One of my cycling buddies loves to say “green, green, green!” whenever we’re about to push off at a stoplight.  He says it with such enthusiasm that, no matter how long or hard our ride is, you can’t help but want to keep pedaling with gusto.

I happily think “green, green, green!” to myself every time I complete a workout and log it on TrainingPeaks.  Few things make me happier than seeing a full week of green-colored boxes on my workout calendar.  I can’t post good grades on my parents’ fridge anymore (maybe that’s what Facebook is for?), so when “Planned” and “Completed” workout hours synch up perfectly by Sunday night, it’s bliss. I can practically feel the fitness gains coursing through my veins.

Similarly, seeing yellow and red-shaded calendar entries – symbolizing either I didn’t quite train enough or completely blew off a session– annoy and disappoint me.  Thankfully, I’m the master of my training domain — blessed with a very supportive (and patient) wife and flexible work hours.  Kids are not in the equation…yet.

Recently though, work and a wedding required me to take eight flights in 11 days spanning multiple time zones. Not the regimen I wanted with a month left before Ironman Arizona. I managed to complete many of my workouts though while traveling during the most important build phase of Ironman training.  My road trip reinforced some valuable lessons worth sharing, as some of you may be cramming in late-season races while the holiday season approaches.

Plan in Advance

Two last-minute business trips sandwiched a longstanding wedding.  I had enough time to research hotels with pools (highly recommend the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago), local bike shops that rent road or triathlon bikes (Bike Works in Kona was an easy, reliable choice for a loaded Cervelo P3), and even local triathlon clubs to train with. In short, where there’s a will to train while traveling, there’s a way to train while traveling. I even turned one of my hotel rooms into a mini gym by using chairs, the bed and even a nightstand table as workout props. Nothing broke.

Listen to Your Body

My travel itinerary took me from Pacific Standard Time to Central Time, back to Pacific, way back to Hawaii-Aleutian time, returning east to Pacific, heading further across the country into Eastern Time, and finally back home to California. To say I didn’t know if I was coming or going would be accurate. As such, every workout became a daily judgment call. I had to choose between added rest and the satisfaction of a green-shaded workout entry. Had this been my first Ironman, I probably would have suffered through every single workout, not knowing it was OK to skip a session or three if necessary.  I’m glad I had the experience to know when to push through and when to hold back.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Maintaining a healthy diet while traveling may be even more difficult than finding the time to train.  I happened to visit the veritable food capitals of deep-dish pizza, barbecue pulled pork, craft beer and banana pudding.  Not exactly the meals my registered dietician had in mind earlier this summer as she prepared me for Ironman Lake Tahoe.  Rather than abstain from these culinary pleasures, I made a deal with myself. When a “cheat” meal occurred, I would simply not skip a workout the following day.  This adds a wrinkle to the “listen to your body” caveat.  Basically, I created a decision tree in my head. If I can’t work out the next day, I must eat well the day prior. If I’m too tired and eat reasonably well, I can skip a scheduled workout. If I’m tired and eat poorly, I won’t.  If I’m not tired and eat poorly, I definitely will not skip that next workout.

Traveling alone is tough on the body.  Traveling while juggling a job, family obligations and a pending triathlon is practically impossible.  However, with proper planning and some resolve, I kept my Ironman Arizona training on track. The colors in my training calendar more closely resembled a Rasta flag the last two weeks, but given the obstacles, it might as well have all looked “green, green, green!”