It is inevitable that once November and December rolls around you have to start worrying about the holidays, traveling with family and friends, and spending lots of time away from home! For those of us who are dedicated and consistent with the gym, there may start to be some worry or doubt due to diet, training, and also how to stay in shape with so many opportunities for parties and meals that differ from your normal diet.
While I have covered good ideas as far as training and diet go in my previous articles relating to the holidays, I am going to touch up on things to consider to help prevent you from falling 100% off the wagon during this time of year.
First lets talk about traveling and finding a good gym. Like most people who are dedicated and consistent in the gym, one of the major stress relievers or hobbies is to find a good gym and get in a good workout. This may not always be possible, though, due to a few reasons. First of all, gyms have limited hours during the holidays. On Christmas Eve and New Years Eve you may only see a gym open say 8-12, or 9-1, or even closed due to the holiday. Therefore you think to yourself, now what? Well if all else fails schedule a rest day on a holiday so you can get right back on your routine the following day and adjust your diet as necessary. Some people like to use the holidays as a reefed or a cheat meal because of the amount of parties they will attend, or the amount of food that will be hard to calculate or eyeball into their daily calories or macros. When I personally vacation, what I do is find the hotel or place I am staying and then simply call asking about local gym’s or if in a good hotel, they offer a facility inside. Most of the time hotels will have some sort of gym, but they will most likely not contain a squat rack, a free weight bench, or dumbbell’s to your weight desire. Locally you may be able to get in a 24 hour chain like a Gold’s, LA Fitness, or some kind of 24/7 all access, but this will not always be the case. Most of the time I go to google maps and then click on the place I will stay and then search for “Gym or Fitness Club” then you get a good list of places that may be to your desire. Make a few phone calls, ask about their rates, ask about what they have as far as equipment goes, and also ask for their hours. Most of the time you will be able to get a 1-2 free day pass just for coming in, or sometimes even a week pass. I got lucky when I went to Colorado a few years ago for a wedding and had access to a powerhouse gym for the entire week that had enough equipment that I could sleep in the facility. When I went to Idaho I was in the middle of no where, and to get to a grocery store I had to go to Wyoming and drive over 45 miles before I even saw signs of a village with a population of over 100 people! So due your research and plan ahead!
Next, after finding a good gym, a good tool to consider is packing things to help prepare you food. For some who travel for say upward to a week, this could be very valuable. For those who only travel say for a day, or for a few hours, this may not be something you really need to consider because you could easily pack a meal or two and then save room for a feast or meal out. When I had to travel for upward to a week for work, I had to pack myself a George Foreman Grill (small one to fit into my suitcase) to help prepare chicken and other assorted poultry/meat in my apartment.
Another quality tool for those who do track calories or macros would be a food scale. It is not very large and it can easily fit into a duffle bag or a carry on bag if you are flying. For most people who are not a few weeks out from a competition in a contest prep, and just enjoy going to the gym because it is a hobby, this may not even be necessary. I am a big advocate of moderation and big picture, so I would say to eyeball food portions to the best of your ability, move forward, and do not stress a thing.
Another good tool is an electric skillet that you can hook up in a room to prepare small stirfry’s, vegetables, and also cook chicken or beef. This is great for me because I am big on bulk cooking chicken, beef, potatoes, rice, and also when I get to my destination, I can easily buy bulk vegetables (frozen) and store them in my room. It does not take much to pack simple meals or cook simple meals when you have a skillet because of how diverse it truly is.
Air tight bags are also life savers. People who may take vegetables, fruits, or other prepared foods already put into air tight bags can easily be microwaved and cooked fresh on the spot. Not to mention this will help reduce the amount of bacteria or having the food spoil in a short time span when traveling. We all know that food poisoning can happen, and because of it people can become sick very easily. This is a good precaution to take to help prevent the spoiling of food and make sure your health is not affected because of it during the holidays. The last thing you want is to get sick when trying to see friends and family.
The last thing I want to talk about or suggest, especially for those who may be towards the end of a contest prep and soon competing in a show and are traveling would be freezing your foods and then using it as a carry on for your plane or traveling a long distance in a car.
I know IFPA pro Tommy Jeffers had to do this when he competed in the North East and he lives in Indiana. All of his meals for peak week were basically frozen and then thawed out upon lading. All he had to do was microwave them and store them in a fridge/freezer to keep them cool for the time being. It may be easiest to do this, and could save you a fortune as far as trying to go to a store, car travel, and everything associated with standing in lines, which does take forever sometimes, especially during the holidays.
If all else fails with food prep, nowadays there are a lot of online services which do everything for you and it comes down to simply going on a website and selecting what foods you want and then you would pay a good amount of money to have food prepared, cooked, and sent to you. While it may not be the most cost effective option, it is something to consider.
Overall there are many ways to overcome traveling for the holidays. A few phone calls, some light research, and planning ahead can go a long way to keeping yourself on track.