From crowded airports to sitting on planes for hours, we all know that traveling is stressful and takes a toll on our bodies. Although not ideal for athletes, traveling is a necessary evil to get us where we need to be. There are ways to make traveling easier and help you to recover from your travel days faster.
Here are my top travel tips to help you get off the plane with a fresh body and ready to tackle the next training day or an upcoming race.
BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Eat earlier the night before travel. Just like a race, allow a 10-hour transit time for your bowels to eliminate your dinner. If you’re changing time zones it’s wise to eat the night before at the time you would be eating in your new time zone. However, if the time change is greater than 4 hours, just eat a lighter dinner.
Avoid Refined Carbohydrates. Aim to eat higher fibre and non-starchy vegetables for lunch and dinner prior to your flight. Avoid sweet and refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates encourage your body to retain water so avoid highly processed foods and sweets.
Drink Tea. After dinner, drink a cup of herbal tea that contains at least one of the following: ginger, liquorice, turmeric, coriander, spearmint, peppermint or lemongrass. This tea is beneficial for sleeping and your GI tract.
Take a Probiotic. Probiotics are amazing for your gut health! Look for a probiotic containing at least 30 billion bacteria and includes 50 percent from the bifido strain. This probiotic should be taken every day during your trip and will keep your gut flora in harmony. Taking probiotics every day is a good practice, but especially beneficial when traveling.
Eat a Light Breakfast. Aim for a morning meal before traveling that includes healthy fats, moderate protein and low carbs. Avoid sugary fruit juices, refined carbs and trans fats.
Bring Your Own Snacks. Plan ahead and bring your own snacks. Most airline food choices are laced with excessive sodium and preservatives. I like to travel with a mix of walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts and coconut shavings.
DURING THE FLIGHT
Wear your compression socks. This helps circulate the blood in your legs and minimizes swelling of your feet. Besides your compression socks avoid other tight fitting clothing; you want to be comfortable!
Stay hydrated. The lack of humidity in the airplane cabin is dehydrating so make sure to regularly drink water during the flight.
Move. Get up and walk around every 20 minutes. Avoid sitting too long. Stretch your calves while seated and standing. If there is space near the restrooms or galley, do a standing hip flexor & quad stretch.
Avoid Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol or sugary drinks on the flight. Alcohol contributes to dehydration and sugary drinks will spike your blood sugar levels.
Make Healthy Food Choices. If you’re hungry, then eat your own snacks or be discretionary in your choices when purchasing in-flight meals. Try to avoid foods high in simple carbs, trans fats and sodium.
I’ve outlined a run, swim and bike workout below to get you back in the groove following your travel day.
Off the Plane Run
Oftentimes going on a short run is the easiest way to shakeout your legs from traveling. Here’s an example of a short workout you can do after flying to be ready for the next day.
Stretch. Before your workout, stretch your back, hip flexors, shoulders, quads and calves. Your back and hip flexors are shortened and tight during the flight. Also do some arm swings for your rotator cuffs. Spend 8 to 12 minutes stretching.
Walk Backwards. This dynamically stretches the Achilles, soleus and hamstrings. Try this in your warm up for about 2 minutes. As you step back with the heel touching the ground, squeeze your gluteals to activate them.
Run with Short Strides. Run with shorter strides for the first 5 minutes and go 30 seconds slower per mile than your normal warm up pace. Stop and stretch for 1 minute. Remember to stretch your hip flexors! Then continue with your run.
Add Pick-Ups. Insert 6 x 25 seconds of pick-ups, followed by a Rest Interval of 1 minute easy jogging during your run. A little bit of speed will prepare you for the next day.
Run Short. After flying, I recommend running for about 20 to 45 minutes depending upon your background, with 90 percent in your aerobic zone or slightly below this intensity. Remember, you don’t have to crush this workout. Avoid doing anything too hard. Increasing mobility in your hips and ankles – and getting the blood flowing — is the vital ingredient to this light workout and will set you up for the next day.
Off the Plane Swim
If you do have access to a pool at your destination, swimming is a great way to work out those travel kinks.
Mix Up Your Warm Up. Include several lengths of backstroke to stretch your shoulders, lats and pecs. Breaststroke is great to stretch your adductors, but be gentle on the range of motion. Also try freestyle with offside or alternate breathing to stretch your shoulders, spine and neck.
Start with Shorter Segments. Try 25 to 75 seconds with some changes in speed. This will prime your muscles but not tax your anaerobic and aerobic systems. An example is: 2 to 3 sets of 6 x 50 with 25 easy between each 50. Spread out the sets with an aerobic 5 min in between each set.
Avoid Using Paddles. Your back, lats and shoulders will be tight after a flight. If you’re inclined to put them on, wait until you’re well warmed up and keep the intensity very light.
Don’t Go Over Distance. Like the run, no need to crush this workout. Keep the time to 25 to 45 min on your first post-flight swim.
Off the Plane Bike
Getting out on your bike after your travel day is also a great way to freshen up your body.
Warm Up in a Lower Gear. Gradually increase your cadence to 90 -100 rpms.
Stretch. Drop your heel slightly at the 3 O’clock position to stretch your Achilles and soleus. Also stand up frequently to stretch your hip flexors and back.
Start with Shorter Pick-Ups. Include 8 to 20 pick-ups of 25 to 45 seconds. Gradually increase your gearing load. Try standing for 5 to 10 seconds during each repeat.
Don’t Go Hard. You may be antsy after your flight, but give your body time to acclimate. There’s no need to ride hard or push big gears in this workout.
All of these tips and post travel sessions are designed to give your body the best chance to recover from the rigors of your travel day. Take it easy, make healthy food choices and you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to go for the next day.