From cranking up the digits on the pedometer to being squished into an airplane seat, travel is hard on a body. What should be a relaxing vacation can leave you sore, stiff, and swollen. If you have plans to hit the road, air, or rails this summer, think ahead with some preventative measures for smooth sailing on your trip.
Carry Luggage Properly
You’ve heard advice harking back to elementary school about how a simple backpack can add some unwanted swagger to your stride. Fortunately, modern luggage has come a long way towards offering a more ergonomic design and better functionality. Imagine life before wheels on suitcases! Take advantage of these advances by rolling luggage whenever possible. Also stack computer, camera, and other smaller bags near the top of the rolling bag for two-in-one transport. For the best results make sure the handle length is appropriate for your height so you don’t have to slouch over when pulling your suitcase. If you’re wearing any type of bag, even a purse, aim for a well-balanced feel. Choose purses with a long strap that you can wear across your body. When you put on a backpack, make sure to use both straps rather than slinging it over one shoulder. Shift items inside the bag so they are distributed equally, and put the heaviest items in the center and near the bottom. Also, minimize the total weight you’re hauling around by only taking what you need.
Take Frequent Breaks
Stiffness and pain is a common complaint of travel and much of it has to do with the amount of time spent sitting. If you’re traveling by car, be sure to stop at least once every 100 miles to stretch and move about. For long trips in a train or airplane, get up and walk the aisles a few times each hour.
In fact, the best thing you can do on vacation is make sure to get some movement in. Plan for a morning walk or run and incorporate a few laps while enjoying the pool. However, it’s important to be realistic about what activities your body can handle. For example, if your job has you sitting at a computer eight hours per day and you only hit the gym a few times each month, your vacation is not the time to take up long-distance hiking or high-impact sports.
Consider the Weather
Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to consider the weather, elevation, heat and humidity, etc. If you come from an area of low elevation, don’t plan on hitting the highest peaks of Colorado before you’ve had time to acclimate. Even in places where the temperature might be the same, humidity can play a role with your ability to complete the same job you tackle each morning at home. Cold weather makes muscles tighten up so take some time to warm up a bit before you head out.
Whether your vacation bed is an air mattress, a bed on a boat, a hotel king, or a backpacking roll pad, it’s not your bed at home. This leads to a lot of back and neck problems during travel. When you’re not in your own bed, practice sleep posture that helps keep things in alignment by wedging a small pillow or rolled up sweatshirt between your knees and ensure proper neck support.
Your tight muscles, as well as your travel-worn brain, will benefit from some daily stretching. Download a yoga app and hit the mat (or towel) for a session in the morning. Do some basic stretches for your back and neck before bed. Remember to keep your calves and hips both stretched since they can both contribute to back pain.
Everyone knows that hydration is important, especially when it is hot outside. But also remember that you should focus on hydration at higher elevations. Drinking alcohol may affect you more at high elevations than it does at home too. Dehydrating yourself through fun vacation activities can lead to cramping and muscle aches so set a timer on your phone and down the agua regularly.
If you’ve already been to physical therapy in the past, you likely have a few tools and techniques you use at home. Do your best to take those on the road with you. For example, grab that rubber band for stretching. It takes up almost no space and is weightless. Also, take along a tennis ball. Use it to roll out tight muscles against a wall or the ground. When seated, lean against the tennis ball for tight upper or lower back, or glute muscles. If you have a portable TENS unit, make sure to take extra batteries and electrode pads. Also, include your Biofreeze or Rock Sauce products and any braces you’ve been advised to wear.
Also, take advantage of idle time to loosen up and relax your muscles. Rotate your ankles and wrists, stretch your arm across your chest and gently tilt and rotate your head while confined to small spaces. When seated for a long time, sit up straight and press your hands into your knees while simultaneously lifting your knees for resistance.
If the hotel hot tub isn’t enough to soothe your aches and pains, make an appointment to see a physical therapist when you return so you can get on the road towards your next vacation.