It starts with the best of ambitions: a determination to keep to a rigorous workout routine and a sensible diet. It ends as we collapse into bed having had a double helping of dessert and having failed to do any exercise at all.
It is a sad fact that a life of travel is usually inextricably linked with an unhealthy way of living it. This is especially frustrating for me, because I would best be described as a gymaholic at home. So why is it so hard to keep fit on the road?
Let's start with the idea that you get up early and go to the gym. Fine, except you probably got to bed way too late after a long meeting. If I do make it to the hotel gym, the chances are it's just a converted meeting room laughingly called “the fitness centre” and the “equipment” is some multi-purpose contraption with levers, pulleys and cables that promises to work every part of the body. Except that it has been poorly maintained, squeals like a train, and is probably wickedly dangerous.
So, I choose to run on a treadmill instead. I rapidly discover the room isn't properly ventilated for several people engaged in this sort of behaviour. And, before long, I decide to abandon the whole thing.
Then comes the diet. My trainer tells me to eat every three hours or so with a balanced meal of protein, carbs and fats. In theory this is perfectly possible: there are lots of healthy options with most breakfast buffets; they just rarely find their way on to my plate. As for lunch: don't make me laugh. It's grab a snack here or there.
Dinner is the most difficult. Remember the old rule? “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” Tell that to the Italian Chamber of Commerce, which insists on treating you to a repast worthy of a state banquet.
But enough pessimism. In fact, the biggest obstacle to keeping fit on the road is not the practicalities, but our own mentality. Visit a hotel gym early and I will bet you that it's mainly Americans huffing and puffing on the machines, because they still strive for what is possible. The Europeans are probably still recovering from the night before, because they believe the damage is already done. I go for the American approach - and make the best effort I can. Here are my top five tips on how to keep fit on the road.
1. Learn about what you can do with body-weight exercise. A few push ups in your hotel room require nothing but determination.
2. Don't skip breakfast, but do get all the food at once. You'll be shocked at how much you are intending to eat when you see all the plates laid out in a row.
3. Travel with protein bars and keep them in your hand luggage.
4. Never go to a business dinner feeling hungry.
5. Enjoy dessert if you have it. Just don't whine to everyone else about how you really shouldn't.
It has taken me 20 years of travelling to realise that I can travel and be healthy, just not all the time. The excuses pour out faster than béarnaise sauce on steak: I don't have time, I am too tired, I had to have that 10-course dégustation menu just to be polite. Rubbish. With 90,000 miles so far travelled this year I can tell you it's perfectly possible. Keeping fit on the road is a state of mind. Get that in good shape and the body will follow. - The Independent on Sunday