Staying healthy can be a major challenge when you are in a role with lots of travel. Long flights leave your muscles stiff. Conferences can turn into week-long binge drinking and eating sessions. Jet lag can turn your sleeping and eating patterns topsy turvy.
Recently, I’ve noticed an awesome trend at conferences: organizers are recognizing that we need to take care of ourselves while we’re at these events. Open Source Bridge offered a yoga class and had a massage therapist on site for short massages. (After getting off a 5-hour flight, a 10-minute neck rub was extremely beneficial.) OSCON hosted its first 5k run at the event, and in a blog post leading up to the event, provided several suggestions for ways to stay healthy during the conference.
The starting line at the OSCON 5k!
These types of activities are a great start, but staying healthy at conferences requires more effort. Here are some of the ways I try to stay in good health while on the road:
- Walk everywhere. Walking is the best way to explore a new city, and it’s excellent exercise. I use a Fitbit to track steps and set a daily goal for activity. If you’re doing lots of networking meetings, try scheduling a walk around town rather than meeting for a drink.
- Drink lots of fluids. And by fluids I mean water, not beer! Planes often dehydrate me, and walking an expo hall I often forget to stay hydrated. Make a conscious effort to drink water during the whole trip. For example, set a rule that for every session you attend that you have to have a glass a water. Try to limit your consumption to one beer per day.
- Watch your eating habits. Find a way to break out of the conference catering, airport food, and take-out routine. Instead of eating in the dining hall, try walking to a nearby restaurant with healthier options.
- Book hotels with a gym. They tend to be a little more expensive, but it’s usually cheaper than a temporary gym membership (and more convenient).
- Bend and fold. I have a super thin travel yoga mat from Manduka that I stick in my bag. Even 15 minutes of yoga in a hotel room floor can bring enormous benefits, especially after a long flight. If you don’t want to lug a yoga mat, you can use a towel or YogaPaws.
- Encourage conference organizers to offer healthy activities. Next year, O’Reilly plans to offer another 5k at OSCON, and I’m working with @PDXYogini and @VanRiper to get some yoga classes on the schedule as well.