Fitness On The Road

Paul Harter Paul Harter
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I have a problem

Let me start by telling you about my problem at cocktail parties.  I am a failure at golf.  I don’t love football (soccer).  So, basically, I have nothing to talk about.

I will explain the significance of this photo in a moment.

Most of my business associates over the years have been well aware of my passion for fitness.  They also know I am incapable of chatting about golf or football.  So, they usually ask me how my training is going.  I answer, and then, out of respect, I ask “How’s your training going”?  In the business world, the response, often is something along the lines of: “I was traveling last week, so I couldn’t exercise”.  Then, I would say: “Sorry to hear that.  So, how are the kids?”  In other words, I make a tactical change of subject so I wouldn’t need to tell them what I was thinking.

What was I thinking?  During my entire career as a corporate lawyer, I traveled on business reasonably frequently.  I averaged one or two trips a month.  The fact is that I usually had far more free time to exercise than when at home.  I was free from all domestic responsibilities other than a daily phone call to my wife and children.  Time saved:  2 hours per day.  I typically stayed in a hotel close to the business meetings.  Commuting time saved:  2 hours per day.  So far, that’s four extra hours.  Sure, I could have chosen to fill the four hours working more or eating and drinking with clients or colleagues.  But more typically, I did not.  Instead, I spent three hours working more or eating and drinking (moderately) and one hour exercising. 

I will admit that some business trips were truly full on with no free time.  Though I could not control the work commitments, I could control my alarm clock.  I woke up 45 minutes earlier than I otherwise needed to, and almost always managed a short morning run or gym session.  For me (and I dare say for most people) exercising while on a business trip not only supports long term health objectives, but also, in the moment, reduces stress levels, minimises jet lag and improves focus and concentration during those seemingly interminable meetings.

Long gone are the days when gyms were hard to find or inconvenient to attend.  A large majority of hotels have a fitness centre.  When I have a choice of hotels, I often book the hotel with the best gym.   Though hotel gyms are not necessarily kitted out well, there is almost always enough equipment to manage reasonable exercise.  Also, every city and most towns have commercial gyms.  Whenever I arrive at a location, I google “gyms near me” and usually find several within a two kilometer radius.  I phone them to make sure they sell a day pass (or if language is a barrier, I ask the hotel concierge to phone).  Most commercial facilities sell day passes.

If I want to do cardio, instead of resistance training, and I am unable to muster sufficient enthusiasm for the treadmill, I go outdoors.  Weather permitting, there is almost always a park or a road nearby for a jog or a fast walk.

I accept that there are some holiday destinations where there truly are no gyms, like on Kilimanjaro or the glaciers of Iceland or the jungles of Borneo.  (If you are lucky enough to be on holiday in these places, you are probably getting plenty of physical activity in any event.)

So, back to the photo.

During a family holiday to India, we stayed at the Ahilya fort in a village called Maheshwar, on the banks of the Narmada River.  The river is one of the holiest rivers in Hinduism.  It’s lined on both sides with Hindu temples.  It’s a special place that is definitely worth a visit.  

When we checked into the 16th century fort (converted into a delightful hotel), I asked where the closest gym was located.  The hotel staff first smiled (holding back a laugh) and then insisted that the closest gym was in Indore -- a city two hours away).  In my experience, wherever on the planet humans live, there is a gym.  So, I set off on foot to try to prove them wrong.  And I found it.  In the temple pictured above, located 500 metres from the fort, just to the right of the large central arch, there is a small courtyard that is a wrestling club for local kids.  In the wrestling club, there is a small room.  In the small room, there is a gym.  The equipment in the gym is not 21st century, but it works.  I worked out there.  I made new friends.  I watched the kids fight.  I had a great time.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should be as obsessed about finding the gym as I am.  Of course, it’s fine to take breaks from training (and to be less vigilant about nutrition) from time to time.  It’s even fine to lay in a beach chair for a few days and move as little as possible.  My only point is only that travel is almost never an impediment to fitness.


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