Personal improvement is a passion of ours here at CBD and we’ve done a lot of conventions, so I thought I’d pass on some helpful hints now that con season is in full swing. I would also like it make it perfectly clear: I am not some sort of fitness nut. I don’t like to exercise. I like to eat copious amounts of junk food while binge-watching television shows on the comfort of my couch. Alas, unless I want to increase my chances of heart disease I am forced to succumb to the general notion that nachos are not a food group.
It is tricky to eat healthy and exercise at a convention for a number of reasons but over the years I’ve been to many conventions (as a dealer, customer, journalist, and promoter) and now have a pretty good grove when it comes to maintaining some semblance of normalcy. I find it is more important to eat healthy than exercise so if you are totally opposed to the latter you can still have a great convention that won’t send you to the ER with poutine soaked arteries.
Convention centres don’t give you a lot of options for eating healthy. On top of that the food is expensive, and wouldn’t you rather spend your money on a Deadpool mini-bust or My Little Pony key chains?
- Eat breakfast. Man, how many times do we all need to be told that this is the most important meal of the day? Eat a sensible breakfast that will give you a good base of nutrition for the day. Oatmeal, eggs, fruit, anything that gives you lean protein and fibre early in the morning. Try to skip the orange juice and go for a black coffee or tea instead.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day at the convention. I would like you to have 3-4 smaller meals during the day at the con. You should be eating something every 2-3 hours. And by a meal I mean a handful of almonds and an apple. Or some celery and peanut butter. Or 4 slices of turkey breast and cheese rolled up. Those are your meals. However, this takes preparation. If the convention is in your home town you are well ahead of the game. Do your grocery shop and bring your snacks in Tupperware. If you are on vacation for a convention it can get trickier. I try to scope out the grocery store closest to my hotel and do a run the night before the convention. Almonds, apples, celery, baby carrots, peanut butter, and granola or protein bars (watch the sugar though) all can be kept in your hotel room without a lot of refrigeration (and the last 2 can be packed in a suitcase).
- Drink lots of water. You should take a refillable bottle with you or have 2 bottles of water each day you’re at the convention.
- Eat whatever you want at dinner. You are at a convention and/or on vacation so you don’t need to eat clean all the time. But you are snacking on rabbit food throughout the day so you can eat whatever you want at night.
- Watch the booze. If you are of legal drinking age in whatever state or province the convention is held you may wish to partake in an alcoholic beverage of some sort. That is fine but you really can’t afford the calories that come with drinking 10 beers each night of partying. At dinner get 1 or 2 drinks of whatever you want, but if you are going out to a bar or club you need a different plan. Stay away from mixes with a lot of sugar, so no cola, red bull, daiquiris, or margaritas. Stick with vodka soda or whiskey soda. There is only about 70 calories in each where beer and wine have about twice as many. And a rum and coke has about 300 calories. So if you are swinging for the fences try to keep it light.
You need to do some exercise while away at a convention for a number of reasons. You are partying, or eating your body weight in Chicago deep dish pizza (as I will be at C2E2), or you are trying to stave off the various forms of contagion that a convention brings. You don’t need to do any exercise you don’t like, but try to find something below that you hate least. And then do that one exercise.
- Hit the gym. Try to pick a hotel that has a gym in it if you want to do some weight training or cardio. Fit it into the day whenever works for you. I have had some success getting up early and the morning and sneaking in a workout before breakfast but if you would rather do it after the con but before dinner that is fine. Try to hit as many muscle groups as possible. I won’t bother list set lists and such here but aim for a 30-45 routine.
- No gym? Work out in your room. When the hotel I stay at has no gym I tend to use an interval timer and do sets of body weight exercises. So you might do an exercise for 20 seconds and then rest for 10. You do this with 4 different exercises and you do it for 15 or 20 minutes. You are just trying to do as many repetitions as you can for 20 seconds so fatigue will start to impair performance, but the goal is do the whole 15 minute routine. I like to use air squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and the dreaded burpee but you can do whatever you like.
In addition, there are a wide range of exercises if you have mobility issues or require a wheelchair. An old colleague of mine swore by a set of resistance bands that he would pack in his suitcase. His routine included 3 sets of 10 repetitions each of seated punches, shoulder retractions, chest press, and lat pulls. He also fitted his wheelchair with a bicycle odometer and tracked metres travelled each day.
- Swim. Does your hotel have a pool? Then swim. I tend to tread water for 5 minutes as a warm up and then 10 laps each of front crawl, butterfly, breaststroke, and backstroke. If the pool is crowded I just do 20 laps each of front crawl and breaststroke.
- Look for a class. Do you already do yoga, Pilates, salsa dancing, boxing, or the like? See if there are any walk-in classes around you hotel.
- Get a pedometer. You might be walking around quite a bit at a convention. See how many steps you take on day one and try to beat it on day 2. Then try to beat that on day 3.
- Give’r on the dance floor. Dancing like crazy burns a lot of calories. Also you look awesome.
Remember you are doing any or all of the above so you can enjoy your time at the convention. You should eat that deep-dish pizza, or giant pile of wings, or bacon pancakes or whatever you want, but just do it once per day. As the warrior poet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson says “don’t cheat yourself, treat yourself”. Healthy eating during the day combined with some form of exercise will balance out your cheat meals and save you some cash to spend on autographs and silver-age 9.8 masterpieces.