HUGH CULVER

5 Foolproof Tips for Staying Healthy as a Road Warrior

Updated to Business, Habits, Productivity, Speaking on January 23, 2023.

Is it just me, or have you noticed the day before you leave for a trip is a frantic, run-off-your-feet, freak-out?

Everything you’ve procrastinated about (plus 9 more must-do’s) now conspires to overload any free time you thought you had. It’s nasty and it leaves you exhausted and anxious before you even start your trip.

As a speaker, I go through that gauntlet of holy-crap, how-will-I-survive, about every week. The catch is, I’m being paid a pretty dollar to perform—I can’t afford to show up unprepared or physically beat up.

Here are 5 ways I stay healthy on the road.

1. Follow your plan

I can’t stress this tip enough—make a plan and follow it like your life depends on it. When I arrive to my hotel room I make a plan for the evening (including when I will be in bed, clothes ironed, reading) and a plan for the morning. For the morning, I work backwards from when I meet the client to include: final prep, exercise, dressed, eat, meet client.

I always, always, always nail that list. If it says “6:45 leave to meet client”, that is exactly when I walk out and close the door to my room.

Call me crazy (many do), but sticking to my plan is more about my confidence than it is about being on time.

When I meet my client, who has sought me out, signed my contract, paid my fee, and flown me to speak to their friends, colleagues, bosses, members, whoever, I want to be at the top of my game.

When I keep even a tiny promise to myself, I teach my subconscious that I’m a promise-keeper.

Anything less doesn’t cut it.

2. Drink like a camel

Here’s the deal: every minute you breath you use water—it’s got to be replaced. More water in your system is like grease to a wheel – your digestion is better, brain function goes up, laryngitis is avoided, and, who knows, maybe those crow’s feet are less obvious.

Here’s my recipe for hydration:

  • on flights, I plan for 1 pint (1/2 liter) for a one hour flight (those dinky plastic cups don’t even start to cut it.)
  • as soon as I wake up I start my day with one tall glass.
  • at the office, I make a habit of standing up and moving each time I refill my glass (instead of having a big container on my desk.)
  • in the gym, I pack away 1 pint (1/2 liter) for every 30 minutes.
  • when presenting I have 2 glasses on stage of a one hour keynote.

3. Practice Hara Hachi Bu

I’ve written about this before and it’s worth

repeating. In Dan Buettner’s excellent book The Blue Zones he documents the habits of nine of the oldest populations in the world, including the Okinawan’s practice of Hara Hachi Bu, which essentially means stop eating before you are full. In our family we call it the “80% rule” – stop when you’re 80% full.

The physiology is simple: it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the telegram saying you’re full. So to avoid that over-full feeling, put down the fork at 80% and allow your nervous system to catch up.

Other tricks to avoid over-eating are:

  • drink a full glass of water before going to the buffet
  • eat a small handful of nuts
  • take a smaller plate
  • restrict yourself to one visit to the buffet
  • serve up a larger salad and less meat

4. Work that booty

Here’s the deal – it’s hard to squeeze exercise into travel. Unless you’re parked at an all-inclusive (like I was last week for a speaking engagement in Mexico), between the time I arrive for a speech (usually late at night), final prep for the speech and getting up early to meet my client, I don’t have an hour for a full sweat.

That’s why I adopted the 15 minute hotel room workout. I swear by it for feeling fit, boosting confidence, and improving my diet (I tend to eat less when I exercise more.) Read how it works here.

5. Hide the remote

One of the most widely accepted theories about willpower (see my article about willpower) is that you have less of it as the day progresses. By the evening, you’re a stale-Doritos-munching glutton with little resistance to Duck Dynasty re-runs.

That’s why I hide the remote.

I know it sounds foolish, but sometimes a little trick is all it takes to get you one more hour of precious sleep.