Tips for frequent flyers: Staying fit on the road

For Michael Sena, it started with a Hollywood sex scene.

In 1995, actor Chazz Palminteri asked the personal trainer, now also United Airlines' in-flight fitness expert, to help him get buff for a steamy shot with Linda Fiorentino in the movie Jade.

The difficulty: Palminteri was in another city. So Sena sent Palminteri a set of workout cards, a simple set of elastic cords and a video of exercises created just for him.

Business travelers don't usually have the luxury of calling their personal trainers for made-to-order hotel room fitness tricks, but health is often a neglected necessity for the road warriors who fill America's airlines.

''Average people aren't making movies. But they're traveling several thousand miles a week, hustling through airports. They get to the hotel room, close the door and forget about exercising,'' says Sena, also a Chicago TV fitness personality and the director of corporate wellness for Sara Lee.

Topping the list of mistakes made on the road: plopping down on the plane with poor posture, lugging overloaded luggage, not drinking enough water, unrelenting sitting on long flights and forgetting fitness when you land.

All that can cause soreness, fatigue, dehydration and even deep vein thrombosis potentially lethal blood clots in the legs caused by poor circulation.

They have been dubbed ''economy class syndrome'' because the cheaper seats in a plane have less leg room, encouraging minimal movement.

Sena has frequent-flier tips:

  • Do the advance legwork to find a hotel that provides a good health club or in-room fitness program.

  • Ask your hotel about a heart-healthy menu. ''Making the wrong food choices on the road is what sabotages all of us,'' Sena says.

  • Travel with your own water, and drink plenty of it. ''I bring my own because they can never bring enough water to you,'' Sena says.

  • While flying, pay attention to staying flexible and maintaining good circulation. Do periodic stretches and in-seat exercises.

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake in the air and on the ground.

    Suzanne Schlosberg, another on-the-road fitness expert and author of a recent book on the topic, speaks often about how difficult it can be to maintain an exercise routine while traveling. She specializes in finding workout spots on the road, from airport gyms to spots in exotic locales.

    Among her recommended exercise spots in an airport is the 24 Hour Fitness center at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. A visit costs $15 and workout gear can be rented for $15.

    Jo Lichten, author of several books on the subject of staying healthy on the road, suggests travelers with long layovers get their hands on a phone book and find a nearby gym where they can blow off steam and work out at the same time.

    She also recommends that travelers never skip breakfast and include protein in that first meal of the day.

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