Do big travel days at the airport leave you feeling horrible? Does your lower back start to cry while your butt muscles tingle with impending numbness after hours on a plane? Do your shoulders ache from hauling around your carry-on all day?
Hopping on an airplane doesn’t have to hurt. While airlines certainly don’t offer the most comfortable, relaxing seats, there are a few ways you can thwart their punishing attack on your body. Here is a series of practices you can adopt to avoid post-flight soreness and injury.
Engage thy core.
Number-one-most-important: wake up your core. As soon as you can, do a dozen or so squats, marches and torso twists. Pull your belly button towards your spine to utilize and wake up the deep core muscles. If your core is not awake, there is no hope for any of your other muscles functioning properly. A sleeping core can lead to post-flight pain and even injury (especially the lower back). You’re still in the airport? Who cares? Isn’t it worth a few dozen strangers thinking you’re a weirdo in order to take care of your body and keep it strong and healthy?
Stretch those limbs.
We all need to stretch after long days of traveling. I don’t care if you’ve been in a plane, train or automobile, muscles are made to move. As soon as you can, take a short walk or indulge in a quick yoga practice to reduce stagnation in the body and improve circulation. Do some basic range-of-motion stretches. Resist the urge to collapse on the bed until after you’ve moved a little bit. Lunge, touch your toes, downward dog and arch to your body’s content.
Invest in a foam roller.
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes nowadays. Invest in a little travel roller that you can stick in your carry-on. When your flight lands and you are safely nestled in your nest for the evening, spend 10-20 minutes rolling out your cramped muscles, especially your lower back, glutes and thighs. A foam roller helps break up fascial adhesions (knots) and moves stagnant lymph that has pooled in your limbs, which reduces stiffness and soreness. Pretty impressive for a little foam cylinder.
Legs-up-the-wall exists for a reason. Try this restorative yoga pose after all your long travel days. By lifting your legs above your heart, it encourages better circulation and lymph flow in your lower half, which is especially important if you’ve been sitting all day. It also can elevate a poor mood and reduce headaches, two other common travel maladies.
Go for a soak.
If you are staying in a hotel, go for the hot tub. If you are with friends, family or at home, try to fit in an epsom salt soak. A hot soak can facilitate recovery, relax your muscles and even give you a better night of sleep. Bonus points if you hop into a cold, refreshing shower pre-bath to reduce inflammation.
Flying is dehydrating. Your body functions better when it is hydrated, so drink up. Proper hydration can actually increase your flexibility and reduce soreness while improving your mood! And you don’t have to stick to water exclusively. Try herbals teas, coconut water or refreshing fruits like watermelon to help you recover from that dry cabin air.
It never hurt anyone to rub their aching muscles with fine oils and salves after a flight. Whether you opt for good old arnica, tiger balm, coconut oil or your own luxurious concoction, rubbing down your muscles is a good self-care practice that will pay dividends when you wake up without soreness the next morning.
By: Jordyn Cormier