For most of us, it’s been quite a long time since we’ve had the chance to travel. As you begin to plan your first new adventures, it’s more important than ever to also be conscious your health when you’re on the road (or in the air). Seeking some tips on wellbeing while in transit, we turned to Damian Roden, Senior Director of Sports Science at Minnesota United in the MLS.
Damian is one of the most experienced and well-respected performance coaches to emerge from the English Premier League and is an expert on keeping players fighting fit despite busy travel schedules and intensive training. His strategies for athlete recovery can also be applied to travel as disrupted sleep, meals and activity levels can wreak havoc on your health and vacation plans.
Although it’s easy to eat poorly whilst on holiday, remember nutrition is key to refuelling, repairing and rehydrating after a long flight or after a long day of sightseeing.
Damian suggests a recovery drink (like Phizz!) to quickly and easily rehydrate after time in a dry airplane cabin, even when your appetite may be suppressed from jetlag.
As always, it’s important to consume balanced meals, including “carbohydrates to help refuel, protein to help repair damaged muscles, fruit & vegetables to counteract muscle damage, essential fats to reduce inflammation and fluids to rehydrate.”
While you might be tired, it’s still important to get moving to allow your body to recover from the flight.
Damian says this can be as simple as a light jog to elevate your heart rate and increase blood flow. This is great alongside some simple stretching and mobility exercises to accelerate recover.
And don’t forget the hotel pool! This is an easy (and fun!) holiday friendly exercise that offers some additional benefits.
“Immersion in water helps the body to produce ‘endorphins’ that enhance mood and wellbeing and the pressure of the water increases circulation from the ankles back to the heart to help remove metabolic waste.”
“Sleep is arguably the single most important strategy to master not only to help the body recover but to help the body improve,” says Damian.
This can be a challenge while travelling as our sleep is controlled by our circadian rhythm. As this is affected by dark and light, jetlag presents a major hurdle. To aid in resetting your body clock, Damian has a few tricks for reducing melatonin-inhibiting barriers to sleep. These include avoiding screens, dimming hotel room lights and wearing sunglasses a few hours before bed.
And about that holiday cocktail? It may sound like a great way to fall sleep, but in reality, you might want to be a bit more careful if you’re feeling tired.
“There are a lot of false claims that alcohol is good for sleep because it makes you feel drowsy, but it is completely counter-productive to good quality sleep. Similar to a heavy meal in the period before sleep alcohol forces your body to start working to process the alcohol instead of on repair and recovery and also increases blood pressure.”
And finally, temperature is another culprit that commonly breaks our sleep cycle in an unfamiliar environment. Damian suggests opening the window for 10 minutes before bed to air the room and setting the thermostat to 19 degrees. He recommends that his players wear dry-fit garments to help regulate and maintain a consistent body temperature. So go ahead, pack some extra gym kit for your next trip!
Want to learn more? Damian’s book, Fit for Every Game is available for purchase now on his website.