Read More About the Author Here: Daniel Manas, PT
It’s officially summer time. Although we Texans have been enduring the heat a couple of months longer than much of the rest of the country, per usual. Still, there is hope for us all because school is out and it’s time to pack your bags and head to that long-awaited vacation spot! Whether you’re headed to the Bahamas, Disney World, Big Bend or the Big Apple, you’ll probably be enjoying your stay for a week or more. Vacations are meant to be relaxing and provide an outlet from the regular Monday to Friday grind, but how many of us return from vacation feeling more tired, exhausted, and in need of another getaway? Below are a few mindful and health-conscious ways to make the most of your time away this summer!
It goes without saying that planning ahead is key. However, there are a few things that are commonly overlooked when packing for a vacation. First, wear/pack proper shoes. Whether you’re walking through the airport on a travel day or touring a museum when you get where you’re going, you’re going to log quite a few steps. Having a quality, supportive pair of shoes is a simple way to avoid overstressing joints. Second, keep your bags light by avoiding excessive packing. Keep the load low on your back and shoulders with a light carry-on – think essentials only. (Keep in mind if you’re flying that you may be lifting this one into the overhead bins multiple times.)
Nailing Travel Day
Travel days can feel very long and exhausting; usually, this begins with an early flight or the quick scramble to finish loading the car for the road trip ahead. The rest of the day is filled with lugging around heavy bags, loading, and unloading into the car or overhead bin, and sitting in terminals or small seats with marginal leg room for hours at a time. We all know that between canceled flights, standstill traffic on the interstate and other unexpected delays…nothing ever seems to go as smoothly as planned. If I had a nickel for every conversation I had with a patient who attributed an increase in an ache or a pain due to recently returning from travel, I’d have a full piggy bank. Here are some tips on getting through travel day:
Be Well Rested
Getting a good night’s sleep the night before your travels can set the tone for your entire travel day. If you’re driving and feeling the effects of drowsiness, you’ll probably be downing caffeine from start to finish. And if you’re riding shotgun in the car or squeezing into a tiny airplane seat, there are limited places to lay your head for a rest. It’s all too easy to fall asleep in a position that can result in a crick.
Make sure to lift luggage using your whole body, not just your arms and back. Keep the item you are lifting as close to your center of gravity as you can for as much of the lift as possible. (Generally, this would be around your belly button). When beginning to move the bag or item away from your center of gravity, engage your legs by staggering your stance and implementing a weight shift from your back foot to the front foot to move the item. Lastly, if you have an injury or are worried about potentially injuring yourself trying to lift something, don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a flight attendant or friend.
Don’t sit longer than 30-45 minutes if you can avoid it. If you’re going on a long road trip, this can prove to be a hard rule to follow. Try to stop at least every hour and a half to stretch your legs and stretch. This will improve blood flow to the joints and muscles of your extremities and decrease hip flexor and hamstring shortening. If you’re flying, take advantage of your chance to move about the cabin when you see the “Fasten Seat Belt” light go off. If turbulence kicks in, you may not have another opportunity until you reach your destination.
Welcome To Paradise
Once you’ve arrived, it’s time to make the most of your much-awaited reprieve from the daily grind! Maximize your time each day by making a game plan and having an overall idea of what your daily activities will be. Plan as many activities that are in the same general area on the same day. This way, you can walk between some or all of the activities. Walking the area you are vacationing will provide a light form of exercise, time outdoors, and a chance to take in the scenery you could’ve missed otherwise.
It’s easy to overlook taking care of our bodies on vacation. We spend so much time squeezing as much fun as we can into each day, and so little time is spent ensuring that the trip is actually beneficial to our person. Diet is obviously a big part of this, but I want to touch on the exercise and rest aspects. Be sure your schedule allows for adequate downtime at some point each day. Take a cat nap, go relax at a park, or if you really want to go all out and treat yo’ self, book a massage at a nice spa! Balance this out with two to three days per week of moderate exercise at the hotel gym (or even in your room) along with daily morning and evening stretch routines (see below for examples). Leaving adequate space to take care of yourself while you explore a new city, hike the terrain, or take on Disney World with the kids will make all the difference in the overall outcome of your vacation this summer.
Disclaimer: If you are traveling with children of any age, they do not run out of energy and some of these methods (read: REST) may be a bit more challenging to implement.
Examples for Stretching Routines: