My favorite things to do when I travel are eat and meet people. I’m also a sucker for a great view. That being said, when I come home from traveling or even visiting family in another state, I want to feel relaxed, composed, and energized. This is hard to accomplish if I’m feeling sluggish, bloated, and sleep deprived. Over the years I’ve found that bringing a little intention to how I treat myself when I travel greatly enhances my experience.
Due to the nature of my job, I also get to hear about vacation woes from many of clients:
“I always feel exhausted when I get back from a trip”.
“I can never go #2 when I’m traveling”.
“I gain weight when I travel”.
“My body is in pain after I fly”.
The three areas I put focus on while I travel are:
Food, Stress, and Activity Level
Water is also important in kidney function, blood pressure, and energy levels. It also makes your skin look great. I think I can stop here. The point is to drink water. Water is not soda, diet soda drinks, coffee, beer. Buying bottled water can be expensive and let’s face it, we don’t need any more plastic bottles in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Instead, just bring your own bottle. You can fill up at many airports. I also fill up at my hotel and various places I come across as I travel. 16-20oz is a good size and I make it a goal to fill it up and empty it 3x daily.
2. Intermittent Fasting
If you’re new to Intermittent Fasting, there’s quite a lot to unpack here. It’s also best to keep in mind that nutrition is still a new and developing field. Many universities are still teaching nutritional concepts there were developed in the 1970s. It is worth noting that a study in the NCBI boasts that intermittent fasting can increase the instance of growth hormones in the body. Growth hormones are what is responsible for fat burning and muscle gain. The same study boasts that short term fasting removes waste material from cells. A study put out by Harvard says that IT is really just about limiting caloric intake. The research and claims go on and on. However, the bottom line is that it works can be an effective tool.
I have a difficult time fasting while I’m at work due to the nature of my job and regular activity level. However, when I’m on the East Coast or abroad I find that IT is much more helpful and achievable for a couple of reasons. The first being that when I’m traveling, I’ll naturally be eating out for most, if not all of my meals. This means that portion control and ingredient selection can be more difficult. It also means that eating three full meals can weigh me down and make me feel bloated. If I fast from 8PM to 10/11AM, I’m able to fully digest my larger meals and take time to hydrate. Plus, when I travel it allows me to hit up a local coffee spot in the AM (black coffee doesn’t break the fast) and make a plan for the day.
With that being said, if you’re new to Intermittent Fasting, you’ll want to consult a professional. The ideal period of fasting can differ based on your gender, age, activity level, and hormone levels. So, if you’re newb, I would definitely recommend seeking guidance on it first!
3. Bringing snacks
I’ll pack my favorite snack bars, bring nuts, or buy some fruit. That way when hunger strikes, I’m not forced to make a bad decision, like purchasing food on an airplane.
4. Communicate with your travel buds
It’s best to communicate how many times you’re down to get pizza while you’re in New York. Or if you share meals that you’re seeking some healthy sides. Traveling is a wonderful way to experience new foods and culture, so being open to eating new things but selecting some veggie rich meals can help find balance.
This one may sound trivial. But warrants a #5 on my list.
6. Make time for work if you have to
As much as we all need time away from our daily activities of work and career, for some it can be more stressful not to work that to spend a couple of dedicated hours on work. Instead of letting it bubble up under my skin, I’ll pick out a local cafe to pop over for coffee (helps with the Intermittent Fasting) and do an hour or two of work before heading off to spend time with loved ones or go sightseeing. These few hours that I spend help me put my business in perspective and help me come back with a fresh approach and outlook.
7. Take time for self reflection or meditation
Typically of you’re on holiday, you don’t have a real schedule. That means if you take three minutes in the morning to try not to think about anything, you might be better for it. Of course there are lots of apps out there that are super useful in getting you into the meditative mode, I am a huge fan of binaural beats. They even have decent playlists on Spotify for meditation purposes.
8. Select Hotels with gyms.
Working out at local gyms is a fun and typically educational experience. Most gyms that allow drop in clients have a community vibe and members will typically try to point you in the right direction when it comes to local experiences. However, finding a gym and then getting onto the right transit to get there can be overwhelming and stressful. Making sure there is a gym in or close to where you’re staying can give you some options to work with, even if it means working out solo.
9. Bring exercise bands with you.
I’m a huge fan of bringing a couple exercise bands with me. Especially when visiting family or just being in a new place, the day’s plan can take over quickly and you’re left with too many rest days in a row.
Typically I’ll bring one band for my upper body and one for my lower body. I also bring some lacrosse balls, especially to roll out my t-spine after sitting in the plane or car all day.
Use sightseeing as a means for exercise. Walk halfway before you call a cab or schedule a hike. People often think that they really have to get their blood pumping in order for exercise to be effective, but that’s simply not true. Typical exercise works the larger vessels of the heart while walking works the smaller, collateral vessels.
An article from Harvard Health suggests that:
“Exercise dramatically increases blood flow through the coronary arteries. The inner lining of the arteries responds to this "stress" much as it does to the stress of atherosclerosis, by stimulating collateral blood vessels to elongate, widen, and form new connections.”
So remember as you walk around the streets of your vacation destination, that it is not only good for your soul, but for the physical vessels of your heart organ.
11. Support your spine!
It is important to use these supports before you start to feel pain or discomfort. The idea is to maintain the natural curves of the spine. The spine has three natural and healthy curves in it. However, when you sit in a plane and most automobiles these curves quickly vanish and a more C-shaped spine takes hold. Not to mention that most vehicle seats are made to protect humans in the event of a crash or accident, not to prevent their spines from degenerating. The trick to maintaining the lumbar or low back curve is to use a lumbar support. This can come in the shape of simple pillow or can even be a rolled up sweatshirt or blanket. Neck support on the other hand can be pretty difficult to achieve. However if you maintain your lumbar spine in a good position then your neck has a fighting chance. Using a neck pillow when sleeping upright can also help a little, but you have to understand that your neck is still just hanging there..which is not so great for the vertebra. The best way to combat neck stiffness from flying is to stretch your neck muscles.
So there you have 11 intentional travel tips to help ward off inflammation, stress, and fatigue. Pick one that resonates with you, travel safe, and enjoy your time wherever you go!
I am a Sports Chiropractor in San Francisco. My posts reflect some of the day to day interactions and questions from patients, clients, and coaches. I strive to empower people through injury rehab & sports performance to lead healthy, productive lives.