This morning I am heading to Houston to visit some Family. It has been a while since I took a direct flight to an American City (usually when travelling back and forth from Boston it was all indirect flights) and I began to recall all the amazing opportunities to travel all around the world to play basketball. However, it was a bittersweet moment as I recalled moments when travelling really far in which I did not even perform close to my best because my body was reeling from the negative effects of travelling or even worse I became ill. So how can you counteract the negative effects of travelling to help prevent illness or just subpar functioning that would impeded you from being at your best on competition day? Below are four key factors to keep in mind while travelling.
1. Water – The importance of hydration is something that gets stressed at nauseam throughout the athletic community. However, remember common knowledge does NOT mean common action. It’s not good enough to know better, one must do better. So what are some practical tips you can implement while travelling to ensure you are properly hydrated?
a). Be extra wary of sugary drinks (orange juice for example. There will be a future post on the myths of how “healthy” OJ really is), coffee, and alcohol as they sap you body’s water stores. Always ask for water when the stewardess asks you for a drink. (preferably hot for reasons I discussed in a previous post.)
b). Bring an empty water bottle with you and as soon as it is safe and your allowed to do so (please do NOT get up when the seat belt sign is on and make us both look bad) and ask the stewardess to top up your water bottle with refreshing pure water.
2. Ear Plugs and Eye Mask – This is a really underrated hack one can make that will drastically decrease the negative impact of travelling. So why would an eye mask and ear plugs help you?
Well have any of you slept for hours on a plan and felt not rested at all? I know I have. The primary reason is that there is too much ambient light. Remember all the photoreceptors all over your body. If while your trying to sleep your photoreceptors are detecting light, your body will decrease the release of melatonin (to simplify you can think of it as the sleep hormone) and therefore drastically decrease your sleep quality.
So what about the ear plugs? Airplanes are very noisy, especially if you are seated towards the rear of the plane as I usually am as usually purchase my flights using air miles. You may not consciously notice how exhausting the excessive ambient noise in the airplane is. But once I began using ear plugs I noticed a drastic difference in my energy levels after flights, and if I forgot my ear plugs I felt just wiped out after even a relatively short flight.
3. Leverage the Power of Light to regulate your circadian rhythm – Have you ever had an experience in which you were physically tired, its bed-time and your laying in bed, and you just can’t sleep? You can blame your circadian rhythm for being out of whack. Jet Lag and all the host of negative side effects that accompany travelling are almost all due to de-regulation of your body’s intricate circadian rhythm. It is impossible to avoid any disruption to your circadian rhythm during travelling but leveraging the power of light can mitigate the negative effects one may experience during travelling. So how can you use light to do this?
a) Ensure that before, during, and after the fight you get as much sunlight exposure as possible as this will help re-set and regulate your circadian rhythm. Geek Alert: Even though your eyes have the highest density of photoreceptors (sensory receptors that are sensitive to light) in your body and light reaching your eye will have the strongest impact on your circadian rhythm. However, light reaching any part of your body will help to regulate your circadian rhythm. This may seem counterintuitive, but remember skin anywhere on your body can produce Vitamin D from the Sun Rays. How can it do that? It has to have photoreceptors!
b) Use of the Phillips Blue Light – This is a tool that I have used for the last year and a half and it has been absolutely essentially for allowing me to reach my full potential in all areas of my life. It is especially helpful for me during the winter months in Vancouver, in which you can go days without seeing the Sun. This is also especially helpful for travellers who have a really early flight and have to get up when it is pitch black. The lack of light really confuses your body’s circadian rhythm and it gets really confused. The Phillips blue light will help to drastically reduce the damage. To catch my flight to Houston today I needed to get up at 5am and it was pitch black. I did not feel too great when I woke up but after the use of the Phillips Blue Light I felt like a million bucks.
4. Move- This is one of the simplest recommendations and is free and requires absolutely nothing but yourself. Walking is a form of exercise that I love and I have detailed the positive effects on your body composition here. There are a whole host of other reasons why movement is so important, such as improved blood circulation, movement of lymphatic material, and stimulation of brain. I could go on for days extolling the benefits of movement, but that is for another post. I implore you to just try every 30-60 min get up and stand up, walk up and down the aisles and see if you have some space to get some stretches in. I know when I am disciplined and make a concerted effort to move around during the flight both my body and my mind feel 100% better than if I do not.
So there you have it, some actionable items one can take to drastically improve how they travel. Allowing you to mitigate the negative effects of travel, therefore allowing you to perform at your peak wherever in the world you are competing.