Monday, March 19, 2012
As one Minnesota's most popular fitness competitors,Sarah Engstrom maintains a very busy competitive schedule. In fact, this spring she will appear at Fitness Great North, New England and Universe shows - all in 3 months! But, the schedule probably won't trump the challenge Sarah faced last season before Fitness America Weekend. "It was just two weeks out from my third and final fitness competition of the year – Fitness America in Las Vegas. The timing was not ideal, but I needed to travel to India for a week to work with my offshore team (I work at Target Corp HQ). When I told people I was traveling to India during my final weeks of training, they looked at me with a combination of pity and concern, but I looked at the situation as yet another exciting challenge along the journey I’ve been on since April! Spending a full week away from home, half way around the world in the final weeks before a big show can certainly present some challenges. But with the right planning and attitude, all the critical elements will fall into place. I want to share some of the critical components that made this trip a success. Prep Smart Foods This may seem obvious to seasoned fitness competitors, but the same applies to anyone dedicated to a clean and healthy lifestyle. I packed my carry-on with Isagenix meal replacements, whey protein, greens, a shaker, apples, almonds and protein pancakes. The flights were probably the toughest part, but I was able to scavenge veggies from the salad and sides they served on the international flight, eat the protein source and skip the carbs. Sticking to a clean starch only diet was the key here. Every meal comes with rice or pasta, and as much bread as you would like, but if you are serious about meeting your goals, the decision to forgo these is a simple one. I packed more meal replacements, whey protein, Ionix Supreme, dried oats, baby-food sweet potato and flax-seed oil in my checked luggage to supplement my meals for the week. I over packed, mainly as a result of the success I had with the next tip… Make Friends with the Hotel Chef. Chef Paul at the hotel where I was staying had exchanged emails with me before I even landed. I contacted the hotel in advance of my trip to let them know I was training and had specific nutrition requirements. I was checking to see what lean protein and clean starch options were available. When I arrived to order my first meal, the private dining service recognized me from my email requests and had the chef meet with me personally to talk about menu options. He ordered in brown rice and quinoa specifically for me (wow, did I feel special!). Every morning, I was able to order an egg white omelet with veggies, cooked in olive oil, and a serving of fruit and oatmeal. That was perfect, and it gets even better. Not knowing where I would be eating off-site for lunch, I was able to get “brown bag” lunches from Chef Paul. I even brought along flax-seed oil to make my own dressing for salads. For dinner, we mainly ate at the hotel restaurant (lucky for me) where I was able to have chicken or fish as my lean protein on top of salads with oil and vinegar. For my remaining meals, I was able to have an Isagenix meal replacement/protein shake, and always had my Ionix Supreme before my workouts. Contacting the hotel and making special modifications for your meals may seem like a lot of effort or high-maintenance, but most establishments will go out of their way to meet your needs. Locate a Gym and Bring Backup. Luckily, my hotel gym had free weights, machines and cardio equipment, and I made sure of that in advance. But just in case, and for variety, I brought a jump rope and exercise bands with me. Also, I made certain I flexed my schedule to accommodate AM workouts to stay consistent with what I now do at home. Consistency is key, and I believe that helped me get back to my “normal” state upon my return to the States – even with the 12 ½ hour time difference! Keep Drinking Water on the Flights. This may seem obvious to my fellow competitors as well, but I found that asking for the full 1.5L water bottle the flight attendants were serving from made it easiest. I got a lot of sideways glances at first, but after I downed my first bottle, they would know to just keep them coming, LOL. Another option is to bring along your own water bottle that the flight attendants can refill for you. Two legs of the flights were 9-10 hours, so I just kept flushing as much as I could (on the way there and back). And, Did I Mention SLEEP? Our bodies need rest to perform, so no matter how crazy the schedule, or how much needs to “get done”, we must remember to allocate the appropriate amount of time for recovery. For me, keeping up with my workout routine and meal plans helped my body adjust to the time zone changes pretty quickly and made it easier for me to get the sleep I needed. A little relaxation can go a long way! All of our bodies are different, but none of us can perform at optimum levels without the rest we need. These components were keys to my success for an extended trip, but we all have things that come up last minute, so I believe these tips can be utilized for any type of travel, before a fitness competition, or just a family vacation. I hope this helps!"