Ian Anderson, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS
Board-Certified Sports Physical Therapist & Director of Performance
Proven tips to prevent pain and improve performance when traveling
The holidays and seeing friends/family may have passed but many people are preparing for other travel whether it be a ski trip, a conference or anytime they feel like exploring somewhere new. Although it offers an exciting prospect at the beginning of the travel, staying healthy during a journey can be daunting. Don't be afraid as we have come up with travel hacks so you will keep performing at your best while traveling.
From the time I spent traveling with Stanford's football program to discussions with US Olympic Team coaches and medical staff, I have picked up some helpful tips I use for travel.
Hydration on the Move
The easiest way to minimize the effects of travel is to stay hydrated.
Packing a simple twist-top water bottle remains one of the most basic and most efficient travel hacks (and saves you from buying overpriced water bottles at the airport!). You naturally lose water at altitude and by simply carrying a reusable bottle you can minimize fluid loss. Find something with a twist top that will not allow spillage or leakage when at altitude.
Clean & Disinfect
Why do athletes miss competition? A large majority of the time it is due to illness, NOT injury.
I started doing this before the pandemic but have some hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes handy when you board a plane. The first thing I do when boarding a plane is a quick wipe-down of my seat+headrest, tray table/TV, and armrests and turn on the A/C to get some airflow. It takes less than a minute but how bummed would you be if you arrived for an awesome ski trip and fall sick because of something you caught on the plane.
Prolonged flights may cause poor blood circulation that could be accompanied by dizziness and tiredness. I deal with this using a pair of knee-high compression socks which help to improve blood flow and minimize swelling during a long flight. I have a pair from CEP (they also double as a great baselayer for skiing!).
Prevent Low Back Pain with a Lumbar Pillow
Airplane seats are notoriously uncomfortable, often resulting in low-back pain. Carry an inflatable pillow to offer lumbar support during a lengthy flight or ride. A simple addition without taking up much space or weight and it can have huge effects on your comfort! An inflatable camp pillow like this one from Klymit works great!
Keeping up with dietary intake is difficult especially when traveling, but savvy snacking makes it possible. I always try to keep some snacks such as instant oats, nuts, bars, and a few bags of green tea. For the green tea and oatmeal... just add hot water - and you will be able to eat a delicious and energetic meal while traveling.
Prevent Neck Pain aka "Bobblehead Syndrome"
The SleeperHold pillow has been a game-changer for me. We have all seen (and probably been) the person on the plane whose head bobbles every which way, well enter the SleeperHold pillow. Small in size yet convenient for movement and will completely change your flight experience.
Mobilize & Stretch
One of the best things you can do between and after flying is to open up your hip flexors and breathe! The couch stretch you can do almost anywhere, and helps to open up your hip flexors, rib cage, and chest- all of which get tight when sitting for hours on an airplane.
Traveling in itself is an adventure, but when combined with these travel hacks, your journey will not only be more comfortable, but also pleasurable. Use these tips every time you travel and stay at your best wherever your destinations take you! Safe and happy travels!