The ultimate road warriors

Life on the road can be punishing, what with the lousy food, crammed work schedules and need to perform - in top form - under intense pressure.

But take heart, weary business travelers, and learn some object lessons from those ultimate road warriors - the Democratic and Republican candidates seeking nomination for the upcoming United States presidential race.

A case in point: Democratic Hillary Clinton and the importance of pacing oneself in a marathon campaign.

Tired and trailing in the polls at the beginning of this week, Ms. Clinton was briefly overcome by emotion when a supporter asked how she was managing. ("It's not easy, it's not easy and I couldn't do it if I just didn't passionately believe that it is the right thing to do ... Some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds," she said.)

Still, she rallied, staged an upset victory in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and wisely announced on Wednesday that she was going home for a short rest.

Being home in New York, Ms. Clinton said, "gives me a chance to get kind of grounded and take a deep breath before I go out for the next couple of weeks leading up to the Feb. 5 grand finale of all those states." She was referring to Super Tuesday, when primary races will be held in more than 20 states.

Politicians, senior executives and other high-profile players who spend a lot of time on the road often fall victim to "the hero complex," observes Toronto-based industrial psychologist Guy Beaudin.

Instead of carving out some much-needed personal space for themselves, people in high-profile jobs, engaged in high-stakes situations, often feel they need to respond to every demand on their time, he says.

Another lesson from the leaders: Work-outs to work off food excesses are a must.

Like all of the candidates - or any considerate business traveller for that matter - Democratic Barack Obama feels that it is only polite to eat the local fare his hosts offer, even when it's corn dogs and caramel corn at the Iowa State Fair, for instance.

He maintains his slim form by jogging, and playing pick-up basketball with firefighters and police officers in the communities he swings through on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, Republican Mike Huckabee, who shed more than 100 pounds a few years ago, is now a marathon runner and hits the road or the treadmill every chance he gets.

It's not just a health issue, it's an image issue, the former governor of Arkansas was recently quoted as saying.

"If you're really overweight, some people just look at you and immediately sort of write you off. They just assume you're undisciplined."

Toronto-based nutritionist Lisa Weinberg says that, when well-meaning hosts push unhealthy food on their guests, it is okay to take just a bite or two. "You don't have to eat the whole corn dog," she says.

The candidates report that they stick to their diets as much as they can - possibly the toughest health challenge facing them, along with fatigue and insufficient sleep.

Executive recruiter Jay Rosenzweig says that leaders, ultimately, are responsible for managing their own schedules to ensure that they get proper food, sleep, exercise and downtime - "we have to chill sometimes, or we'll explode."

When someone is working on the long, arduous campaign or business project, "sometimes it's really difficult, and there may be the odd day when quality food, exercise and rest is sacrificed," says Mr. Rosenzweig, Toronto-based managing partner of Rosenzweig and Co. Inc.

"But if you try to stay on course, you can force good food into your schedule, you can force exercise into your schedule, and you can ensure that you get enough rest and ... at the end of the day, you will be far more effective in the long term."

Management consultant Michael Boydell, chief executive officer of Toronto-based MICA Consulting Partners, says it is important to top up the emotional reserves, as well, and maintain as much of a work-life balance as possible, even when on the road.

Laptops, webcams and other technology make it increasingly easy for business travelers to stay connected.

"You can quickly dial in to the children's bedtime story, or cereal in the morning, or homework session ...whatever it is."

Speaking of emotion, Mr. Boydell is among those who believe that Ms. Clinton's passionate response to a supporter on Monday only served to help humanize her in what had previously been a well-oiled, tightly scripted campaign.

"It's really about passion, and passion, by definition, is an emotional state. Sometimes, it comes out as intense emotion, sometimes it comes out as tears ... and I think that, increasingly, leaders are more comfortable demonstrating genuine emotion, genuine passion."

It's tough to stay grounded, adds Tom Long, a veteran of many Canadian political campaigns and now a Toronto-based managing partner of executive recruiting firm Egon Zehnder International.

Given the pace of life today, whether in the political arena or the business arena, "you have to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint," he says.

"I think that applies equally to road warriors. Travel and the demands of leadership roles are excessive, and they can block out everything, including balancing your life."

Increasingly, leaders are recognizing that "they have to make sure they look after themselves," Mr. Long says.

"I think there's a much greater attention to physical fitness and eating properly than was probably the case 10 or 15 years ago, so people do make it a regular part of their regimen to work out, to watch what they eat and make sure that they sleep properly - mainly because, if you don't do that, you run the risk of burnout and it starts impacting on your perception and your judgment." Rules of the road

The U.S. presidential primaries are a challenge to the constitution - the candidates' constitutions, that is. Here's what they face on the road and how they overcome.

Road hazards

Corn dogs: At the Iowa State Fair, Democratic candidate Barack Obama ate pork, caramel corn and a corn dog as photographers jockeyed for shots of him hobnobbing with the locals.

Fries with that: At a campaign stop in Tama, Iowa, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - who insisted that calorie counts and fat content be included on White House menus when her husband was president - ordered a sloppy-Joe-type sandwich, without the sauce but with a side of fries.

Pizza: Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani, who is reportedly on a diet imposed by his wife, has been photographed scarfing down pizza.

Milkshake: Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who virtuously eats his wife's home-made granola with skim milk for breakfast in the mornings, has a weakness for milkshakes.

Skipped meals: When their campaign stops revolve around breakfast, lunch or dinner events, candidates frequently find themselves so busy glad-handing that they don't have a chance to eat.

Recovery strategies

Chilling: Ms. Clinton took some downtime at home in New York "to kind of get grounded and take a deep breath" after an emotional week in which she came from behind to win the New Hampshire primary.

Basketball: Mr. Obama plays pickup basketball with local firefighters and police officers during campaign stops.

Catnaps: Democratic candidate Bill Richardson takes advantage of hotel fitness facilities and naps when he can. He'll now have more time for that - he dropped out of the race yesterday.

Roadrunners: Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, who became a marathon runner after losing 100 pounds, hits the treadmills in hotel gyms if the roads are too icy for running. Democratic candidate John Edwards runs six or seven kilometres a day. Mr. Obama also runs.

His hands are clean: Republican candidate John McCain uses a hand-sanitizer to protect himself from catching viruses during handshaking sessions.

A good night's sleep: Mr. Romney gets at least seven hours of sleep a night. Democratic candidate Christopher Dodd reports that his two-year-old often wakes him in the middle of the night.

Fruit and veggies: Ms. Clinton finds healthy eating on the road a challenge, but keeps applies and vegetables on hand to snack on. She also goes for walks.

Compiled by Virginia Galt from The New York Times, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Associated Press

Food for thought

It's not impossible to eat well on the run, but "you need to make a more conscious effort" to seek out the healthy options, says nutritionist Lisa Weinberg. "It's very easy to be eating all kinds of garbage at an airport, through room service or whatever, but the healthy choices are absolutely there," says Ms. Weinberg, who offers these pointers:

Cut back on the caffeine. "Too much can make you tired. It can give you a great high, but it can also give you a great low." The same applies to soda pops. Avoid the chips, the chocolate bars, the pizzas, the muffins. Keep some nuts and fruit on hand for a quick, filling snack.

Business travelers, especially, are often wined and dined by their hosts. Be aware that too much alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns. Drink plenty of water. At mealtimes, "seek out the healthy thing - a turkey sandwich, a salad with chicken, sushi, grilled chicken on a bun." Choose the shrimp cocktail instead of deep-fried calamari, the fish special instead of the 12-ounce steak.

At breakfast, opt for poached eggs, an egg-white omelette, fruit salad, a yogurt parfait, oatmeal or whole-wheat toast with peanut butter. "It might not be as appealing as bacon and eggs, but it will make you feel better."

Exercise as much as possible, even if it's a walk around the block. Seek out hotels that provide fitness facilities. On a business trip to Vancouver, Ms. Weinberg's room was equipped with a treadmill, yoga mat and exercise ball. "It was fantastic."

Take a few minutes to plan for healthy routines on the road. "Everyone's time is more and more stretched. I think the perception is that you need a lot of time to be healthy, and I think that's probably misleading."