My personal philosophy is “ Health and Fitness is a journey NOT a destination”. Quite simply, it is something that you must do everyday to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle both physically and mentally. However, when the majority of us pack our bags or plan our holidays the last thing we consider is our own health. So let’s look at a few practical solutions that we can implement into our holiday schedule, so we not only feel better whilst we are away, but also so that we don’t undo all the previous good work we have done in the lead up to our holiday.
When travelling by air a lot of us just treat it as a means to an end and don’t pay any particular attention to the physiological stress that is actually placed on the body whilst flying. However, in order to hit the ground running, it is important to understand just what is happening to our body whilst we are travelling at anywhere between 30 – 60 thousand feet.
When flying, the main physiological problem is adjusting to the low pressure in the cabin and the low humidity levels which is brought about by the pressurised oxygen that we are breathing. For some people this can cause light headedness, aches and pains, swollen feet and hands and possibly even lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). To address these physiological stressors and assist our comfort level whilst flying and on arrival, we must pay attention to what we eat and drink.
EATING & DRINKING IN THE AIR
For the majority of us we eat for two reasons. Firstly, because it is given to us and secondly because we are bored! Very rarely are we actually hungry, therefore, it we choose to eat whilst in the air;
- avoid salty foods as they may increase increased bloating
- consume small portions as it will be easier to digest whilst in flight
- eat fruit and carbohydrates where possible
- try to carry some healthy snacks yourself
For those travellers trying to take the edge off or put yourself to sleep with a wine or a couple of beers, you will simply pay the price at the other end. The effect of drinking alcohol at high altitude is over double its value on the ground, therefore,
- drink at least 250ml water/hour
- avoid alcohol, tea and coffee due to its capacity to dehydrate you even further (particularly important if you are an athlete travelling to an event)
- avoid beverages high in salt as this may lead to unnecessary fluid retention
- try to carry a personal water bottle where possible
EXERCISING IN AN UNFAMILIAR ENVIRONMENT
With the anticipation of the holiday now out of the way we can settle into our new destination and look at implementing an exercise program that isn’t reliant a gym. The Effective Equipment Free Workout is only limited by your imagination, or perhaps space. But if you can find 2m/2m, then let’s get started…
My simple rule is to design a circuit program based on intensity over time. Too many of us think that we need an hour of exercise a day and if you can’t find an hour then it is ineffective. INCORRECT! Start by designing a body weight circuit with a small cardiovascular component that breaks the workout into sections;
Warm up – depending upon the locations we can either go for a 5 – 10minute run outside, if the conditions are suitable, or simply use what is around us. The Hotel stairs are an excellent way to elevate your heart rate whilst also providing some resistance exercises for your legs. If this isn’t an option use the corridor and jog the length then turn and shuttle run door to door on the way back. Alternatively, jog to the first door, then jog backwards to the second door then sideways to the third door etc. Worst case scenario, if you can’t leave your room, jog up and down on the spot changing knee height and speed for 4-6 minutes. Once you have elevated your heart rate to a reasonable level you can then commence your BODY WEIGHT WORKOUT. Start by making the circuit time based, either 30 seconds or one minute per exercise.
(1) Sample Circuit: (10 – 15 minutes duration)
- Push ups
- Sit ups
- Step ups
- Cardio (Stairs / Hall Shuttles / Skipping Rope / Jogging on the spot). Hit the Hotel stairs and run up the first flight every step, second flight every second, third flight every third. Continue this format for 5 minutes. Alternatively, hit the hallway and do a few shuttle runs (x3) then straight back into another circuit – this time alternating the upper and lower body with a few extra core exercises.
(2) Sample Circuit alternating exercises: (12 – 20 minutes duration)
- Push ups
- Step ups
- Sit ups
- Oblique curls
- Cardio (Stairs / Hall Shuttles / Skipping Rope / Jogging on the spot)
If you decide to incorporate both sample circuit 1 and circuit 2 your exercise routine will not only be fun but also effective!
NB Other useful travel companions are therabands where the list of exercises is limitless.
DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS
It has been well documented in the media and has commonly been referred to as ‘economy class syndrome’, but quite simply this is not true. DVT can occur to any of us that are involved in extended periods of travel where we are sitting down either in a car, bus or train. Under these circumstances, extended periods of immobility can lead to the development of a blood clot which is characterised as DVT. DVT is most commonly caused in the lower limbs, and in the worst-case scenario, DVT can lead to a pulmonary embolism. The biggest concern is that the symptoms are very hard to diagnose. It is believed that you are more susceptible to DVT if you are over 40, and the older you get, the greater the occurrence of DVT.
Preventing DVT may not always be possible, however there are certainly a number of ways to reduce the risk of DVT;
- Regularly move around if possible
- Try a few simple exercises whilst seated (most flights have a demonstration of exercises to perform regularly)
- Always keep up your water consumption
- If you are over 40 years of age or have a family history of DVT, DO NOT drink alcohol before or during the travel phase
- Wear compression clothing to assist with your circulation
- Prior to your travel (12 hours) take a low dose of aspirin. You can also have another low dose during travel and for three days after
- Constantly keep the lower limbs moving
To eliminate the likelihood of suffering DVT on your next long haul, consult with your Doctor, especially if you have a family history, are over 40years of age, have had recent surgery, have been or currently are pregnant, or you have other health related issues (high blood pressure, obesity, smoker).
ATHLETES TRAVELING FOR COMPETITIONS
When travelling interstate or overseas for a competition, I try to keep my routine as regular as possible. The most important part is adjusting your body clock and the easiest way to do this is to make sure you avoid extra external stressors, prior, during and once arriving at the destination. A few quick tips that I use include;
- Take non-stop flights where possible to reduce transit time
- Request an emergency exit or aisle seat so you can do discreet exercises or walk the aisle
- Take your own water and healthy snacks if possible
- Dress comfortably and use compression tights if possible
- Never travel hungry and always carry snacks or bars that you usually use
- Exercise prior to departure and on arrival, complementing both sessions with a good stretching routine
- Give yourself a day or two to adjust to the new time zone after arrival. It is thought that is takes your body one day to adjust per time zone crossed
Where possible, ALWAYS pack your competition clothes / equipment in your carry on luggage