7 Tips to Staying Fit as a Travel Nurse

Rick Martinez

They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what I really want to do is just exercise.

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It's easy to forgo exercise when working 12-hours at a time, especially when you're in a new environment. As a travel nurse, it's sometimes difficult enough just to get through the shift, return to your hotel or apartment, collapse in exhaustion, get up and do it all over again. But whether you want to make fitness a priority in your life or see if you can manage to squeeze it in, some things may make it easier.

As a healthcare pro, you already grasp the importance of keeping your body on point.

But as a travel nurse, it's a challenge. Incorporating activity into your routine daily can assist you in staying energetic, keeping your sleep schedule consistent, and reducing stress.

Bottom line?

Exercise is necessary for everyone; therefore, here are some suggestions for traveling nurses that want to stay fit while experiencing the sights and wonders of a new city. Take it from me, currently on the road working night shifts.

Does the hospital have a gym?

Just because you aren't an employee of the facility doesn't mean you'd be excluded.

Lots of facilities and hospitals have onsite fitness centers. This can be huge because you may be able to grab a quick session on the treadmill or twenty minutes of light weights on your lunch break. It can be a game-changer for you, and all you need to do is one thing.

Simply ask if one is available.

Find inspiration in your tribe

All I mean by this is to find some fellow nurses to buddy up with.

I'll bet you aren't the only nurse on shift or even on assignment. And I'll also wager that your fellow compadres are going through the same things you are. Right?

So buddy up and keep one another motivated.

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Even better is when you do it while on shift and maybe walk the stairs together or keep each other accountable during lunchtime. The moral of this story is to not do it alone.

Find ONE thing and stick to it

Years ago, I was doing the night shift in Washington, DC. Like many 12-hour assignments, it was a grind. After work, the last thing I wanted to do was hit the gym.

Realizing I wasn't alone (found my tribe), we night nurses agreed to bring in ONE kettlebell and store it in the breakroom.

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I know it sounds crazy, but that one kettlebell became our equipment for lunchtime exercise routines. Nothing fancy and nothing grueling. Simply a way for us to get some blood flowing, burn a few calories, and on occasion, some fun little competitions.

In a pinch, and when you just want to stay active and fit with no equipment, grab a couple of exercise bands from Walmart and toss them in your locker.

They'll work wonders for your body and mind!

Plan your chow ahead of time

Also known as "meal prep."

While exercise is hugely important, we all know that diet is about 90% of staying healthy and fit. What we put in our pie-hole is so critical to how we feel throughout the shift. Put bad food in, and you're likely to feel lousy later on.

As a travel nurse, I know this may be a challenge, so here's what I suggest.

We live in a fast-paced, "NOW" society. And as a result, nearly every grocery store has pre-packed food. It's usually called grab-n-go, and in my experience, there are lots of healthy options.

Grab a few.

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I totally mean it. Go to the store and grab a few, maybe one for each shift, and have it ready to go. The time you save on prepping, packing, and all the details that go into it are well worth the extra dollar or two.

My suggestion is to just try it for 2-3 weeks. I bet you'll never go back to chopping veggies and baking chicken ever again.

The KISS method

No, not the rock band and not a wet one on the lips.

What I mean is to not overcomplicate stuff. Any of this stuff.

Need to exercise? Go for a walk.

On-shift? Walk the stairs.

Off shift? Park far away (and be safe) to get extra steps in.

For Pete's sake, do something and just Keep It Simple Silly!

Break a sweat before work

As I type this, I'm on a night shift assignment. It's late afternoon, and I go to work in about three hours. Before I sat down to type, I first hit the gym here in my hotel.

Break a sweat before you go into work is the message.

I know, I know. "But Rick, it so hard to get up a little early to do it." I get it.

So try this. You likely are not working 7-days straight...right? So exercise before shift one. Work your 3-4 day stretch. Then bang out two more on your next off days. It's ok to be consistently inconsistent; the point is to get in at least three workouts each week.

Get it? Got it? Good!

Pat yourself on the back

Look, I bet you're already on your feet for the majority of the shift.

So cut yourself a little slack. Your job is already challenging, fast-paced, and demanding. If we're honest, you probably burn more calories per shift than the DON sitting pretty on the 8th floor.

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Do you know what I do?

I track my steps on my Apple watch. It tells me every shift how many steps I took. And, more importantly, how many calories I burned.

All the better to not feel guilty for that after shift, margarita!

The final word

You work hard, I work hard, WE nurses work hard.

Nurses are often on their feet for the majority of a shift, and, as such, they burn more calories per shift than most other office workers. That being said, it can often be a challenge to find time, or energy, to exercise.

This is why nurses must be mindful of what they eat so that temptation doesn't win out.

The KISS method (Keep It Simple Silly) can help people stay active when it's challenging with little time or access to equipment like exercise bands from Walmart. A few simple changes in diet will go a long way towards maintaining health while traveling as a nurse!

Whatever you decide, just remember that you're not alone!

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I'm a freelance writer and a nurse, exploring the world one beer, donut, and experience at a time. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare, with the occasional emphasis on donuts. #NomNom

San Antonio, TX
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