By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Starting and keeping up with a new routine is hard in any situation. When you have a steady routine it can be easier to slowly adjust to new habits.
“Routine” is not something travel nurses are familiar with, which can make implementing changes all the more difficult. Every 13 weeks we pick up and start anew. Not only does our work schedule change, but every detail of our life, from where we buy groceries to how long we commute, changes along with it. By week three or four I start to feel like I am in the beginnings of a normal schedule, and then it seems all too soon that I am back to packing, moving and planning for the next location.
I have had to find a way to fit healthy eating and working out into my travel nurse lifestyle because I make them a priority. It requires a few extra steps, but I have found that by using my food and workout goals as a basis for my routine, it creates a sense of peace and home if I implement these habits as soon as I can in each new location.
First, I start looking for my new gym long before I get to each location.
Since CrossFit is my preferred style of workout, I start by using their online locator to find gyms near my new home. If I can’t find anything promising I use Google Maps to scan the area near my apartment and near work. Typically I will look for something no further than 15 minutes from my house because I don’t want distance to be a deterrent on days I am feeling less than motivated.
Another tool I recommend to people is the service ClassPass. This program runs around $100 a month and allows you to visit a variety of gyms in your area. You do have to get a subscription based on metro area, so this would add an extra step in each time you move.
I also make it a goal to give myself no more than one week off from working out if I am in “transition mode.”
This is only in scenarios where I have multiple days of driving and have to start work pretty quickly. If I can make the move in 24 hours or less, I try not to take more than 4 days off. The longer you take off at the gym, the more you will dread that initial phase where you will be sore, slow or just tired when you get back at it.
One major thing to keep in mind is each road trip between assignments does not need to be treated like the only vacation of the year. Just because it is a travel day and good food may be harder—but not impossible—to find doesn’t mean you should go completely off the rails and eat junk the entire time.
Fast food may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t choose a better option like grilled chicken, a deli sandwich, or light condiments. You will feel so much better when you finally get to your destination if you aren’t full of grease and salt.
My other big rule for each new assignment is to go to the grocery store immediately.
Because healthy eating is a big priority for me, I plan my drive times so I get in no later than early evening. This allows me enough time to get the car unloaded and go straight to the store. I usually grab a few convenience items like yogurt cups, oatmeal, frozen breakfast sandwiches, and lunch meat. Oh, and coffee (duh).
Although a lot of these items are processed and higher in sodium, I know they are better options than eating take out or pizza for the first week of my contract.
After I get settled into orientation week I will then make an actual meal plan and make a full grocery store run. On this trip, I focus more on lean meats and veggies. I like to make a big batch of crockpot shredded chicken to have on hand, and grab lots of steamer bags of frozen veggies so getting greens in is easy.
Staying healthy on the road definitely provides adds an extra challenge to an already stressful lifestyle. You have to want to make yourself better, and shift your mindset around which priorities are most important. Don’t forget that small changes add up, and focus on how you will feel knowing you made decisions that your body will be thankful for later.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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