5 ways to combat travel tightness

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5 ways to combat travel tightness by Paul Smith

If you enjoy traveling as much as I do, you may know that with great travel comes great immobility. That is, after sitting in a car or on a plane for extended periods of time, it’s common to feel stiff and beat up the following day. Just as it’s important to stretch before and after a workout, it’s equally as important to re-elongate our muscles and joints after long days of travel. 

Why do we get sore after sitting for so long?

I’m not here to tell you that “sitting is the new smoking”, but I am here to affirm that a prolonged seated position can cause some discomfort. When we sit for multiple hours on end, our muscles both tighten and shorten. The main muscles affected by sitting are our hip flexors —  and when the hip flexors are tight, they pull on the lumbar vertebrae, bringing on the oft-experienced low back pain and stiffness. Sitting for many hours at a time also causes lymph and interstitial fluid to build up in the legs, making them swell — often causing some discomfort and, you guessed it, stiffness. 

So instead of falling victim to the anti-spacious airplane seat or compact car seat, take my hacks and tips with you as you travel, and don’t miss a day of adventuring:

5 ways to stay long and limber while travelling

  1. Bring a reusable water bottle with you on your travels, and be diligent about hydrating. Circulation in airplanes and cars have significantly less moisture/humidity in the air, which causes us to lose water a lot faster than we normally do. Try to drink 8-16oz every hour while you’re traveling. 
  2. When traveling, I institute a personal rule to stand and move every hour. Plan a pit stop on car rides, or walk the aisle of the airplane when food and drink service isn’t in session. Here are some stretch options you can employ on your stops and stands (do each for 1:00 per side): 
    1. Standing quad stretch
    2. Rear-foot elevated hip flexor stretch (think: put your food on a bench or bumper) 
    3. Standing chest stretch
    4. Folded shoulder/back stretch (fold forward to place your outstretched hands on a tabletop or hood and press your chest into the ground). 
  3. When I get to my destination, the first thing I do is 30 minutes of some monostructural/cardiovascular movement. If you’re checking into a hotel and the gym is still open, then spend that time on the treadmill and/or elliptical machine. If you don’t have access to a gym, then go for a walk or run in the neighborhood/area where you’re staying.
  4. I finish my quick cardio session with four yoga Sun Salutations, two slow and two fast, alternating leading with right and left leg. Sun Salutations are particularly good for post-travel tightness as they increase your heart rate, regulate your circulatory system, and can fill your body with fresh surges of oxygenated blood. 
  5. And finally, spend five minutes with your legs straight up against a wall or headboard. In doing so, you help re-circulate any fluid build-up in your legs. 

Who Worte this post...

Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Paul Kevin Smith has a M.Ed. degree in Kinesiology from U.T. Austin, and is a Level 2 certified provider of the Functional Movement Screen. His other certifications include ACSM Clinical Exercise Physiologist, ACE Health and Wellness Coach, PhysicalMind Institute Pilates Mat Work Instructor, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (500 hours), and IAYT Yoga Therapist.  Paul is an Adjunct Professor of Exercise Science and Student Development at Austin Community College, and also teaches yoga and Pilates classes and leads personal training sessions at BodyBusiness Fitness Club.

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