2011-08-08

Diabetes and Exercise While Traveling

I am out of town until the end of the week. In one sense, it's always fun to get out of town, especially when one travels to an exciting location. I happen to be traveling some where reasonably interesting, so I have that going for me. In another sense, traveling is always and everywhere a factor for diabetics to explore and account for.

Being somewhere new means sleeping in a strange bed, waking up and going to bed according to a new schedule, eating foods that are available as opposed to familiar, working out when and where possible. The diabetic's routine is completely disrupted at pretty much every imaginable level.

I do not dread this as much as some diabetics. I find new places somewhat exhilarating, provided I can find a gym and reasonably healthy food. These days, the former is easy, but the latter can be a real challenge. Today for lunch, for example, I went to McDonald's. Of all available options, McDonald's was the most predictable, even if not the healthiest. Sometimes predictable is better than healthy. I doubt I will repeat this choice tomorrow, however.

So what advice can I offer fellow athletic-diabetic travelers? Not much beyond common sense, I'm afraid. Here are a few tips that I have found useful.

Ignore Any Changes in Time Zone
Within reason, you should try to stick to the same time schedule you are used to. If you're traveling two or three time zones over, keep your watch set to your own "normal" time zone, and wake up at the same time, go to bed at the same time. If you're traveling for work, this may be prohibitively difficult, but it is not impossible. You may get some funny looks, but you will be glad in the long run. Sticking to your regular schedule mimizes the impact on your your body.

Make Use of the Hotel Gym
This is kind of a no-brainer. Hotel gyms suck, it's true, but they exist for a reason. The reason they exist is because many of us have to travel from time to time and having the opportunity to do something other than sit in planes, trains, automobiles, meeting rooms, etc. is vital for our psychological and physical wellbeing. For diabetics, this is true to the extreme. Your body will thank you for not cooping it up in a suit all day and drinking too many cups of coffee.

Psychologically, you will benefit from the motivation required to actually work out. The temptation to let your workout slide is almost too much to resist - believe me, I feel it, too. If you overcome that temptation, you feel strong, healthy, attractive, and accomplished. This is a huge boon for your psyche. If you're traveling for work, this will enable you to work better. If you're traveling for pleasure, this will allow you to capitalize even more on your beachside antics or your enjoyment of the local nightlife.

People just feel good when they do good things for themselves! So avail yourself of this opportunity. You'll thank me later.

Buy Your Food in Advance and Keep It In Your Hotel Room
This is probably the best piece of travel advice I can offer anyone, and not just diabetics. When you get to your destination, go immediately to the grocery store and pick up some breakfast and lunch foods. Keep them in your hotel refridgerator, and prepare them first thing in the morning. You will end up with something more cost effective and much healthier than if you have the diner breakfast, convenient lunch, and fancy dinner.

For diabetics, this will allow you to stick to a regular food routine despite having many other aspects of your daily routine ruined.

So, you're saving money, you're eating healthier, and you're keeping your BG under control. What's not to like about this?

Best of all, you will - believe it or not - prove to be the envy of your friends and/or colleagues when you show up for lunch with a fantastic homemade sandwich, cup of yogurt, and fresh vegetables, while they are stuck with some greasy potato-hewn substance made with too much salt and oil. You will be seen as healthy and also a good planner. Makes for a great conversation piece, too.

Well, those are my tips. What works for you? Let me know in the comments section of the blog.