Welcome to Life in Spirits, a new series featuring dispatches from booze industry professionals including bartenders, brand reps and distillers. First up: Diana Novak, a spirits educator, frequent traveler, and fitness fanatic who works with more than 15 different brands of alcohol. She’ll tell us what it means to be on the road 200+ days a year, and offer tips on how to stay healthy when drinks are your job.
On a typical day, I’m up at 5:45 a.m. and in the gym by 6:30 a.m. I’ll run a few miles and do a ten-minute circuit, shower, get ready and be in my hotel lobby by 9 a.m. to meet a sales rep. From there, the day is a long one, filled with liquor store, bar and restaurant visits—plus hours in a car—so I often don’t return to my hotel room until after midnight. And of course, I have to build in time to check emails and social media, eat, maybe watch The Today Show… and just sit still occasionally.
As a former personal trainer and physique competitor turned education director for a spirits importer, it was necessary for me to achieve a healthy balance between these two extremes when transitioning into my current job. I travel for work nearly half of every month. It took a while to really figure it out, but so much of what I learned as a trainer and competitor helped me to properly structure my travels and create a healthy routine that works for me. And it can work for you, too, whether you’re an industry professional, travel for work, or just find yourself on the road with a drink in hand.
Much like anything else, preparation is key. Knowing where you are going, what’s around you and how to structure your days can serve as the outline to creating a consistent routine of healthy habits.
Where to Stay
I always keep a few things in mind when planning travel, and at the top of that list is where to stay. Will my hotel have a gym? Not just any gym, but a gym that has creature comforts for my workouts. If weights or cable machines are your thing, do a little extra research via photos on the website or travel review sites to get a look at the gym. If you’re a runner, research nearby jogging paths. I love running through a city, as it’s one of the best ways to really see that city. If you’re more into CrossFit or yoga or spin, just look around online before you go, and you might be able to find a studio nearby that offers day passes. Or just ask your hotel, as many have agreements in place with neighboring gyms.
What to Pack
When I travel to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, I choose to stay at my favorite French Quarter hotel; it doesn’t have a big gym, but it’s in a great location, so I make that sacrifice. But to keep up with my workouts, I always pack a little something extra, and they only weigh two pounds. Those would be resistance bands. They are magic, and perfect for bodyweight exercises. I can incorporate resistance training with lunges and push-ups and enjoy a nice circuit workout by the pool.
What to Eat
You’ve figured out where to stay and what to pack. Now it’s time to think about food. I rarely have much control over when or where I eat when I travel, but preparation is key here, too. When I’m looking for my hotel, I also look for grocers and smoothie shops within walking distance. If I can structure the trip to land the night before my first full day in a market, I try to hit the grocery store and grab a mixed berry cup, some fruit and extra bottled water. Hydration is essential, and the hotels, while they have water, aren’t shy about charging $7 for a 20-ounce bottle. Smoothie spots are great right after your workout, and they keep pretty well in your mini fridge, so grab two and enjoy another one the next day.
As an added step, I often bring food from home. I do this for a few reasons—partly to control my food intake and budget, but also to have a backup plan. If your travel plans go awry, you’re not in a location with great food options or you’re simply just too busy to stop for lunch, you still need to eat. So I usually pack a few protein bars as well as a breakfast oatmeal muffin that I make at home. That way, I’m prepared for anything, and not starving late in the day, which is when people tend to make poor food choices.
There are many ways to balance your work and travel schedule with healthy habits, so do your best to find the ones that work best for you. In a follow-up article, I’ll details more tips for treating your body right—even when you’re expected to spend your evenings at bars and events.