Traveling is a pain in my….Back!!!
First, a quick refresher on who I am. I’m Michelle, Mrs. “Pizza In Motion”, mother of two and the family’s fitness guru. You can read more about me in my introduction post from last week. It’s time for my first post about how to stay healthy while on the road.
It’s been a whirlwind of summer travel for our family this summer and as much fun it has been to see new places it’s always nice to settle back home into a routine. Especially when it comes to addressing fitness and health. It’s easy to neglect those things when traveling. The biggest complaint I have is an achy back. Which made me think if this happens to me during my summer travel, imagine what it can do to those of you who cram yourselves into a plane each and every week.
Lets face it. Airplanes don’t offer healthy environments for anyone when you consider the recycled air, limited personal space, pressurized cabins causing dehydration and the added stress of travel in general. The body reacts and many times your back is the first to stand up and say, “I’ve had enough!”
Here are 3 quick tips to deal with that pesky back:
I know many of you take your seat on the plane (especially first and business class passengers) and immediately indulge in the complimentary glass of bubbly. I’m guilty! What a way to kick off your trip or relieve the stress of racing through the airport, knowing that you made it to your seat and managed to find enough overhead space to cram in your carry-on bag.
Indulge, you’ve earned it! But, if you indulge, do so but then follow up with at least 8 ounces of water. I know, I know…if you drink the water you’ll have to run to the lavatory and you never know when the next time you get that chance between the seat belt light remaining lit throughout your entire flight, the blocked aisle by the flight crew (serving, you guessed it, more beverages). Not to mention if you’re sitting in a window seat. Just assumed you’re screwed because the passenger in the aisle seat is asleep before take off. Climbing all 600+ steps to the Eiffel Tower would be easier than trying to vault into the aisle. Conquer all of that and the final obstacle is hoping that the remaining 300 passengers are not waiting to occupy the 2 bathrooms on a plane. Not doing a very good job convincing you, am I?
Yet, keeping your body hydrated, especially on a plane, is integral to keeping your muscles energized and to ward off fatigue and stiffness. Bingo! That stiffness causes your aching back. Not convinced of the importance of water? There are plenty of articles out there, like this one from WebMd with 6 good reasons to drink water.
If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ve been there before. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a pain in your back or your entire body. It can lead to poor posture; especially those techie people on their computers and other devices. It also can cause poor circulation of blood flow to your legs (hello swollen ankles!).
Researchers from the University of Indiana say that walking around 5 minutes every hour is key. On a plane, are you kidding? But consider at least standing or moving around once an hour. Even a little is better than nothing. Challenge yourself with a bathroom break or just standing up can add circulation to your legs and restore blood flow. It’s all connected. Happy legs equals a happy back. Another trick I often use is taking my trash or dirty plates to the flight crew. You’ll immediately get on their good side and they may even let you hang out for a few while they get you a fresh bottle of water.
I know, I know. With limited personal space, how is that going to happen? I am not telling you to roll out your yoga mat in the aisle and do a downward dog, as entertaining as that might be. But there are a few stretches that you can do right at your seat. Yes, your seat companions may think you’re strange, but hopefully you won’t see them again after the flight. Better yet, share your new-found knowledge and make a new friend.
It’s important to think of the spine in its many capable functions; flexion, extension, rotations and lateral flexion and extension. I lost you somewhere around rotations, right? My favorite yoga poses can be modified and be done directly from your seat (don’t worry flexibility isn’t necessary).
Begin by sitting tall with hands resting comfortably on your knees. Think of balloons attached to your head, as your hips remain anchored to your seat and shoulders stacked over your hips. At this moment, muscles in your back and core are firing. You’re working out and didn’t even know it. If you add a deep breath you have now added a chest expansion to you workout.
It’s now time to follow with a stretch (I refer to it as a modified Spine Stretch Forward, but you can call it that goofy thing Michelle has you do to feel better). Keep the image of a candy cane in your head as you lower your head, shoulders curl forward and you peel your spine bone by bone from the back of the seat keeping the low back straight.
Restack the spine starting at the bottom of your spine until you return to your original seat position. Repeat 5 more times. Need a deeper stretch? Lengthen your legs out straight under the seat in front of you while you repeat the steps above.
That’s It For Now
3 quick tips that should help you feel better on those long trips! Drink some more water and do a bit of walking and stretching to keep your back happy. I’m working on a longer post with a number of different stretches you can do to keep your back from going on strike.
I’m happy to answer questions about your specific travel health issues. Just leave a comment here or e-mail Ed if you’d rather not share with the rest of the world. His address is ed -at- milepoint dot com. We’ll have an e-mail address set up for me soon.