Monday, January 30, 2023

Top tips for recovering from a long flight

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No matter how much you enjoyed seeing your family across the country for the holidays, traveling can be exhausting. It was especially stressful the past few days for Southwest passengers stranded by thousands of canceled flights.

When we travel, “there are two stresses on the body: one physical, one psychological,” said Tim Roberts, vice president of science and innovation for Therabody. We struggle with uncomfortable seats, juggle flight schedules and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic – often ending up with backaches and frayed nerves.

Our bodies don’t accept being stationary for hours at a time – or at least mine didn’t after six and a half hours on I-95 during the Christmas drive from DC to New York.

Usually what makes me feel better is a hot shower, a hot meal and a run if I’m feeling ambitious. We asked travel and wellness experts for their best tips for easing the burden of a long day of travel.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Travel, especially by plane, can be dehydrating. “Standard airplanes are about as dry as the Atacama Desert and with the oxygen of an 8,000-foot mountain,” said Jonathan Alder, owner of luxury travel company Jonathan’s Travels.

To combat this, start hydrating before your trip as well, then during and after the day of your trip.

If you’re flying, drink at least 12 ounces of water every hour, recommends Jordan Crofton, a nurse practitioner and director of patient health at Well. She also adds electrolytes to her water.

What you not drink matters too. Neha Deol, nutrition practitioner at I Am Health, says travelers should avoid fizzy drinks, alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee. Alcohol is not only dehydrating, but it can disrupt your sleep schedule, says Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist and co-founder of Ready State.

If you need an energy boost, Deol says green tea will do the trick; it is less dehydrating.

Likewise, doctor and author Fred Pescatore says to stay away from salty and sugary foods.

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If you’re not napping, stay engaged

Boredom is a trigger for travel burnout, says mindfulness instructor Linda Price of Minding Your Mind, a mental health education nonprofit. Lack of movement and mental stimulation, as in long periods of waiting while traveling, is tiring.

Price recommends listening to music, audiobooks and podcasts if you’re driving or reading, doing crosswords, word searches or Sudoku if you’re on a plane.

With their 17-hour flights to the United States, Air New Zealand staff are well prepared for long days of travel. In addition to hydration, airline spokeswoman Leanne Geraghty says in-flight exercise is crucial to your travel well-being.

If you need some in-flight exercise inspiration, I followed these tips on an international trip this year and felt much less sore when I landed.

For travelers on the road, take regular breaks to stretch your legs, says Deol. One of her favorite stretches is to balance on one leg while pulling the other knee to her chest, then switch sides. (Bonus points if you can rise to the balls of your feet in a standing position.) Repeat three to four times, focusing on deep breathing to slow your heart rate and improve your circulation.

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After a few hours of slow sitting, moving your body can give you a second wind. Starrett tells clients to treat their first day in the field as an active recovery day. Keep your exercise light with activities like stretching and walking.

Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton gets similar results with a run. “It’s the best way to program in the new time zone and free up energy from being on the plane,” he said.

I love running, but I’m also a fan of the gym and local workouts. Sweating in a Muay Thai class in Bangkok or trying gyms in Marrakesh was a way to get to know a new place and feel like a new person.

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While you’re moving, try grounding (being barefoot outside). Deol says walking barefoot on sand or grass can help reduce inflammation and help you feel energized.

Just being outside is ideal for clearing your head after being stuck on a plane, says Sebastien Maingourd, regional manager of Le Barthélemy Hotel and Spa in the French West Indies. He tells guests to take a walk or a quick swim to feel rejuvenated.

Refuel with something satisfying or healthy

Especially if he’s traveling with his family, Thornton prioritizes finding a good local meal once he lands. “When we arrived in Rome this summer, the first thing we did was leave our things and look for amazing pasta and gelato,” he said.

But don’t forget your fruits and vegetables. Janice Johnston, chief medical officer of Redirect Health, encourages travelers to make it a priority to eat vitamin-rich foods throughout their trip to boost energy levels.

After a serious time zone change, “I like to take a nap,” said Kristal Hicks of Top Tier Travel Group. Even if you’re someone who can sleep on planes, a proper nap in bed feels more restful because you can stretch your body, Hicks said. Experts also suggest looking for the right light at the right time and expanding your circadian rhythm to combat jet lag.

For a better nap (and later sleep), Custom Jet Charters chief operating officer Benoit Ugeux says to pack your own pillow from home.

The Complete Guide to Overcoming Jet Lag

Sometimes all I need is a shower to feel whole again after a long day of travel. Roberts feels the same way. “Even if you don’t have much time between your trip and what you have planned for the rest of the day, jump in the shower,” he said.

Braver souls can take Crofton’s tip and try boosting their mood with cold therapy — either by plunging into cold water or taking a 30-second cold shower.

Not in a hurry? Treat yourself to a steam bath to hydrate the skin and open the airways, recommends Andreas Magnus, general manager of Switzerland’s Kempinski Palace Engelberg resort. Prepare a bowl of hot water, then rest your face over the bowl and cover your head with a towel. (If you have it, add some Himalayan salt and eucalyptus oil.)

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Your body has been slumped in an uncomfortable seat for hours. Exercise a professional massage your joints, aches and pains.

Vincent Parinaud, general manager of the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in France, says his first choice would be a Balinese-style massage. that combines deep tissue techniques and light stretching, or recommends a general back and shoulder massage to focus on back pain and circulation. I don’t have the budget for a luxury spa treatment, so I will be looking for more affordable reflexology massage businesses.

Or you can massage yourself. Starrett has his athlete clients travel with a Hyperice Hypersphere or Hypervolt Go 2 to work on their tissues, and of course, Roberts’ choice is the Therabody massagers.

The most elite recovery move: Don’t rush back into your normal routine. Although we want to make the most of our travels, you’ll thank yourself for sacrificing a day off to catch up before real life starts again.

“Even on a relaxing vacation, being out of your comfort zone for several days and around so many people can be tiring – at least for me,” wrote Rachel Orr vouching for the days of safety. “Think of it as a mini-staycation at the end of your vacation.”

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