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Tips For the Traveling Athlete
As some of you know, my life has been a bit hectic lately. I’ve been spending more time on the road working as a performance coach for multiple professional motorsports organizations. As much as I love being in the clinic and seeing you all face to face, the racetrack sure is my second home. 😊
As I’ve been traveling, I’m learning a lot about ALL the “travel woes”. From the stress of canceled flights to the lack of available food choices, you name it, I’ve been there. I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve eaten Mexican food in the past two weeks…although it’s great, it’s not great for my stomach.
Now, I should know better. I have an athlete spouse who travels over 35 weeks a year. I constantly hear him complain about stressful timelines, flight debacles, food, muscle soreness and cramping, lower back pain, dehydration, and fatigue. Often you find me on the other side of the phone coaching him through a “wellness” routine while en route to his next destination.
Now, I’m no stranger to travel fatigue. It’s uncommon to find me taking an additional day off before getting back in the swing of things. As I write this, I still have a slight headache and GI distress after my last trip which ended about a day ago. With all of this fresh on my mind, it’s had me thinking about how I can help athletes travel more successfully. So, here are my two cents about the topic.
Do not accumulate sleep debt before or during your travel.
Not sleeping isn’t going to set you up for success when traveling to perform. Did you know that sleep is the number one statistic measured by pro athletes and their medical staff? Why? It is the one thing that will make the 1% difference. Make sure that you prepare well enough that you can get 8-9 hours of sleep per night the week before you travel and be consistent with your schedule once you reach your destination. I promise you’ll thank me later.
Make sure you have all your travel documents & plans ready ahead of time.
Take it from the girl who accidentally messed up her rental car pickup a few weeks ago (talk about stress)! Make sure that you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s when it comes to your travel plans. Double and triple-checking itinerary dates a week or more before your flight isn’t a bad idea! Also, remember, travel documents such as passports expire. This is something I would check on at least 6 months in advance. Oh, and one other thing, make sure to plan ground transportation ahead of time as not all destinations have good rideshare (Uber, etc.) system!
If you have a long wait before your flight, don’t just sit, keep moving.
We all know waiting is frustrating, but delays happen. Plopping down in the middle of the airport may suit your fancy, but my best recommendation is, move. Airports often have space to move, so why not do so? If you look around the airport, you’ll see people doing crazy things. Lately, I’ve noticed an abundance of people stretching, jogging, and even exercising mid-airport. A simple routine to do prior to hopping on a flight: walk the terminal, calf raises, bodyweight squats, lunges, seated thoracic rotations, standing backbends, and good mornings, neck movement in all directions, and shoulder circles.
Pack snacks and plan meals.
Meal planning while traveling is imperative, especially if you have any dietary concerns. Make sure you pack snacks consisting of proteins and carbohydrates in your bags. Also, make sure to check out the local restaurant scene prior to your arrival. If you are able, I recommend heading to a grocery store upon arrival at your destination. Why? You can grab food and snacks that you know your body responds well to. I almost always find the closest Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s upon landing and stock up my cart.
Hydration is key and avoid alcohol.
Hydration and nutrition are key principles to performing well. It is easy to avoid hydrating when traveling. I dread having to use the bathroom on an airplane and I’m sure many of you do too! Well, if you’re looking to prepare yourself well for an athletic event in your near future, dehydration should not even be in question. Sip, sip, sip! The better prepared you are in advance, the better your performance will be.
Also, I know it is easy to throw down a stiff drink after a day of travel stress. However, if you’re looking to perform better, it is not what you want to do. Alcohol has a negative impact on all things related to performance including sleep, muscle performance & recovery. Avoiding alcohol while flying will also help decrease unwanted swelling.
Choose the aisle seat.
The aisle seat allows you to be more mobile while onboard an aircraft. Moving regularly will help decrease blood pooling and edema, especially after an event. Oh, and sitting in the aisle seat also decreases your stress of asking the person next to you to move so that you can use the airplane lavatory. 😊
On flights > 2 hours, make sure you move around.
Want to avoid post-flight muscle soreness, cramping, and swelling? Well, moving around on your flight is key. Although many may look and stare, walk the corridor, and even do some exercise onboard. Once again, movement helps decrease your risk of swelling and improves your muscle recovery.
Compression garments can be your friend.
A lot of athletes rely on compression garments pre-and post-event. Why? Compression garments have been known to assist in recovery post-event and help prevent things such as blood clots. I would especially recommend utilizing a compression garment (pants, arm sleeves, socks) while traveling post-event simply to assist in your complete recovery.
Get to your destination with ample time available to acclimate to the environment.
This is one thing I am horrible at. I am often running from the office to the airport and getting to my destination less than 24 hours before events. As I write this section, I am sitting in the office meanwhile in less than 3 hours I’ll be on my way to the airport to head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway where I’ll actually be LATE to said event!
Getting to your destination early, especially when there is a time difference, is imperative. Your body needs time to adjust and acclimate to time differences, temperature differences, etc. If you’re looking to PR your event, my recommendation is to arrive a full week or more ahead of time. Why? You can adjust your schedule and possibly even get a short training session in to help your body adapt.
Take a day or two off when you get home.
Rushing back into the swing of things is a norm for many of us. However, if time allows, take some time to rest and unwind. I promise, time off to re-adjust to your everyday lifestyle will is good for the soul. Take it from the person who does not take her own advice! Allotting “brain recovery” time will also help you process the details of the event (the good, bad and ugly)! If this isn’t possible, I recommend taking a longer lunch or starting your day late upon your return home.
Well, folks, I hope this helped. Make sure you follow along with me on my journey to Indianapolis in our latest YouTube Video. I can’t promise the video quality is great, but you may see some bloopers!