“Mustard In, Mustard Out.”
I recently traveled to Chicago for a two-day business trip. For the average layman (or woman), a two-day trip does not equate to much more preparation than tossing one’s smallest and most necessary toiletries into a quart-sized bag, shoving a change of clothes into a rolling case, and grabbing the trusty laptop bag before jetting off to the airport. Not the case with a bodybuilder who has just started her 12-week contest prep and suffers from a slight case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (and general neurosis).
After liquids and shoes were deemed explosive material–unless they come in three-ounces-or-less containers or are off of your feet, respectively speaking–the bodybuilder’s escapades at the airport became completely unbearable. No longer could I lug a gallon jug onto the flight. And while it does relieve me of the inane comments like, “Are you going to drink all of that on the flight?”, and “Is the airline water not good enough?”, and “Need more water? Tee hee…”, it added an extra burden to my already light wallet by forcing me to buy umpteen jillion bottles of water at the airport shops that I personally believe are in cahoots with whomever started the “no more than three-ounces” law in the first place. Invariably, I end up parched, poor, and perturbed with every flight I take.
The other conundrum a bodybuilder faces when traveling is what is more important to pack: pre-cooked food or clothes. I already can’t take a purse because my personal carry-on is my cooler that I have to shove, kick, and coerce into the tiny space below the seat in front of me because I have it packed to the gills. And nowadays, the planes are making passengers check their rolling bags plane side, which always create a minor conniption fit inside of me because I always pack my favorites when traveling: favorite tennis shoes, favorite undies, favorite workout clothes, favorite perfume, favorite eye shadow. And I just don’t trust the airlines to put my bag onto the right plane for the right destination, meaning a match to my own personal and living being. I think this is speaking more to my overall trust issues and neurotic need for control than the actual ability of the airline industry to make good on its promise to get both you and your precious cargo to your final destination in one piece and together. But that’s for a whole other blog entry.
The true entertainment for the traveling bodybuilder actually begins before she ever gets to bed the night before the trip. Remember I mentioned a cooler packed to the gills with food? Well, that food must be cooked, weighed, measured, separated, and stuffed into that cooler. That means hours alternating from the cutting board station to the stove station to the kitchen scale station to the tupperware/baggies station to the “get into the $@!* cooler now because all I want to do is go to bed” station. And if you do things like I do–in a very anal-retentive manner (stop giggling)–then we must back up just a bit more to the planning stage, where I take my journal out and write down the number and types of meals I need to bring in order to determine the calculations of the amounts of each food item that I need in order to ensure I have all of those meals. So here’s the example for my recent two-day business trip to Chicago:
I needed a minimum of six meals prepared for Thursday and a minimum of six meals prepared for Friday. That’s 12 meals. Two meals a day contain egg whites. Two meals a day contain chicken breasts. Two meals a day contain lean red meat. The egg whites are six apiece in number (or a touch over a cup if the 100% egg white liquid variety). The chicken and red meat are five ounces each in weight. I have to make sure I will still eat all of these proteins even when cold and old. So while the egg whites are scrambling, the lean red meat–purchased in the ground version–is pounded into patties and slapped onto the skillet, and the chicken is sliced in half and then sliced thin so that it will cook readily, also on a skillet. FYI: I use cooking spray. Then the carbs are planned for. Oh wait…the egg whites are smoking. Damn it! Start again because while I will eat old, cold food (not happily, I might add), I will not eat burnt, old, cold food. I must draw the line somewhere. Okay…back to the carbs. Two servings of 1/3 cup of oats per day. Put in enough water to make the oatmeal soupy so I feel like I’m getting more than I actually am (it’s fun to try to trick one’s own mind; “try” is the operative word here). Two servings of four ounces of red potato for each day. I want my potato crunchy which means I kill it in the microwave since I don’t feel like slicing and dicing in order to have fake potato chips. I’ve learned that easy is better for the cortisol levels when traveling. And then there’s the issue of the veggies, but as I begin weighing everything and putting it all into the separate tupperware (really Ziploc plastic) containers, I begin to see I’m running out of room. For competitions or for trips longer than just two days, I’ll shove everything into individual baggies and label them by food amount, day, and meal number. But I could have sworn my six-pack cooler would hold the 12 containers. I know…mathematically that doesn’t make sense, but to a former English teacher it worked when I originally thought of it.
So there I was, irritated, grumpy, and muttering expletives under my breath (okay, really loudly) as I doubled up my meals in the containers and poured my soupy oatmeal over my fluffy egg whites as if they were biscuits and gravy. And then I reworked the containers into my cooler as if I were fitting together jigsaw puzzle pieces. With zippers nearly broken from the strain, the cooler was finally packed, but alas…no veggies. I knew that once I arrived in Chicago, I’d have to go on a caveman hunt for vegetables and gallon jugs of water.
Luckily, a CVS and a health food joint resided within walking distance along the busy, downtown street from my hotel, which came with a refrigerator and microwave. I had everything I needed and even managed to smuggle my Southwest Spicy mustard through security at the DFW airport.
The hustle, bustle, and hassle were all worth every stressful, heat-packed moment. I stuck to my diet, ate my meals, and woke up two days later back in Dallas and a pound lighter for the wear.
Moral to the story? Preparation is key. Oh…one more thing. Mustard might make it through the Texas airports, but the Chicago O’Hare security can’t be fooled. My cooler was seized and searched, and the Southwest Spicy that tried to make a run for the border went down in flames…and I…I had to eat plain, boring chicken on the flight home. Sigh. Hard times for a hard bodybuilder.