I have been traveling on business this week. Naturally, making two cross-country flights in four days and sitting in multi-hour meetings between flights has had an unavoidable impact on my training. But I don't mind. I came prepared.
In the past, I always tried to sustain my normal workout schedule as closely as possible while traveling on business. All too often this effort entailed heroic measures such as setting an alarm for six am on the East Coast, which was three am by my California-calibrated body clock, after having arrived at the hotel at eleven o'clock the previous night and having not fallen asleep until at least one am, struggling out of bed, and running seven miles on a treadmill in a hotel "fitness center" that clearly used to be a mop closet, which feels like running eighteen miles outdoors in fresh air, and then doing whatever I had to do for the day, and in the evening finding a YMCA with a lap pool and suffering through fifty or sixty laps before grabbing a hurried dinner and finally dying of exhaustion. But frequently, when the alarm sounded, I just couldn't bear the thought of seven miles on the treadmill in my current state of fatigue (I hate working out first thing in the morning under any circumstances and never do it at home) and I would just shut it off and go back to sleep, missing the workout completely.
Then I came up with one of the best ideas of my life: the ten-minute better-than-nothing workout. Now, when I'm traveling on business and have to work out first thing in the morning, I plan to run for ten minutes, and that's all. I can always get myself out of bed for ten minutes of running, no matter how miserable I feel. Sure, ten minutes won't get me in shape for a marathon, but it is better than nothing, which is exactly what I wound up doing half the time I planned to run for an hour. The other great thing about the ten-minute better-than-nothing workout is that I usually wind up running fifteen or twenty minutes anyway. It's basic human psychology. The hard thing is getting out of bed. I must ask as little as possible of myself to motivate that painful throwing back of the bedcovers. But once I start running, the worst of the suffering is already behind me, so I can ask a little more. I wish I could patent and sell the ten-minute better-than-nothing workout for business travelers.
The other thing I do now is plan my travel weeks as recovery weeks. I train especially hard in the final few days before flying out and especially hard again the first few days after coming home. So the light training I do while on the road allows me to recover from the preceding hard training and prepare for the next batch of tough workouts. I must say, it works quite well, but I'm glad I don't have to travel more often than I do!