Fitness Balance at Home and on the Road

Balance.

The definition may seem simple at first, but are we talking balance, the verb…or balance, the noun?

When it comes to balance in our lives and how we need to live in order to remain both physically and mentally healthy, it’s both.

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Webster’s defines balance in the following ways:

bal•ance v.t. to keep in equilibrium || v.i. (in account entries) to be equal on the credit and debit sides.

Or balance, the noun:

bal•ance n. equilibrium || mental or emotional stability

Few industries today are as high stress as retail loss prevention. Even fewer are as underestimated for that stress. Whether you are a store detective or regional director, the level of stress on a day-to-day basis is overwhelming.

Now, let’s throw something else on top of that—the physical demands of your job. On a day-to-day basis, you are called on to be ready at a moment’s notice, handle potentially violent situations, and simply endure the physical requirements of the retail environment. Every day you are bombarded with the reminder that physical fitness is an important part of a healthy life, that proper diet is necessary to your physical well-being. But let’s back up for a minute.

Yes, exercise and proper diet are important to get rid of that gut, help your heart function properly, and basically keep you from dying an early death. But, we’ve known that for decades now. So what else?

Take, for example, the store detective that confronts a shoplifter. Has that detective maintained a workout regime that will ensure his success should the situation become physical? That is one issue in itself, sheer physical fitness. But physical fitness is much more than just “physical” fitness. It’s a matter of balance.

The Mental Benefit of Physical Fitness

The biggest benefit to physical fitness is “mental” fitness. This has been my mantra for many years. Working out, eating right, and staying fit are more important to your mental well-being than to your physical body. By being active and eating right, you will put yourself in a much more effective state of mind. No, you don’t need to become a triathlete or competitive body builder. It’s a matter of taking steps, no matter how small, toward a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of clearer thinking and a greater sense of relaxation, as well as higher energy and more positive outlook, will not only affect your work life, but allow you to focus on the balance throughout your life that we are all looking to achieve. Imagine having a little more energy at the end of the day, being able to spend a little more time with your family, or simply having the enthusiasm to finish up work early enough to do something for yourself. It all boils down to small steps that create a greater balance, as Webster’s puts it, “an equilibrium” of all the responsibilities you have before you, and the pleasures in life with family, community, yourself, and friends. All of these become easier with a little physical nourishment and proper eating habits.

By using the verb “balance,” and putting as many credits into yourself (taking care of your body) as you take debits out for your job (giving of yourself to your job), you allow yourself the noun “balance” of mental and emotional stability. With a greater sense of physical security and the compounded mental peace of mind, all facets of your life will begin to fall into place and create that balance within work, home, and within yourself.

Is fitness and a healthy lifestyle a miracle cure? Well, in my opinion, yes.

Follow these helpful hints to make small adjustments that make a huge difference:

  • Drink a gallon of water a day. Sounds crazy, but it will help burn fat, improve your cardiovascular system, complexion, and energy level.
  • Walk ten minutes three times a day. Park as far away from the building as you can just to get those extra steps in. Double dip by taking a walk with your spouse or family members.
  • Cut back on fat intake, portion sizes,and, yes, carbohydrates, especially four hours before you go to bed.
  • Join your local gym. Enlist the expertise of a personal trainer to get you started on the right foot.
  • Integrate strength training into your routine. Resistance training can increase not only muscle strength, but bone density, joint flexibility, and joint strength as well, and help increaseyour resting metabolic rate. That’s right, when your muscles are stronger, you will burn more calories just sitting around. One of the key things to keep in mind here is speed. Slower is better. When in doubt, reduce the weight and slow it down. This will prevent injury, increase results, and provide a more relaxing work out.
  • Exercise wherever you are. Even when time is short or you are traveling, grab a few push-ups, crunches, and slow squats right there in your office or hotel room. A little is better than nothing.
  • Consider some alternative fitness routines. If you haven’t tried them, Yoga and Pilates are not only terrific exercise classes, but focus on the noun “balance” by spending time with relaxation, meditation, and focus.

Remember, you need to do what works for you. Easy does it, but definitely do it!

Maintaining Fitness on the Road

“Great,” you say, “but, you have no idea how hard it is to maintain those routines on the road.” Loss prevention professionals are truly road warriors, either in a car or on an airplane, visiting stores where you have no gym membership or staying in hotels with no fitness facilities.

Once again, balance comes into play. In my previous life, when I traveled throughout ten Southeastern states, I learned quickly that there had to be some balance, or my commissions would all disappear into my ever-expanding wardrobe. Often, it seems, as our wallets get fatter, so does our waistline. The bottom line is you won’t be as successful at either end of your journey if you haven’t paid attention to your body’s needs.

It’s true that whether you take one family vacation a year or travel every month for business, nothing throws off a regular exercise routine like being away from home. While traveling is sure to disrupt your schedule, it doesn’t have to mean total abandonment of a healthy lifestyle. Believe it or not, you can fit a workout in wherever you are. Finding balance doesn’t mean that your workout schedule must always be the same. It simply means that you take into consideration all of the things demanding your time and energy at any particular moment, and then take a moment to decide how best to balance them.

Eating Right. For example, you know how bad you feel if you don’t eat anything all day except a pack of peanuts on the airplane on top of coffee or a softdrink. To avoid that awful end-of-the-day sinking spell, you should make a point of planning a lunch break into your schedule, or, at the very least, packing an energy bar or two and a bottle of water in your briefcase. If you know you’ll have a heavy restaurant meal at the end of the day, you may skip breakfast and lunch thinking you’re doing your body a favor. But you’re not.

If you eat a balanced and healthy breakfast and lunch, your metabolism stays up and running, and you are less likely to overindulge at that mandatory business dinner at night. That’s balancing your personal needs with the demands of your job. You always manage to find time to go to the restroom, right? Well, it’s just as important to add your body’s other needs into the mix.

As I said earlier, the biggest benefit to physical fitness is mental fitness, and the impact of exercise on your body and your mental health following travel is critical. The physical and mental strain of simply getting to your destination can be enough to twist your body into knots, let alone the strains of doing your job away from your home base. Dealing with cramped rental cars and highway traffic, busy airports and crowded planes, plus jet lag, schedule changes, and eating on the run…all can cause tension you don’t face at home. That’s often reason enough for a good stress-relieving workout. And you will perform better, be a better speaker and a better listener if your brain isn’t numb with exhaustion and sluggish circulation.

Do you have trouble sleeping on trips? People who exercise sleep better and need less sleep than those who don’t. Exercise helps lessen that tension, and you sleep more efficiently.

Traveling by Car. Fortunately, these days, you don’t even have to wait until you arrive at your destination to get in a little exercise. If you’re driving, take time during rest stops to stretch or go for a short walk. One thing that I do is get out of the car and do some calisthenics. If Iam traveling with the family it has the double benefit of helping me relax while letting the kids work off some energy before continuing the trip. As you drive, you can also perform isometric exercises, tensing and releasing isolated muscle groups. “Butt clenches” may sound pretty funny, but the benefits will surprise you.

Traveling by Airplane. If you’re traveling by plane, you might be able to work out between flight connections or during delays. Some airports have fitness centers, and many that don’t are adjacent to hotels with fitness centers or within a short cab ride of local health clubs. AirportGyms.com lists most major North American airports and whether the nearest gym is in the airport or nearby, along with directions and fee information.

The listing for O’Hare Airport in Chicago, for example, indicates that the Hilton Hotel adjacent to the terminal offers $10 one-day passes for its gym, which includes a sauna, steam room, indoor pool, elliptical trainer, steppers, and stationary bikes. Las Vegas Airport has a 24-hour gym right inside the airport.

If nothing else, a brisk walk around the concourse can get your blood going and unkink your legs.

At Your Hotel. Taking half an hour for some exercise when you arrive at your destination can help ease the tension of travel and clear your mind for the work to come. When you’re making travel plans, find out whether your hotel has an exercise area and investigate what kind of equipment it offers. Check with hotel personnel or the hotel web site when making reservations. At many hotels, you’ll find an exercise bike or two, treadmills, and strength-training equipment. Though sometimes these are not ideal, they are better than nothing, since you never know what the weather will do in some parts of the world. Some hotels in warm-weather cities have pools large enough for an outstanding cardiovascular workout and even a small pool can be used for water-resistance exercises. Try to “run” from one end of the pool to the other, with only your head above water.

You can also get a good cardiovascular workout in the privacy of your room. Pack a jump rope or an elastic band for resistance workouts. Just tuck them inside your gym shoes. (For the benefit of your fellow travelers, you may want to request a ground-level room if you plan to jump rope.)

Even a few push-ups or sit-ups, or basic stretching exercises can help maintain fitness. For example, try putting your hand against the wall and slowly raising up on your toes, one leg at a time, for your calves. Here’s another one: put your feet shoulder-width apart and take a full ten seconds to squat, and come back up. After about six of these, you will recognize the benefit to the slow, controlled workout. Or, if you have some reading to do, pretend that you are sitting in a chair, with your back against the wall. Of course, there is no chair there, but your legs are bent all the same. By the time you finish your reading, that simple little task will have you begging for relief. (See www.rocktour.net/fitness for a sample fitness routine for your hotel room.)

Visiting Health Clubs. If you belong to a health club at home, your membership might entitle you to privileges on the road, too. Of the 3,000-plus gyms worldwide that belong to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), many allow members of other IHRSA clubs to buy one-day guest passes. Check whether your gym is a member by asking health club staff. More details about the program are on the IHRSA’s website, www.healthclubs.com/passport.

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Some health club chains provide access to members at out-of-town locations with certain membership packages. Ask your health club what your membership includes. For example, Gold’s Gym will allow travel passes to any of their 650 locations worldwide.

Runner’s Beware. For those of you who are runners, anywhere you are is your health club. However, being in the LP industry should naturally make you a little more wary of where you can safely run, especially when you are staying near one of your stores located in a “challenging” neighborhood.

Not knowing the best places to run when you travel can be a problem. One solution is Runner’s World’s website, www.runnersworld.com, which includes an “On the Road” page that lists top running routes, information about running clubs, and dates for races in dozens of cities. You can also check with hotel security about the safety of running near the hotel.

Balance Your Life for Balance In Your Life

Bear in mind, we are not suggesting you establish an exercise routine comparable to a professional athlete. If you work out an hour a day, five days a week at home, it’s okay to exercise for shorter periods while you’re away.

Bottom line, you must balance your life, in order to have balance in your life. And that means all the time, even when traveling. Let’s face it—there’s no better way to relieve the stress of traveling than working out. With gyms at airports and hotels, and the wide variety of exercises you can do outdoors and in your own room, it’s almost always possible to stay fit on the road and continue to maintain that balance and not lose track while away.

You need to balance the needs of your job with the needs of your body and your life. Getting proper exercise is so very important…to your mental health, your longevity, your physical health, your ability to do your job well, and your ability to use your body and your mind. The key is, like Nike says, “Just do it.”

It takes effort to keep balance in your life. But in the end, it’s worth it…to yourself, your family, and your company.

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