If sitting is the new smoking, sitting while traveling is the new heroin. When you travel, you are often tied to someone else’s itinerary which means you don’t have the ability to get up and move when you would like, you also don’t get to pick the type of seat you sit in which means that it’s almost guaranteed not to fit your body. Combined, these things make travel even worse than your day to day sitting. Fortunately, there are some strategies that you can use to make things better.
- Choose an aisle seat – this makes it much less obnoxious for you to get up and take a walk down the aisle when it is clear.
- Use a lumbar support – A rolled up jacket at the base of your rib cage on your back is an excellent way to take that airplane seat that makes you feel like a hunch back and restore some length to your lumbar spine and get your back into a more neutral position.
- If you can’t get up, at least try to shift your position every 20 minutes or so – Do a mini bridge in your chair and squeeze your glutes, straighten out your legs, cross one leg under your thigh, bend forward and touch your toes, etc. Shifting helps to keep your body from getting stiff.
- Bring a lacrosse ball and do some myofacial release – its amazing how many spots you can hit. (check out this video for some options)
- Invest in a pair of compression socks or tights – Compression will help your circulatory and lymphatic system work better especially when you can’t get up and move around as often as you want. Compression apparel will also help prevent swelling in the lower legs.
- Avoid dehydration with electrolyte enhanced water – Airplane travel dehydrates you, and even though it kills be to buy a $7 bottle of Smart water at the airport, I do because I would rather not feel like I’ve been mummified after a long flight.
- Vary your seating position – When you are driving you can’t do much about staying in one position but you can use the controls on your seat to periodically adjust your seating position. Play around with your back rest, lumbar support, and the tilt of your seat every 20 minutes to find as much of a new position as possible.
- Activate your muscles – At the gym we do an exercise called hooklying glute contractions where you lie on your back with your knees bent and activate your glutes without actually moving your pelvis. You can do this in the seated position, you can also bend and straighten your legs (with cruise control on!) as well as do ankle circles and point and flex.
- Utilize the rest stops and gas stops for movement – Don’t just get out of the car and stand at the pump while you fill up. Stretch, move, do some joint mobility, take a walk.
- Use your steering wheel to get your shoulders in the right position – shift from 10:00 and 2:00 to 9:00 and 3:00 and use the steering wheel to slightly pinch your shoulder blades together. Organizing your shoulders into the right positon will not only improve your shoulders but also your mid back and neck.
I am a huge advocate of joint mobility post travel. It is the best way for me to break up the stiff chair-bound muscles and gently get my body back moving. Need some ideas for joint mobility? Check out this video.