Flying made easy

Tips from our head doc to smooth out travel

After months of hard work, you’ve gotten some well-earned time off. You’ve booked your tickets and packed your bags. You’ve even trained for the long hikes and rides that await.

You get to the airport early. There are lines at every corner, but you make it through them and get to your gate with enough time to get a quick snack. You get a breakfast sandwich and coffee that you eat before boarding the plane. You get through the overly complicated boarding process and settle into your window seat next to two friendly strangers. The seat is small, but no matter, you intend to sleep for the duration of the flight anyways. You are awoken by the rattle of the food cart.

After a couple more hours of restless sleep you get to your final destination. It’s mid afternoon and you had planned a short hike through the city that afternoon, but the body protests. The legs feel like bricks.

Air travel can be quite hard on our bodies. It can take days before we feel fully recovered from the couple of hours we’ve spent in the plane and whether you are a pro cyclist going to your next race, or a holiday traveler, this is a luxury we usually do not have. Here are the top travel tips and mistakes to avoid from Dr. Kevin Sprouse, the head of medicine for EF Education First Pro Cycling, so that you can explore that new place with ease.

Drink water, lots of water.

“The most important aspect of making travel comfortable is hydration. The air in airplanes is pretty dry. The idea that the air is recirculated is not actually totally accurate but it is dry and you can have a lot of what we call ‘insensible’ fluid losses or air lost from your breath, and sweat. So stay really well hydrated which means drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol and overly caffeinated drinks. Bring electrolyte tablets to help with hydration and encourage drinking because sometimes you want something else than plain water.

“Dehydration will affect your comfort during travel and likely increase levels of travel fatigue and irritability. It is one of the main causes of travel fatigue and can delay the adjustment of jet lag. Two, to two and half hours prior to the flight you should drink 500ml – 1L of water and continue to sip water regularly throughout the flight.”

Bring your own food — don’t fall for the closest Cinnabon.

“Be prepared to do a meal at the airport and don’t give in to the Cinnabon or whatever smells so good nearby. Bringing your own meal with you is a big part of staying healthy during travel. The food you typically find in an airport is highly processed, a lot of times because it has to have a long shelf life. It’s just rare that you will find fresh stuff at an airport. You can, but it’s much more of a hunt. And on the airplane, the stuff that you get that’s warmed up in a microwave, there’s very little reason to be eating that from an overall health standpoint. It’s full of preservatives, full of processed foods, and might have been made that morning or it could have been made some time the week before and frozen. And that’s not the type of stuff you want to be eating.

“From an overall health standpoint we want to avoid that kind of food, especially when we are traveling. There are a lot of unaccounted for stressors in travel itself. Often it’s early waking times, trying to catch your flight, running from here and there, checking baggage and whatnot, that the more you can limit those stressors to the body – and bad food is one of those stressors – the better you can come out of the day overall. The good news is that while there are restrictions on the transport of liquids on flights, the only restriction on food is that upon arrival at your destination you might be asked to dispose of any remaining items either on the aircraft or as you enter customs.”

Maximize your comfort. And get some creative exercise.

“If you have access to a lounge, that can be a great option if you are stuck at an airport for a couple of hours. But a lot of people don’t, so even coming up with things to do from an active standpoint, wearing travel clothing, not sweatpants but more like slacks that are a little stretchy. Knock out ten air squats, do some stretches, walk around the terminal or just something to keep mobile. That goes a long way because the flip side of that, the big peril of traveling, is the sedentary aspect of it. You end up just sitting around, staring at a screen killing time. You can pretty quickly go from having a normal lifestyle to a day that’s just kind of a wash from the health point of view.”

“On the flight, I like to recommend taking an aisle seat. Now days it’s so easy to pick your seat but not many people do, which is unfortunate. The aisle seat makes it pretty easy to get up every 30-45 minutes, walk down the aisle, stretch a little bit and breakup the long stretches of sitting in an uncomfortable plane seat. I would also recommend wearing compression clothing on your lower extremities whether that be socks or tights it helps a lot with fluid mobilization and making sure you don’t get that kind of heavy feeling in your legs.”

We are huge advocates of exploring new places and travel can take it out of even the most seasoned of travelers. Following these simple tips can help you make the most of your time in a new city or country, and hopefully make your time away more enjoyable.