Head Coach & Founder of D5 Executive Gymnasium – DIFC, James Heagney takes us through his thoughts on staying in line with our health & fitness whilst traveling for work or pleasure. With these golden nuggets of common-sense and easy-to-follow advice, it’s not as hard as you’d think!
Business travel is a modern-day necessity, especially in the Middle East, with many executives undertaking long-haul flights on a weekly basis. This can cause problems and disruptions to your routine, which in turn can negatively affect your health – if you allow it to. As a business executive you are a goal-orientated individual, therefore you must look at your health in the same way as you do your business, with a profit and loss column.
Each day is either an investment day or an expenditure day. Investment days bring you closer to your health goal and conversely expenditure days move you away. An expenditure day, for example, would be classed as not hitting your sleep target and overindulging at a business dinner. The solution? Keep it simple. In my years of working closely with high-performance executives, I’ve always kept in mind that attention to detail is the key to successful programming. I like to approach planning with a personalized workout for each individual, taking into account their trip, goal, attitude and experience level.
It is important to remember why our client is traveling. They are traveling for business, so the number one goal is for them to be able to perform at their peak in the workplace; we must remember that they are not there to complete a world-class strength programme.
WHAT WE CAN ASSUME ABOUT OUR CLIENTS ARE IS THAT THEY ARE:
• Sleep-deprived due to jet lag and travelling between
• Possibly (almost certainly) dehydrated, due to lack of water
intake and alcohol mid-flight
• Not regulating nutrition (prevalence of airport &
WHEN YOU HAVE THE LUXURY OF A FULLY EQUIPPED, WORLD-CLASS GYM YOU CAN TAKE THE CLIENTS THROUGH SOME REALLY ELABORATE TRAINING PROGRAMS. HOWEVER, WHEN THEY TRAVEL, YOU HAVE TO ASSUME THE FOLLOWING:
• They will be in a new environment
• Equipment will not be the same, certainly if they are used to
training at D5
• Time is a limiting factor
• They will not have a personal trainer to ensure proper technique
SO, WITH THESE CONSIDERATIONS IN MIND, MY SOLUTION IS TO BASE MY PROGRAMMING ON THE FOLLOWING:
• Remove as many barriers as possible – keep it very simple
• Short workouts
•Hotel room ‘metabolic primers’
• Right brain-dominant training
As mentioned, it is my aim to remove as many barriers to exercise as possible. Time is usually a limiting factor, so I change the mindset for the client; if they think they should exercise for 60 minutes and actually only make 45 minutes, they mentally mark it down as a personal fail. When working with goal orientated individuals it is important to take all factors into consideration and program achievable goals, instilling small, daily successes. Achieving a goal produces a surge of dopamine, and many high flying business executives are dopamine animals. Setting an exercise time of 20 minutes can create a positive, winning mindset that will impact the rest of the day – an early and consistent win for the client.
Jet lag can be a performance-limiting factor, so it is important to capitalise on the 24-hour gym policy found in many hotels. For individuals who are slower to wake in the morning, I like to recommend the following workouts and approach them as a way of supercharging the day for higher mental functioning and business performance:
WORKOUT 1 – 20 MINUTES
A 20 minute incline treadmill walk (or cycle) pre-breakfast can be a great way to help wake up the body and stir the metabolism. Do not underestimate the power of something as small as this.
An early morning walk will improve blood flow significantly and really wake up the body and mind. It is also a perfect opportunity to answer emails and get up to speed with world news; important aspects of most executives lifestyles.
WORKOUT 2 – 20 MINUTES
If the client does not have access to a gym, then we can adopt the 15 minute, hotel room metabolic primer-based training programme. This is to be completed before breakfast, or before you head out for dinner in the evening. Consistent scheduling and execution of this is a fast and easy habit to adopt. Here is an example of a hotel room based ‘metabolic primer’ workout:
*To be completed in a circuit fashion with minimal rest between exercises
* You can start at 2 rotations, moving up to 5 rotations if you’re more advanced
• Push Ups (full or on knees)
• Supine Glute Bridge
• Prone Cobra
• Bodyweight Squats or Alternating Lunges
• Side Plank (both sides)
Perform each exercise for 60 seconds before moving straight onto the next. When you have completed A5, take 2-4 mins rest and repeat 2-5 additional times. Don’t let its appearance fool you, this workout can be challenging for all strength and fitness levels due to relative bodyweight usage.
WORKOUT 3 – THE RIGHT BRAIN SOLUTION – 20-30 MINUTES
Referred to as a right brain-dominant workout, this style focuses on keeping training simple. This is great for when you are jet lagged and trying to focus on your upcoming meetings.
Typically, a 5-star hotel gym will have a minimum of 6 fixed-resistance machines at your disposal. They are great for really targeting and isolating muscle groups, not having to worry about stabilizing the weight. The machine dictates the movement, which is perfect as we don’t want to engage the brain too much. If you have to think, then we are not achieving our goal, which is: to remove as many barriers to exercise as possible whilst also providing the body with a great workout.
THE WAY I LIKE TO STRUCTURE THIS IS AS FOLLOWS:
Walk into the gym and perform a 5-10 minute steady-state warm up on a piece of aerobic equipment (such as the bike, treadmill or rower).
Then, perform 1 set of 12-15 reps on any resistance machine. As soon as the set finishes, stand up and move immediately to the piece of equipment next to you – do not think about exercise order. Complete 1 set of the new exercise, repeating the process until you have used every single machine in the gym. To complete the workout, continue moving around the gym until you have reached your time goal, in this case 20 minutes Again, this can be an incredibly challenging workout for all fitness levels, though don’t just stick to biceps & triceps…
I hope this has removed a few potential barriers to exercising when you travel. Time is never a valid excuse, so don’t let it become a barrier to living a healthy lifestyle. You wouldn’t accept it as an excuse in the workplace, so don’t accept it with your personal health.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Founder and Head Coach of the exclusive D5 Gym, James started working in the fitness industry over 15 years ago whilst attending University and then moved to London to continue his career. His passion for continued education has enabled James to travel the world attending as well as presenting, training courses and seminars with some of the world’s leading health experts. In 2009, James moved to Dubai bringing his concept of a “5 dimensional” approach to health. This program’s success has led to the opening of D5, which allowed James to pass on his D5 ethos to a wider demographic. James also worked with the United Arab Emirates Powerlifting team. The highlight of this was his athlete Mohammed Khamis winning Olympic Gold at the Rio games in 2016.
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