Category Archives: Travel

NAA is coming!!! Are you ready to put you first?

MY TOP 5 CONFERENCE SURVIVAL TIPS

As a part of my ‘real life’, I participate in the occasional conference.

Actually, I live in conference hotels from mid-June through the end of August.  

Over the course of the next 3 months I will attend, participate on the exhibitor floor, be a part of the host organization and/or speak at at least a half a dozen conferences.  In fact I will be packing this weekend to join 9000 other people from the apartment industry for the annual National Apartment Association Education Conference in San Francisco.  This season is a brutal but very necessary season for my industry and through experience over the last few years, I have developed a strategy to make the most of both the conference material and my health while I am on the conference circuit.  Here are my conference rules to live by:

Tip #1: Plan ahead:

I cannot over emphasize this one enough; Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.  If your plan is showing up at the conference and getting a workout in ‘whenever there is time’……not going to happen.  How would that play out if you planned on getting together with your clients ‘whenever there is time’?  It wouldn’t.

Plan your day and block out your workout time.  How much time do you need?  Where is the gym?  Is the conference so far away from your room that you will be walking 20,000 steps each day anyways?  As I look at my calendar for this upcoming week, I know I have to get my workouts in in the morning or they are simply not going to happen, my afternoons are filled with appointments and evenings with industry events.  For me it means running  early (this year we are running the Golden Gate – so excited) and hitting the weight room in the early evening before dinner to accomplish Tip #3.

Tip #2: Stay hydrated:

You know you should normally be drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  Well if you are going to be in a ginormous conference facility, walking more than you normally do and potentially imbibing on an alcoholic drink or two in the evening, I am going to recommend you up your water intake from the standard 8 glasses.  Trust me, you will thank me when you are waking up on days 2 & 3 of the conference.  Now this is where planning comes in again.  I find that it is a very rare thing to find a conference center that keeps the water pitchers/bottles full throughout the conference.

                SO BRING YOUR OWN!!

You may not always be able to find a nice chilled bottle of FIJI but you can usually find a water fountain to fill up your own bottle.  And if you are anything like me, you find an empty water bottle strangely motivational..

Tip #3: Recharge:

This will look different for each of us but I find I need a point in my day to recharge more than just my phone.  For me, it is time in the gym.   I can get my head on straight and work all the kinks out that I am feeling from standing all day.  For others it is a power nap in the room.  Others it is 15 minutes in the sun out by the pool or on the deck.  Whatever it is that recharges and helps your re-center your mindset, make sure you have time built in each day to accomplish it.

Tip #4: Eat well & Eat often:

Make sure you take the time to eat like you should.  Do not sacrifice the quality of your diet because you need to rush somewhere.  Stop by the store on the way to the hotel and grab some snacks for the room (don’t get me started on the mini-bar options for $10 bucks each).  Put a bar in your purse.  Throw an apple in your bag for later in the day.  Your body needs fuel to thrive vs. survive.  Give it what it needs.

 Bonus Tip:  Most hotels that host conferences have pretty good gyms, gyms where they actual stock fruit for the taking.   

Tip #5: Have fun:

I just added this one to the list this year.  I usually enjoy myself at these conferences but this year I am being intentional about it.

So even if you are already on the ground enjoying the “fruits” of Napa Valley– these are little things you can do to set yourself up for a great time without feeling too much wear and tear.

Time for me to go pack and here is hoping to see you on the road.

Have Gi – Will Travel: Kaizen BJJ in Detroit, MI

I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this review.  When I first decided to start this series, my biggest fear was that the first review was going to be of a program that was sub-par.  Nothing could be further from sub-par than the experience I had while visiting Kaizen BJJ in Plymouth, MI.  I truly could not have asked for a better experience as a visitor.

Let’s start with the Instructor:  

Ali

For me, the vast majority of whether an experience is going to be good or not lies in the hands of the instructor.  When I visited Kaizen, I took a beginner’s Gi class that was led by a Purple Belt, Ali Makhlouf.  He ran a well-organized class that smoothly went from basic drills, to position specific techniques to rolling with specific intent to sparring.  He was sure to move through the class (about 20 students) to give individual attention and instruction to each student.  Great experience.

Ryan

Now the school is owned and run by 4th Degree Black Belt Ryan Fiorenzi, who was at the gym while I was there but not rolling that evening.   He provided me with the experience that impressed me the most while I was at Kaizen.  At one point when we were working butterfly sweeps, he was invested enough in me (an outsider) to call me by name and give me specific feedback that I could apply immediately.  If he shows that much interest in an outsider, who is there for only one class, a class he was not teaching no less….I can only imagine how much he helps his own full time students.

Next – The attitude towards outsiders:

I was not on the mat for more than 2 minutes before I had people coming up and introducing themselves to me.  I have done back to back classes at schools where no one talks to me other than if we are drilling together.  I felt completely welcomed, didn’t sense any animosity at all and really felt like this group was there to get better.  Loved it.

Culture – What am I getting into?

If you look on the www.kaizenbjj.com website, they preach that they train “Leaving your ego at the door”.  I can tell you they practice what they preach.  Remember, I took a white belt class.  During that class I rolled with 2 Blue Belts, a Purple Belt and a Brown Belt.  As the higher belt ranks came in before open mat, they were quick to work with the White Belts.  Not destroy them….work with them.  It was awesome.

Additionally, Kaizen BJJ focuses on real world Jujitsu, not tournament Jujitsu.  Everything they did had a self-defense bent.  Nothing against tournament BJJ but I prefer the more self-defense oriented approach.

Facilities:

The mat was huge, in great shape and clean.  For those interested,  the facility is dual purpose with not only the mat but also a CrossFit gym next door.  The only thing I would improve if they had the opportunity is to have a locker room.  I arrived straight from the airport and changed in the restroom.  Really not a big thing but if I get a magic wand, I am adding a locker room.

Overall Experience:

From my initial contact with the owner Ryan over email, to my arrival, to the training everything was handled with professionalism and efficiency.  I can honestly say that if I was relocated to Detroit, I would make the commute to make this my home gym.

Thanks to Ryan and everyone at Kaizen BJJ for a wonderful experience.  If you are in the Detroit area, I highly recommend you make a trip out there.

Have Gi – Will Travel

Welcome to my new series, Have Gi – Will Travel.   Let me warn you in advance that these posts really are for a very specialized audience.  The traveling martial artist.  More and more as I travel, I am contacting dojos in my destination cities to inquire about training at their facilities.  The good news is you are the beneficiary of my experiences.

This first episode of Have Gi – Will Travel will detail out the rules of the traveling martial artist.

Always disclose your purpose:

Every Martial Arts school that I have ever come in contact with has some type of “Hey – come try us out” special.   My goal is to train every chance I get, not to bilk the system.  If I like a school, you can be sure I will want to come back.  Thus, I will contact all schools in advance and not only ask permission to train but also if there are any appropriate mat fees.

My opinions are always my own:

I am not (currently) sponsored in any way.  I get nothing other than knowledge, comraderie and physical fitness from training with any of these folks.  There is no bias (other than my own) to my reviews.

Every opinion I share here, I also share on social media:

My goal is to promote martial arts and martial artists.  The reality is that reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Trip Adviser, etc. make a real difference in the success of these small businesses.  I am more than happy to share my opinion so they can gain exposure and in the end, more business.

I realize that different schools have different goals:

I lie much more on the martial than the art of martial arts.  With that said, I can learn from both the yin and the yang.  Especially with me, the school should not adjust to the pupil, the pupil should adjust to the master.

I will stay humble and open minded:

It is really easy to fall into the mindset that ‘X’ martial art is the best….or ‘Y’ technique does not work in real life.  While I will certainly focus on the arts that interest me the most (Karate, BJJ and Mui Tai) if I stumble across the occasional Kung Fu or Aikido class, I am not going to shy away.

So come along with me on my journey across the US and the Martial Arts scene.  The first few posts will be of my favorite schools across that country that have been generous enough to let me train with them.  From there, we will experience this journey together.

Do you remember your second step?

Do you ever look back on a journey and ask “what was the second step?”  No.  Most everyone remembers the first step, the proverbial hardest one, but very few remember let alone talk about the second, the third, the fourth, etc.  Well that is what I want to talk about today.

When I first started focusing on my health and fitness level while traveling, I had to start somewhere, right?  Noone just makes a massive change in everything they do, do they?

Certainly not me.

So where does one start on this journey towards a healthier version of yourself?  Here are the 3 changes I made to start.

Change #1:  Nothing Fried

OK people, don’t underestimate how big a change this really was for me.  I would literally eat burgers with fries or fish & chips every day I was on the road.  Literally!!  So this was the first real change I made.  If it came out of a deep fryer, I was not eating it.

The first change here is funny to look back on but I no longer ordered the fish & chips and went with the burger (or chicken sandwich) instead.  I would then substitute a dinner salad for the fries.  I must have had this combination hundreds of times and still do pretty regularly actually.

Change #2:  Do Something – Every Day!!

With how much I love to work out now, it is hard to remember back to a time when I did nothing but that was exactly what I did for years.  Now mind you, I would pack workout clothes every trip but they never saw anything but the inside of a suite case.  In fact, for a while, I was traveling to Houston so often that I literally set up an apartment at one of my communities.  With how much I love to work out now, it is hard to remember back to a time when I did nothing but that was exactly what I did for years.  Now mind you, I would pack workout clothes every trip but they never saw anything but the inside of a suite case.  In fact, for a while, I was traveling to Houston so often that I literally set up an apartment at one of my communities.  They gym there was fantastic.  I think I can count on one hand how many times I actually used it back then.

This change is actually where my guardrail for Workout before Wine came from.  I figured if I wanted to have the extra calories contained in the alcohol, I needed to earn it first….and I really like wine.

Change #3:  Rethink “Free”

Extra (fattening) calories are everywhere for the RoadWarrior!!  The cookie at check-in with the hotel.  The waffle maker and bacon at breakfast.  The evening desert bar in the concierge lounge and THE ALCOHOL EVERYWHERE!!!  Hotel and airlines are very good about making sure their best travelers are well taken care of.

These freebies are anything but free.  It is way too easy to find yourself on glass #3 or desert #2 or having desert every night you travel.  My big change was to eat on the road like I would at home.  I do not have desert every night at home.  I am not having 3 glasses of wine a night at home.

Now notice I did not say I gave all that up.  Nope, I just was conscious in my choices of what I would partake in and what I would not.

So those were my steps two, three and four.  Nothing majorly groundbreaking.  No healthy living overhaul.  Just 3 things I could do every day to get closer to RoadWarriorFit.

So how about you?

What is your next step?

What’s your plan B?

This past week I found myself back in Southern California at one of my favorite hotels, the Courtyard by Marriott Los Angeles Westside.  It is in a great location to several of my clients’ offices, great dining/entertainment options and most importantly, it has a great gym.

So of course, Thursday morning comes along and you can bet you can find me downstairs in the gym getting my workout in.

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So there I am, headphones in, lifting and waking up when I notice it.  The line for the cardio machines.  As you can see in the picture above, there were only 5 pieces of cardio equipment and there was literally a line of 5 people waiting.  Then over the course of the next 15 minute minutes I noticed a trend.  Folks had an average ‘willingness to wait time’ of around 5 minutes.  If a machine opened within 5 minutes of their arrival, they were good.  If not, they were gone.

Now I want you to notice something else about the gym in the picture above……look at how much space there is in this gym!!!  And by the way there is an entire other section to the right past the balance balls!!!  It is probably my favorite part about this gym, the sheer amount of open space.

With all of this space, what are people waiting for a machine?

And why are they leaving when one doesn’t open up?

And I realized, it was because they did not have a plan B. 

Every time I walk into any gym, I have a plan as to what I want to do but based on space, others using equipment, weights available that plan can and often does change on a dime.

So what are my plan Bs?

First and foremost is beachbodyondemand.com   I make it no secret that I am a BeachBody Coach and love helping others find their strong.  What I love about this particular resource is I can stream the program that best fits the resources I have.

Only the weight stack available? – Body Beast

Space in the corner open? – Insanity Max 30

Need to improve flexibility? – Piyo

Sometimes I get there and there are no weights at all but the treadmill is open.  In times like this, I am more than likely going to do a HIIT session of sprints.

Gym full?  I enjoy doing my longer steady state runs outside so time to active MapMyRun and head outside.   Or………every hotel that is more than one story has stairs, you know the original Stairmaster.  And if you are in San Diego, my favorite stair spot is at the Convention Center so head out and hit them!!

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Whatever your plan B is for you, the most important thing you can do is something!!

It killed me to watch people give up and leave the gym that morning.  I hope they came back later and got their workout in but don’t let anything get in the way of your health.  Especially something as simple as the treadmill not being open.

So how about you?  What is your favorite plan B?  And if you need help with your plan B – don’t hesitate to reach out.  I am more than happy to give you a couple dozen ideas that will work for you.

Ch-ch-ch-changes…..

One of the questions I get all of the time from people about to head out on trips is:

How do you deal with the different time changes all of the time?

To be 100% honest, I lost track of the US time zones years ago.  My personal strategy is to walk off the plane, check my phone and say – “Okay, that’s the time.”  But if that was the answer I left all of you with, this would be a really short (and bad) blog post…..but a really good meme.

The constant questioning from others did make me ask why I don’t have to deal with this anymore.  As I reflected, I realized I do have coping mechanisms that have become such a part of my everyday routines that I don’t even think about them anymore.  Mechanisms like…..

Calendar

Schedule to the time zone you are in –

This one is actually the one I have the hardest time with.  I travel the country and work with clients from all over the country.  It is not uncommon to have meeting requests that start at 8:00 EST when you are staying in the PST.  Remember, it may look good on a calendar but avoid this if possible.

alarm clock

Start early –

Especially if you are traveling west to east.  Don’t fall into the temptation of sleeping later because you ‘are on West Coast time’.  Schedule breakfast or a workout with a coworker/client in the morning.  Get your day started off right and make sure breakfast is on the agenda.

Eat and sleep with the locals –

I don’t want to hear “I’m not hungry”, if it is 6:30ish – eat.  If you normally are in bed and asleep by 11:00 and you find yourself in NYC but home is LA – go to bed.

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Make sure you work out –

Bring your workout plan with you and make sure you get it in.  Also, be sure it is at your normal time in the day if you can.  If you typically work out in the morning, get up early.  Evening person?  Make sure to either get it in before dinner or be sure to hit the gym after that client meal.  Your rhythm depends on cues like this so make them strategic.

Magnesium

Magnesium is your friend –

This my secret weapon (especially traveling west to east).  Magnesium has the chemical ability to help you not only fall asleep faster but also to reset your circadian rhythm.  I started taking it daily in the form of ZMA to help with Testosterone levels (jury is out on this one from the scientific community) but I can vouch for its effectiveness as a sleep aid.  My wife on the other hand relies on Melatonin to ease her into dreamworld when traveling.  Just try and avoid the true pharmaceuticals.

So there you have it folks, the five things I do to make travel work and to adjust to time changes quickly.  How about you?  What are your strategies?

So you think you can’t quit Diet Coke? So did I.

This past month I was lucky enough to tag along with my wife on a Caribbean cruise that she earned through her Beachbody Coaching business.  This was our first cruise so everything about the planning process was new to us and if you have sensed anything about my approach to travel from my ramblings, I am all about the planning to ensure success in fitness while on the road.

If you have not been on a cruise before, you plan for shore excursions.  You plan what dining rooms you will be eating at each night, you plan your nightly shows and you plan…..your drink package.  The options available among the drink packages is ridiculous.

  •  Just water bottles, we got that.
  • Everything but alcohol, we got that.
  • Beer, wine and well drinks, we got that.
  • If its on the boat, you can drink it, we got that.

Heading into the cruise, I had two non-negotiables when it came to a drink package:

  1. It had to include bottled water
  2. It had to include sodas

Truth be told, I am mildly addicted to Diet Coke.

OK – more than mildly.

dca ddict

I probably drink close to 6 12-ounce servings a day if I am being completely honest with myself.  So the thought of not having access to my beloved silver can was not something I wanted to deal with.  So I bit the bullet and upgraded the Beer/Wine/Well package to include both bottled water and soda – potential crisis averted.

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When we boarded the ship and entered our stateroom, we were greeted to our specialized Royal Caribbean insulated cups, with a special micro-chip that enables the soda machines to function.  I already felt taken care of, the Diet Cokes could flow already!!

We had a phenomenal time on the cruise.  We dined, we danced, we laid on tropical beaches, we snorkeled.  We had the time of our lives but after 5 days, the wonderful crew of the Oasis of the Seas were pretty adamant that we needed to get off the ship.  So the night before we got back to Florida I packed up all of my things, including my new insulated specially  micro-chipped cup) and that is when it hit me.

I had not filled it with soda even once!!

Now my wife has been on me for years to kick the diet soda habit.  I know it is supremely  bad for me to add all of those chemicals to my body but until this point, I could not tell you the last time I had gone 5 days without a soda, including my stint in the hospital after my black belt test (read that story here).  So I was left wondering, why could I do it without thinking on the ship but struggle for years on land?  Here is what I came up with.

  • Patterns are powerful – I did not have a routine on the ship.  Everything was a new experience that required a new pattern.  I noticed as soon as I got off the ship I was looking to hit the 7-Eleven for that silver label.  I had to evaluate my habits (how I drive to work for example) to see where/when the Diet Coke consumption had become mindless and make it conscious again.
  • I had options – On a cruise, you can get basically whatever you want…and get it everywhere.  I have had to set myself up to succeed the same way.  I drank more water on the cruise than anything else because I could get it easily (easier than the Diet Coke actually).  Set yourself up to have other more healthy options.
  • Make it difficult – I think this is the main reason for my lack of Diet Coke consumption on the cruise actually.  The soda machines were not convenient to where we camped out.  It was easier to grab a water than a Diet Coke.  SO i am going to carry that over and not buy Diet Coke any longer for the house (again, making other more healthy options more convenient)

They say it takes 28 days to make or break a habit.  At this point I am 8 days into this journey and have no intention of turning around.  If I can do this, so can you.  Whose with me?  Whose kicking soda to the curb?