A flight attendant's 5-step guide to staying fit while travelling Advertisement

A flight attendant’s 5-step guide to staying fit while travelling

Sophie Jones (aka The Flying Fit Foodie) is living our travel and fitness dreams

By Katie O’Malley  August 2nd, 2017

Keeping up a fitness routine and eating well can be hard at the best of times, but if you’re constantly travelling, it can feel impossible. Lack of suitcase space, frequent in-flight meals, and all of the sugary, fizzy and alcoholic treats in Duty Free are more than enough reason to throw diet and exercise out the window.

To be fair, who really wants to eat a salad when lounging on an inflatable pizza slice in a turquoise infinity pool?

However, Sophie Jones, a flight attendant for a big international airline, might just have the answer for staying fit while travelling. 

Good morning from Chicago! It was such a beautiful day here today so took my training outside, taking the scenic route alongside Lake Michigan. I’m not really a runner so I broke my run up to mix things up and to incorporate some HIIT too I split my run into two parts. My first half was a warm up for 2km, just running at my own comfortable pace. The second half I mixed things up with some intervals. First was 8 x 30 seconds running with 30 seconds jogging Next was 8 x 30 seconds of sprints with 30 seconds walking I find this helps me cover more distance as I tend to get bored running! It also increases my heart rate, and turns running into more of a challenging fat burning exercise! It was also made much harder by having a crazy strong head wind! #thewindycity #chicago #lakemichigan #runchicago #hiit #chicagofitness #intervaltraining #fitcabincrew #fitflightattendant

A post shared by @theflyingfitfoodie on May 18, 2017 at 7:37am PDT

Last January, the 26-year-old launched her Instagram account @theflyingfitfoodie as a way of documenting her travels as a long-haul flight attendant, jetting between the likes of the US and South Africa each week, and keeping her friends and family up-to-date with her favourite restaurants, cafes, and workout destinations around the world.

‘I started the account as a way of keeping myself motivated to workout and eat well while traveling. I never expected it to be popular,’ Jones says, having since amassed over 10,000 followers.

Having completed a year of shorter-haul trips and with a career of long-haul looming, Jones soon realised that maintaining a healthy fitness regime across so many different time zones was going to be a complicated affair.   

‘When you start flying, it’s quite common to gain weight due to sheer exhaustion. A lot of cabin crew go out drinking, eat plane food, order room service and stay in their rooms watching Netflix because the easy options are so tempting when you’re tired and can’t be bothered researching new restaurant when you land.

‘Quite early on in my job, I got the idea in my head that I didn’t want it having a negative impact on my life and health,’ she admits.

As a result, Sophie fits in between four to five workouts a week, with a range of HIIT training, weights and yoga, into her busy schedule to maintain her fitness.

Here, we find out Sophie’s top tips to staying fit and healthy while traveling: 

1. Don’t workout straight after a flight

After doing a long-haul flight, you definitely have a mental battle with yourself about whether you should or shouldn’t workout. I never go to the gym straight after a long flight.

Instead, I’ll go home, get a maximum of three hours sleep, drink fluids to rehydrate and then head to the gym. Rather than doing strenuous training that day, I might do some light weights or gentle cardio to reset my body before trying to have a good night’s rest. There’s no point pushing your body to workout when it hasn’t had enough rest, rehydration and time to acclimatise itself to a new time zone.  

Today whilst in Nairobi, Kenya, I visited @dswt an Elephant Orphanage! Baby ellies are brought here when they fall into wells and are left to die, they become sick, injured or if their mothers die from natural causes, or more commonly; poaching. Elephant poaching is still a huge problem, and isn’t going to end until the demand stops and it is no longer valued or seen as a status symbol. You can help stop this by not supporting the ivory trade, signing government petitions and donating to conservation programs like this one. Once these babies have matured they are realised into the wild to live out a normal life. Here you can adopt your own Ellie to show your support and keep these amazing animals on our planet #dswt #davidsheldrickwildlifetrust #babyelephant #saynotoivory #stopivorytrade #elephantsanctuary #elephantorphanage

A post shared by @theflyingfitfoodie on Jul 30, 2017 at 9:39am PDT

2. Always pack your gym gear

With nine days off a month and rarely having weekends guaranteed free, I certainly don’t have a set routine so I make sure I’m always prepared to workout whenever I get some free time.

As a result, I always pack my gym kit for a flight, even if I’m not planning on staying somewhere or I’m working on a short-haul flight to Aberdeen – you never know when you’re going to get stuck somewhere.

I also pack a skipping rope and a resistance band – two crucial items for a traveller who might not want to hit the gym, isn’t feeling confident to be around other gym-goers, or can’t be bothered to leave the hotel room. It’s always possible to squeeze a bit of activity into the day. 

Fortunately, HIIT workouts don’t require a lot of equipment or time (I do a maximum of 30 mins per session) so they can be done in a gym, a hotel room, on the beach or in a park. You don’t need a gym membership to get fit, trust me.


3. Research classes in different cities

I always try to see if there’s a yoga or HIIT class in the city I’m landing in, as a way of winding down after a flight.

I recently went to a class called Sweat 1000 in Cape Town, South Africa, which is a 60-minute class cardio and strength training. You have to be pretty fit to do the class but I’ve found by trying different workouts across the world, I’ve been able to pick up certain tips, exercises and techniques, and incorporate them into my own workouts. 

“Every day is a challenge” I felt exactly like this for the last few days, with very little sleep I have been feeling pretty drained. Flying can really take it out of you, yesterday before my flight here to Austin I felt so fatigued that I basically cried because the person in front of me took my coffee. At this point I realised I needed to take some time for myself on this trip; I hadn’t been able to get to the gym or do any exercise for nearly a week. So I kicked off today with an early morning workout, making the most of of my let lag and a 24 hour gym. Today was legs and Tabata. Starting off with a 5 minute warm up followed by: X10 plank leg raises using a Swiss Ball – I use these to help activate the glutes X16 Walking lunges X12 Goblet Squats X20 Curtsy Lunges X4 rounds and a minute rest between each round. * I finished off with 20 mins of Tabata (20secs of high intensity followed by 10 secs rest) X4 exercises repeated twice in one round. With 1 minute rest between rounds. #tabata #legday #hiit #austin #texas

A post shared by @theflyingfitfoodie on Jun 19, 2016 at 12:50pm PDT

As I don’t have a permanent gym membership or workout space, I create my own workouts that can be done anywhere and at anytime, but I’ve found some incredible places around the world to try out new classes.

I’d recommend anyone visiting Cape Town to do a hike up Lion’s Head Mountain. The top bit is a bit of a climb so whether you want to run or walk to the top is up to you, but it’s worth the view and won’t cost you a penny.

Elsewhere, in Bali there’s a yoga site in Canggu called The Practice, where the walls of the studio are completely open. The classes are held in huge straw roof huts and you can be practicing while the rain crashes down outside right in front of you. I’ve done a sunrise class which starts in the dark and ends in the light and it’s truly amazing. 

Whether it’s a short break or a holiday, use traveling as an opportunity to find some of the world’s most challenging, new and exciting workouts. 

4. Plan your snacks

Bloating is one of the biggest downfalls when you’re a regular flyer – it’s the worst feeling when you get off a flight.

Over the years, I’ve trialled eating whatever I want, only drinking water, and not eating in order to avoid that post-flight bloat. If I’m honest, you’ll leave a flight feeling bloated no matter what you eat but it’s the 24 hours after the flight when you’ll notice a difference in your digestive system, depending on what you consumed. 

I recommend travellers take their own snacks on board a flight because you never really know what you’re going to be served. For example, I always take my own nuts, salads, protein bars, fruits, vegetables and rarely eat big meals during the flight. As a result, I often notice my stomach is back to normal the next day.

If you consume fizzy drinks or eat the hot, overly-processed foods on board, which are known to be high in calories, salt and sodium, you’ll stay bloated for longer. 

If you’re concerned about taking snacks through customs, I’d advise declaring them before touching down so you won’t get fined. Alternatively, the authorities will simply take whatever you’re not allowed to bring into the country off you. The US are quite funny about you taking in snacks . I’ve had bananas and avocados taken off me on some occasions, whereas others times I’ve been allowed to take them through, so it depends on who you get on the day.

5. Find the motivation and plan ahead

People on the road often use excuses of bad weather, a lack of energy, or the fact they can’t attend a gym as reasons not to workout while traveling, but there’s always a way to get moving. Sometimes when you’re really tired and you’ve got a 10-hour flight ahead of you, the best thing to do is to workout and re-energise yourself. 

Rest day at Camps Bay Beach #yogaeverydamnday #campsbay #capetown #dancerspose #restday

A post shared by @theflyingfitfoodie on May 21, 2016 at 5:43am PDT

If I want to achieve something in terms of fitness, such as improving my yoga or strength training, I try to research good gyms ahead of time wherever I know I’m staying for a few days. When I land in a new city, I often devise an exercise plan in my head – whether that be challenging myself to run a certain distance or try out a new workout – and use it as an opportunity to explore a new place.

For example, I became a vegetarian seven months ago and mostly eat vegan dishes when I’m at home. However, as I can’t cook for myself while traveling, I use time abroad as a way of going out of my way to find small local businesses that made raw or vegan food. Of course, if I’m in Chicago and someone recommends a new pizza joint to me, I wouldn’t say no.

It’s all about balance and moderation.

Sophie’s top 10 healthy restaurants around the world

Afterglow, Singapore: Tucked away on the outskirts of China Town, this is an all raw and plant-based restaurant with a cosy, romantic ambience and open kitchen.

Café Grattitude, San Diego: This has the most innovative and thoughtful plant-based menu I have ever come across, from Indian curry to Mexican inspired dishes – you won’t believe it’s all just plants. It’s my favourite place for breakfast.

Shekter’s Raw, Cape Town: Without a doubt, this is the coolest place to get your breakfast in Cape Town right now. They have the best selection of raw vegan food, from matcha pancakes to the most unbelievable meat like ‘chicken’ burgers. Warning: you’ll probably have to share a table with one of the locals because it’s always packed. 

Snap Kitchen, Chicago: This is a fast-food concept for the health conscious. Here, you can pick up your breakfast, lunch and dinner, which has already had all your macros counted for you, as well as colour-coded dietary requirements. It takes the stress and time out of your meal prep.

The Acai Spot, Dubai: I love to escape the heat of the city with a cold bowl of blended acai from this Brazilian themed café. They also do deliveries so you don’t even need to leave your hotel poolside.

The Rusty Rabbit, Sydney: This place serves all-day breakfast with the best coffee in Sydney. Besides your vegan and gluten-free options, it has loads of delicious classics so there’s something for all of your friends. Every dish is a visual treat too which makes it pretty impossible not to Instagram. 

True Food Kitchen, Austin: With locations all over the state, when stuck for places to go I know I can rely on TFK to produce fresh and satisfying food on a menu that changes seasonally. I love the Austin branch in particular because it’s right next to a Trader Joe’s, so I can grab supplies on my way home.

Zurück Zum Glück, Hannover: Translated to ‘return to happiness’ in English, this is an independent organic restaurant offering fresh food with loads veggie and vegan dishes in a beautiful location. Fortunately, all of the waiters speak perfect English which makes deciphering the German menu much easier.

Pura Vida, Miami: Located a short stroll from South Beach, this is the perfect spot to escape the sun with a cold juice, smoothie bowl, protein shake or giant American sized salad. 

The Shady Shack, Canggu, Bali: Plant based food has never been so indulgent than at The Shady Shack. When you’ve had a week of smoothie bowls and want something a little more substantial, drop in here for a mac’n’cheese that actually tastes like the real thing. They have a huge menu of healthy treats, including handmade raw vegan desserts. 

Sophie’s 5 favourite workout spots around the world

Atmasphere, Atlanta, US: Atmasphere has a handful of individual classes on offer, from Yin yoga with noise cancelling headphones to pure meditation. My favourite class here is their mega intense transform (HIIT) class, which sees you through an hour of vinyassa combined with interval training in a heated room, complete with an awesome soundtrack to get you pumped, and a super inspiring instructor called Kymmi.

YogaMovement, Singapore: With several locations around the city, you’re sure to find the class for you at YogaMovement. If you’re looking to build your strength and stamina I would recommend you try their Power Class which is one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken to help clients work on shoulder and arm strength. It’s also a great session for practicing your various inversions. Heated yoga classes are also on offer – they just leave the windows opening and let the natural outside heat in. 

Conference Centre Staircase, San Diego: No need to go to the gym when you have this spot’s 100 steps to play with. I like to do free-style workouts here, incorporating lunges, squat jumps and push-ups. You could even use them as a finisher to your run along the Marina.

Orange Theory, US: I first found Orange Theory in Seattle and loved it. Similar to a Sweat1000 class, it’s a combo of strength training and cardio, using free weights, the TRX, rowing machines and treadmills. You wear a heart monitor so you can track your BPM, ideally aiming to be in the ‘orange’ where you’re working your hardest – it’s all on screen so there’s no hiding either.

Outdoor Gym, Cape Town: Turn your run along Cape Town’s Seapoint into a gym workout using the free public outdoor gym. I love working out here because when my legs are tired from running I can play on the monkey bars, giving my legs a rest before running back along the beach. The best thing is you can work on your tan at the same time and dip into the freezing cold ocean when you get too hot.