A Fitting Return to Business Travel


Our typical, non corporate look…

One little detail that never even registered with me when I said yes to going back to work a few months ago is that I’d also return to business travel. And that’s where I have been these last few weeks, instead of writing.

I realized how unprepared I was, mentally and literally, one Tuesday morning when I needed to drive to the corporate office, about an hour and a half away.

As I was scrambling to find everything I needed that morning, frustration mounted. Not because of worry that it wasn’t going to be a great meeting. It wasn’t that I was nervous about seeing former industry colleagues again, who are now my co-workers. It wasn’t that I was scrambling to print a few schedules and spreadsheets I thought I’d need.  And it wasn’t because I had no idea where my briefcase was anymore, of even if people still used briefcases, who knows?

It was that I couldn’t find a thing to wear!

As a stay at home, living the country life, mom

in the middle of mud season

in a town where gravel and dirt driveways are the norm

and pets can be found in every corner of my house

there’s no need to impress on a daily basis.

or ever, really…

That morning I found myself staring blank-faced at the closet, with only 15 minutes to get dressed and go before I’d end up late for the meeting. Staring back at me from my half of the closet was a sea of outdated, wrong-sized, wrong-seasoned clothing from my pre-stay-at-home days.

With no options, I turn to look at my every-day clothes, I see an overstuffed top bin of crumpled, half falling out, shirts.

As I look at the lower bin, jeans and more jeans and more jeans. Some cute, but not exactly appropriate.

Ok, let’s not worry about pants just yet, I think as I rummage through the messy shirt bin.

Here’s a black shirt, oh, that one has a big stain on the front.

Oh, here’s another one, this one has a pin-hole moth bite in the middle of the belly!

How about one with frayed sleeves?

Or maybe the one with the holes in both elbows!

I ran downstairs in despair, and vent my woes to my husband, who was at the kitchen table working at home that day, so he could handle the child shuttling while I was gone. He thankfully doesn’t try to solve my problem, but tells me he’s positive I’d look just great in anything I find!

He’s not truthful all the time, but his predicable compliments and enthusiasm make me feel better at least.

I run back upstairs, and a few minutes later am dressed and triumphant because I found the answer…the shirt with the elbow holes, I can put a sweater over that one! And thanks to my friend Cathy’s Cabi party a few months ago, I find a new skirt that’s cute (and has no stains or holes or frays yet!) and boots, and I’m finally relieved to get out of the house almost on time…

It takes me a few minutes to decompress once in the car, but when I do,  my mind wanders as I try to assess my handling of this go-back-to-work transition over the last few months.

Here I have been worried about balancing my time, my health, family and other priorities.

All the tough topics.

Really I should have been addressing more immediate concerns, like wardrobe!

And looking halfway decent.

And professional.

Sadly, how you look and how you feel affects your confidence. Mine was at an all-time low.

As I rounded the exit onto the NY Thruway, still a little irked at the rough start to my morning, I’m thinking, today’s just a day trip, next week, I’m away for three days.  It’ll involve air travel. Navigating airports. Staying at a hotel. And eating out. I have to make sure I’m better prepared.

I then started creating a mental checklist on what I need to do, bring, and plan before my flight.

So I never have to repeat that nothing-to-wear experience ever again, to-do item number 1 of course was:

Must go shopping for something to wear!

But after that, can you guess what came to mind next?

I’m sure you can, I’m so predictable. It was:

What workout am I going to do when I’m gone?

How am I going to stay active, when I’m on a plane and in meetings all day?

How can I keep the meals relatively healthy, even though I’ll have to eat out for 3 days straight.

I visualized my itinerary and started calculating how much time I’d have in the mornings and how much time I might have between flights, and what I’d pack in my carry on bag to eat.

And that’s when my lack-of-confidence started to fade.

When I think about past experiences with work and travel, I remember:

Way-too-early flights.

Sitting on an airplane and feeling horrible because I can’t move around all day.

Snacking and meals at the airport and airline boxed lunches. Starbucks multiple times a day, for a grande latte or cappuccino, and gigantic sandwiches or muffins. Maybe something sweet in the afternoons…

Big dinners out at restaurants. Always wine. Often dessert.

There was never time for exercise.

And then once home, I’d be mad at myself because I was just a victim of the inevitable world of business travel, that wrecks havoc on nutrition, sleep and activity level.

I’d spend the next few weeks “dieting”, trying to undo the mess.

Certainly my opt-out-of-work, stay-at-home mom years have not done much for my fashion-sense, but over the last few years I have learned something. I do know how to balance my fit and health needs in an uncompromising way, and am more prepared than ever, to apply what I know now, to business travel.

And with this new-found confidence that I did learn something useful over the last few years, here’s how I planned and managed my goals on this first extended business trip:

  1. Choose ideal flight times: When I first looked at flights, it looked like the only ones were at 6 a.m. or ones that arrived late at night. I kept checking, and finally found one that left mid-day. Perfect timing to ensure a good workout in the morning, before a day of sitting on my rear during the long drive to the airport and the long flight.
  2. Maximize activity at the airport: One of my pet-peeves is having too much to carry while I’m at the airport, so I always check my suitcase. Armed with just a purse and briefcase, I’m not hunkered down with too much luggage and I can keep moving during the downtime, while waiting to board. I take laps from one end of the gate terminal to the other, and choose to walk rather than take the moving walkways. Before this trip, even more fun, I bought a new gadget: a fitbit flex, an activity tracker that motivated me to keep walking, accumulating activity and competing with myself throughout the day for more movement.
  3. Bring your own food to the airport and make smart choices: At the start of the trip, it’s a little easier, because you are coming from home vs. on the return flight or trip home. But don’t leave it to chance that you’ll find something healthy. I became used to bringing our own food on flights because of my son’s food allergy. Basically, you have to, because 99% of the food at airport restaurants aren’t safe for him. I’m sure you never noticed unless you have a food allergy too but all the restaurants have signs on their walls basically saying “allergic? Eat at your own risk!”. But I do find this practice of bringing food has helped me eat healthier too. If you put fruit, a healthy sandwich, your own crackers or snacks in your carry on bag, you won’t over-eat, or have to spend a lot of money. And if you can’t resist that trip to Starbucks? Although I love them, I don’t need a latte, I would have regular coffee with cream at home, and that’s what I’ll get when I’m out too.
  4. Know your hotel exercise options ahead of time, and plan. I checked the hotel website prior to leaving and saw there were some nice walking paths around the hotel. There was also a gym open 24-hours, and I have quite a few 20-30 minute workout DVD’s I could bring from home that I could play on my laptop, and do not need any equipment. I had all the options, woke up early and decided that morning what I’d do. I’m not much of a gym person, so a room workout plus a walk, to get a little fresh air, plus taking the stairs rather than the elevator, gave me a great start to a full day of sitting on my rear at meetings. My flight the next day was super-early the next morning, I couldn’t get out of that one, but did manage a lot of airport walking (and many, many steps my fitbit tells me) and a more formal workout once I was home.
  5. Avoid big meals early in the day: As much as I love Eggs Benedict at a hotel restaurant for breakfast, I opt for yogurt and granola or something filling but light instead. Big meals early in the day, or mid-day aren’t so great for attention span, and it’s important to stay alert for the rest of the meeting. So I say no to the cookies and brownies brought out at the meeting as well, because they’ll typically cause that 3pm sugar crash.
  6. Splurge when it’s worth it: When I bring my own food, choose to eat light during the day, have a short workout in the morning, and get some additional activity throughout the afternoon, just walking and making use of any down time, that means when I do sit down to a business dinner that night, I don’t worry about what I eat. Bring on the wine. And the dessert! Contrary to road food, a nice dinner, to me, is well worth a splurge after being active and deliberate with my food choices earlier in the day. The planning really helped this time, as I had one of the best meals of my life at a restaurant called Flagstaff House in Boulder one night.

And now? Back from my trip, I have no regrets.

There will be no diet.

No complaining that I feel out of shape.

I still have a lot of work to do on the wardrobe, since my outdoorsy-mom style doesn’t cut it.  I know now,  it’s finally time to take all those old suits that have been hanging in my closet for the last 5 years to the consignment shop.

And start investing in new, appropriate clothes for my new role.

But thanks to stepping away from the business world, I have been able to pre-plan the travel part of the equation like a pro, while also staying true to newly-developed personal goals, ones I never even knew to set prior to staying home.


Have you had unexpected issues with work/personal transitions like this? What are some of your tips for healthy business or personal travel? Would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


15 thoughts on “A Fitting Return to Business Travel

  1. Sounds like some good planning there. Seems like your air travel is domestic, so maybe you don’t have the “no food, no liquids, no anything” rules that affects most of my travel. I’ve slowly learned to avoid food on planes unless you’re in business class and to just drink water. But good job. Nice to see some tech giving you a gentle reminder or impetus to get the walking in!

    • Adrian, thanks so much! So you aren’t allowed to bring in foods? We are allowed but just can’t bring liquids in, and then can after security. I’ll bring a water bottle and then just fill it up in the drinking fountain. I have to tell you, I love this fitbit. I had been in this state of wanting to lose the metrics for about 2 years, but these metrics seem to be just what I need. It was so satisfying to see that I had actually walked 4000 steps through the airport, when I could have opted to sit on my rear instead. Makes you really want to do more!

  2. Because of my recent transition from 170ish pounds to 145, I have a range of clothing covering all those sizes . . . including suits! I almost gave in to my desire to toss it all this time last year, but am happy I decided to hold on just in case. I like to live light, but it looks like my husband’s preference to keep just in case is rubbing off . . . so that is one thing I am not worrying about for next month’s work return!

    • That’s great you have options!! And I also can’t believe you’ll be back in another month– your leave has gone quickly!! Hope you and ill d and the baby are doing great! I think if my options were 2 years old I’d be in good shape, but now? My whole shape has changed… and styles are all weird…5 years is a long time! Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Robin, great item. And by the way, speaking of travel (though not business travel), Helen and I are back this afternoon from a month’s ride, the last four days of which we pedaled mostly in the rain. We arrived home completely soaked.


    • Great to hear from you Jeff! I think you did your share of business travel and I’m glad it’s all personal fun stuff now–even riding in the rain! Glad you both like the posts and loose to hear your comments!

  4. No business travels here, but it was nice to read about it (very amusing at some times and I dó recognize the clothing issue 😉 and I admire your determination in following your healthy life style, even when everything around you is working against it!

    • Thanks so much for your nice comment! And actually, looking for something to wear, thinking back on it, it is amusing, but wow, during the moment, frustrating! During this time away from work, I have often wondered what I have lost, or where my skill set has lagged behind, but I can see I have gained during this time too. The accumulation of our life experiences, from all different areas of our life, tend to help us where we least expect they would…

  5. Robin, congrats on your new transition! I have to say, when I am NOT traveling for business, I do find I envy the me that used to. Or my husband, in this case, since during this stretch of our life he is the one doing the traveling. However, like you, I have been thinking about my wardrobe as of late. I’m in between jobs (happily) but starting to casually consider interviewing. Even though business dress in Israel is much more casual than the US, i know my wardrobe is in need of a little love and attention. I am right now wearing jean shorts and an old navy tee I bought at least 7 years ago. Good tips for healthy business travel. For me, bringing my own food is super key! And when I travel in the States, I always find the nearest Whole Foods or Trader Joes to stock up on, especially to avoid hotel breakfasts.

    • Jen, sounds like you can really relate! It’s funny, when I am home, sometimes I’ll have layers of shirts and each has some problem to cover up, it’s amazing what I’ll put up with. Even though where I’m working, it’s not corporate, just neat and clean would work, but I can’t seem to even hit that standard. Sadly, much of that new paycheck has to go to the wardrobe! It was really great to realize I’m not a total nerd and have learned something in the last few years that adds to my business experience today: the health know-how was never on my radar screen in my old corporate life…probably never had the time to even think about it! If you are starting to consider interviewing, maybe gradually add to that wardrobe! I started back kind of on a whim with no time to prepare, and I have been sideswiped!

  6. Ah business travel – you know who I think of? Hillary Clinton. Yep. People like Hillary are on a plane traveling halfway around the world and when they arrive they’re at some rich, decadent state dinner that they have to be polite and eat. They probably have their sleep (what little they get) interrupted by crises all the time, and heaven only knows how they find time to manage their personal lives.! I did lots of business travel too, took my own food and scheduled exercise at some point every day. It’s all about commitment and you clearly have it so you’ll be fine! Good luck in your new role!

    • Tina, thanks so much for your comment. Yes, poor Hillary, and I can relate to her too…not that I’m solving any world problems but because I get these GIGANTIC bags under my eyes, like she does, and just feel icky at least I used to…not anymore! Well, tired, I do still get that way….I remember you mentioning your business life in one of my other posts and I’m sure you have a lot of great advice to share on how to survive it…and that with uncompromising commitment, we will live through it. Appreciate your stories and input!

  7. I’ve been back at work (part time) for a year now and have a super hard time still with wardrobe. My old suits don’t fit, and I lived in sweatpants and shorts for 3 years. Congratulations on the new job!!

    • Thanks Kristi, so you are a year into it, and still working on this transition? I’m thinking my whole new paycheck will be spent on clothing unless I take hours and hours to go through my old wardrobe and get them ready for a consignment shop..sounds like another part-time job! thanks so much for your comment, love hearing from another parent like you trying to juggle it all….

  8. Pingback: Is Good Health Intuitive? | A Fit and Focused Future

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