Corporate Culture + Healthy Living = a match made (not) in heaven?

I’m writing this on my balcony in Dubai at 7am on a Monday morning….having spent half my Sunday travelling. Actually this hotel is insane but beside the point! What I want to discuss in this post, is how to cope with enforced travel (i.e. WORK) and corporate London culture without letting your good intentions, training and sleeping patterns come a cropper.

Note – I’m basing this on my experiences. I’m only 25, been in my job for nearly 3 years and don’t have anyone who depends on me. Things will vary massively based on your job, home life, industry, organisation etc…so don’t take what I say as gospel!

When I signed my contract, I agreed that I wasn’t going to make any fuss WHATSOEVER about the inevitable travel that comes with consulting.And I haven’t. Because I’ve never had to do it ‘properly’. I’ve avoided the regular out-of-town Mon-Thurs in a hotel-that-could-be-anywhere, with team dinners, drink and late nights being part and parcel of ‘business relationship development’. But in reality, what that actually means is that this is just replaced with similar activities in London…

But I do occasionally travel for meetings and workshops and considering I am a bit of a control freak, it does take some adjusting to.

The FIRST things I do when I know I’m travelling are

  • look at the hotel website and tripadvisor reviews for approximately 8 hours
  • work out if I can go running outside without it being culturally different and potentially uncomfortable (Bangalore), dangerous (São Paulo) – and by dangerous I mean literally risking running for my life – or impossible when it’s dark (Prestbury, a pretty village near Manchester with minimal streetlights)
  • check out the hotel gym (see first point)
  • actually think about the work I’m doing (I joke, this is actually slightly much higher up the list)

I also have a think about who I’m going with, what the agenda is like and when I have time to best fit in a gym session. But then I do this at the start of each week anyway, whether I’m in London or not. I can imagine some of you rolling your eyes along the lines of “can’t you just take a few days off”, but on a serious note, the last thing I want to be doing during a stressful work week is to remove one of the things that keeps me sane and clears my mind. And the thing is, you have to learn that a lot of the time you won’t always have full control of where you go for dinner, what time you finish working, what you end up doing in the evenings and how much sleep it is possible to get. And that’s OK. But I like to have a little plan so I can adjust, rather than just throwing it all out the window.

However, I’ve had some fab fitness experiences

  • a 2 hour, full body gym session with the girls in São Paulo,giving side-eye to the men that think because we are female, we will drop the weights on our heads and require them to come to our rescue. Also admiring some incredible gym wear that the Brazilian women seem to have in abundance…
  • running up Arthur’s seat with a colleague before breakfast and feeling literally on top of the world. I might note that I did actually then have a fudge doughnut as part of my breakfast because I was at the Missoni and they are exquisite
  • running along Ipanema beach

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  • 3 of us doing handstand press-ups against the wall in a tiny tiny hotel gym for bragging rights (I did not win)
  • running a 5k PB and placing 6th at a Self Transcendence event in Edinburgh

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One trick I’ve had repeated to me and that I swear by (in life in general) is that it’s OK to say no. This counts whether you are away or not – but in particular, you don’t have to go out and spend your food budget every night and have 4 glasses of wine to get the respect and business relationships you need. Yes, social time is a great way to get to know your colleagues, but it’s OK to hit the gym, order room service and snuggle up in a comfy bed for a good night’s sleep once in a while.

As I’m sure you’ll know, restaurants and hotels are getting more and more accommodating – so if you don’t want butter on your vegetables, ask for no butter. If you want a lime and soda to be put in a wine glass to make it look like a spritzer, ask for it (although make sure there isn’t a piece of lime in there because that is a pretty sodding big giveaway). You are guaranteed to find at least one other person who is trying out the same tricks as you by the way, it just might take a few days to work out who your partner in crime is…

So to put it briefly:

  • make the most of someone making your food for you e.g. if you hate separating eggs for egg-white omelettes…someone will do this part for you! Just beware the over-excitement of the breakfast buffet….
  • get your ass to the gym – I bet you 100% it is a lot easier to get to from your hotel room than from your house to your gym at home. Get your team involved! We set a time to meet at the gym and you don’t want to be the only one who didn’t make it there…..
  • say no if you need to. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. You know yourself what your limits are
  • think about the alcohol – I don’t even want to start on the calories. Use my lime and soda tip or just pass on the top-up every other time (I’m not going to tell you to alternate with water because everyone knows that)
  • shorter commute = more time for a good night’s sleep (and gym time)

However, on the plus side, being away is also an excuse to try out new and delicious foods and hey, if you’re still hitting the gym , it’s OK right? Here is a selection from a couple of recent trips to Brazil…..

005 020 047 557      592     623157 020 024 025 033 627

PS I do actually do work whilst I’m working. I just don’t take pictures of it because it’s boring (no one wants to see me over-using hand gestures during a presentation) and food is more interesting. I also often travel with a lot of instagram-happy people.Which helps. It means I always know exactly what I’ve eaten and what I stole from everyone else’s plate.

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One thought on “Corporate Culture + Healthy Living = a match made (not) in heaven?

  1. Pingback: Exercise Addiction vs Dedication…..Drawing the Fine Line | These Girls Do

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