I began traveling for work in 2018. Over the course of last year I took more flights in a single year than in all my previous years combined. The experience and opportunity have been incredible, though I quickly realized the toll that flying has on my body. After my first trip consisting of a flight, two Uber rides, and time sitting in the airport before my flights, I already could feel my body tightening up. After two months I knew I had to make a more significant effort to make some changes.
I’ve already posted on how I manage my mobility/ flexibility routine around travel, so today I would like to share more about how I try to stay mobile while I’m actually on the plane. For starters, I pick a window seat 90% of the time. I am unable to sleep on the plane (so unfortunate!) so I prefer to have the easier access to the aisle. Here are some of my other strategies:
1) Before the flight attendants turn the fasten seatbelt sign on, I jump into the aisle and do a few quadricep stretches
2) During the flight, every 30 min I work in a few stretches/ mobility exercises for my thoracic spine. I like seated cat/ cow, side bend stretches, and seated rotations. These are featured on our Episode 6. It’s easy to stretch while you are reading or watching a movie for those of you who like to multitask.
3) I bring a tennis or lacrosse ball to work on mobilizing the bottoms of my feet and to place between my shoulder blades to work on thoracic extension.
4) Hydrate! Your body needs water to function properly. Flying can dehydrate you, so for the health of your orthopedic system, grab water before you get on the flight.
5) Following up on #4, I make a point to get up about once an hour to use the restroom. This is mostly so I can get up out of my chair, and I pick the one furthest away from my seat. Before sitting back down, catch a few more quick stretches in the aisle.
6) I have many asymmetrical sitting patterns that I try to be mindful of when I sit. I tend to sit rotated to the left and I will cross my right leg over my left. I’m already up in the 20s for flight count this year, so the detriments of these asymmetrical patterns will build up over time!
7) Relax! Holding tension in your body is not good for your muscular system. I tend to hold tension in my jaw, upper traps, and hip flexors. When I first started traveling I worked constantly on the plane, which I believe contributed to some tough first months. Now, I pay attention to how I’m feeling. If I’m rested and have already been to yoga, I will work for an hour then take a break and relax. If I’m not, I will spend the whole plane ride reading or watching movies while trying to stay relaxed.
Traveling is hard but there are solutions to help make it easier on your orthopedic system. If you have any other strategies for staying mobile on the plane, let us know!