eyewitness News” program. Kim has a B.S. in Exercise Science and Kinesiology from Tulane University and an M.S. in Human Metabolism and Clinical Nutrition from Boston University.
Ilana Turner, Certified Pilates Trainer
Ilana Turner has been teaching Pilates for 10 years and is trained and certified* through ITT Pilates and The Physicalmind Institute. She was formerly a professional figure skater and dancer, and has co-authored the articles “Pilates-Based Work and Skating,” and “Ballet and Skating” for Skater’s Edge magazine. Drawing on her skating, dance and circus-school background, Ilana brings a unique and imaginative approach to her Studio City, CA Pilates business. Ilana is also a working (HBO’s Big Love, BAFTA/LA-nominated The Red Ace Cola Project, Never Say Macbeth, The Crackle and Space, the web series Lost Angeles, pilots for Spike TV and Sci Fi Channel, and a lot of theatre) and frequently traveling actress and model with a lot of experience staying fit on the road. She holds a B.A. in theater and dance from Hampshire College.
*certification is listed under married name Ilana Krechmer