It’s the Year of Active Travel! While sitting in a plane, train, or automobile may not exactly be active, I think the act of traveling–and how to stay well while on travel–deserves a mention alongside this week’s fitness-related posts. I’m reading more and more about people’s fears of illness or injury while traveling, and knowing what it’s like to get mysteriously sick while far away from the comforts of home, I can attest it’s a legitimate concern! But that doesn’t have to stop you from traveling. Here are some common concerns and what to do about them!
Travel is wonderful, exciting, and thrilling, and when you travel, you will undoubtedly have life-altering experiences that will make you want to travel more! However, there is something I call “general ickiness” that tends to happen while in transit. Between sitting in one small seat for hours at a time and eating airplane food, you’ll know what I mean. But here are some suggestions for combating that.
- Make a move. Get up, go to the bathroom, walk up and down the airplane aisles, flex your feet while sitting down, find some space in the bulkhead or between class separations and do a couple of lunges or squats. Get that blood flowing and those muscles moving at least once an hour!
- Drink up. Stay hydrated in flight! Always take a little cup of water when the flight attendants offer it, whether you feel thirsty or not. And fill up your own water bottle inside security before you get on the plane. I usually bring a travel mug and tea bags or Emergen-C with me for a warm and comforting beverage on long, cold flights. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol because those are counter-productive to your hydration goals.
- Bring a snack. It’s difficult to find good food options in the airport (and certainly on a plane!) when you’re already hungry. So do a little planning to make sure you have some delightful options on travel. You can bring fruit, cut vegetables, trail mix, protein bars, sandwiches (think peanut butter, cheese, cold cuts, etc.), and more through security with you, but depending on where you’re going, you may need to finish eating those things before you land at your destination.
- Airport food options. You can also find good options at airports these days; you may just need to ask around for where they are. Look for to-go kiosks with salads, sandwiches, wraps, and the like. Almost every airport has a Starbucks these days, and my favorite feel-good foods there are the spinach and feta wrap, turkey bacon and egg white sandwich, yogurt with fruit and granola, and cut fruit. Want the extra large cinnamon roll or that big piece of lemon loaf? Get it! But if you know your body prefers protein and fiber to stay full longer, there are some options for you!
Whether it’s food poisoning, Montezuma’s Revenge, malaria, Zika, Ebola, flu, or any other illness, getting sick on a trip is no fun at all. You can’t avoid 100% of the risks (even at home!), but there are some things you can do to lessen the chances of getting sick on travel:
- Get vaccinated. This is a controversial topic for some, but vaccinations are sometimes a requirement for travel, and you will have to show your yellow vaccination card as proof of vaccination when entering certain countries. If you don’t have proof, you will have to either get vaccinated onsite (not something you want to do–where have those needles been?) or get back on the plane for a return flight. Check out the necessary vaccinations and get them. Be on the lookout for a post all about travel vaccinations coming soon!
- Only eat fully cooked food in clean restaurants. Cooking will kill the bacteria that could make you sick. Unless you’re in a place where you know you can trust the water, do not eat raw fruits or vegetables, and unless you’re in a clean restaurant in Japan or somewhere you feel you can trust the raw fish or tartare, avoid it. Don’t be afraid of the street food from local vendors, but do be smart about your choices–only fully cooked items, please!
- Take a probiotic. Give your gut a little something extra. A probiotic will give your digestive system a boost of good bacteria for overall digestive health. Start taking one each day for a week before your trip, every day on your trip, and about a week after you get home.
- Boost your vitamin C. Before, during, and after your trip, make an effort to get some extra vitamin C in your life. This can come from fruit juices, a multivitamin, Emergen-C, Sambucol, etc., and it’ll give your immune system just the boost it needs! I like to take some Emergen-C packets with me on flights and ask for a cup of hot water to mix it with. It gives me some extra hydration as well as an immunity boost!
The best way to avoid injury is to pay attention! And, of course, the stronger and more flexible you are, the more likely you are to avoid injury as well. Here are some tips:
- Do some stretching. Get into the habit of doing some light stretching each day, or even just start with a few stretches one day a week, and work your way up from there.
- Do some lifting. It doesn’t have to be heavy lifting; anything helps! The stronger your muscles are, the easier it will be to tote your carry-on, put it up in and take it down from the airplane’s overhead bin, hike on rough trails, and more! Don’t have access to a gym? There are countless challenging body-weight exercises you can do!
- Be aware of yourself. And your surroundings, too! Don’t be walking around looking at your phone all day, pay attention to broken or uneven sidewalks, cross the streets with the crosswalk light instead of against it, and make sure you are aware of your own capabilities. Don’t recklessly try something new that could cause injury if you aren’t sure how you’ll handle it.
- Take care at the hotel gym. One of the things I look for on travel is a gym at my accommodation, but users will always be using that gym at their own risk. If they have interesting equipment you’d like to try but are not used to, look at the instructions or ask a hotel attendant to show you exactly how to use it. Don’t be a hero and go for a max weight. If anything, go down a few pounds. You’re on vacation after all!
How do you stay well on your travels? Comment below to let me know! Want more active travel posts? Check out the Fitness and Wellness section on the Travel Hacks Page!
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