The big stage. Whether it’s your first time under the bright lights or your third, the next week is going to be a whirlwind. But first, you have to get there. Traveling is an often overlooked part of the experience but definitely affects your performance on race day. So don’t shortchange yourself by losing focus on this important part of your overall experience.
As you head out the door, remember all the hard work and dedication that you’ve put into getting your body in peak form for next week. Don’t change your good habits just because you are leaving home. Skip the fast food at the airport, stay hydrated throughout the day, and don’t let the many potential stressors mess with your mental focus and positive outlook.
Tip #1: Hydrate
The most important part of keeping your body primed to perform while traveling is staying hydrated. Bring a large, empty water bottle to fill up in the terminal once you pass security. Most flights do not offer nearly the amount of fluid you should be drinking to stay hydrated (2 small cups for a 6 hour flight!). Having a full bottle of water to drink on the plane will minimize your dehydration from flying. During your flight, the cabin pressure reaches the equivalent of about 6,900ft when the aircraft is cruising at 39,000ft. This means for however long you’re flying, your body is at an altitude equivalent to Colorado, losing water as vapor through each breath you exhale. Even with a large bottle in hand, remember to fill it up after you land to stay hydrated through the rest of your travel day.
Tip #2: Snack
Make sure to pack healthy snacks that you enjoy for your travel, such as apples, almonds, carrots, and bars. Unexpected delays on the flight can extend your travel time, so maintaining consistent blood sugar levels can help you overcome the fatigue from travel. Fast food at the airport, the small bags of peanuts, and other tempting but unhealthy options abound while traveling. If you’ve got your own healthy alternatives, it’s much easier to pass on the foods that can slow you down, both mentally and physically. And always be sure to wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizer before you eat as a way to minimize germ transfer on planes. Pro tip: Go to a local grocery store and purchase fruit that you can keep in the hotel and eat for a healthy snack. It’s an easy way to fuel up, and when you head out each day you can throw a couple pieces of fresh fruit in your bag for later on.
Tip #3: Carry It On
If you’re still packing your suits, goggles, and caps in your checked bag, you’re tempting fate. Losing a checked bag happens too often. To prevent this from distracting your focus during this critical week that you’ve worked so hard for, it is a good idea to keep your most vital necessities close by. Pack those key items in your carry-on so you have access to them at all times and don’t have to worry about them getting stuck somewhere along the way.
Tip #4: Stretch It Out
We recommend having a travel-sized foam roller or lacrosse ball with you for your travel and competition schedule. Due to the effects that long flights have on your body and muscle tissue, foam rolling is a fantastic way to keep your muscles loose and enhance blood circulation. Using a foam roller during a layover or waiting at the airport gate can postpone the stiffness that accompanies travel days. Even though you are saving your legs for the meet, walk around a little to promote circulation. Stretch out and restore blood flow to your legs by walking up and down the cabin. This will break up sitting in the compact airline seat for extended periods of time.
Here are a couple videos walking you through a stretching routine for travel days. The first video covers a series of 5 stretches that can be done while waiting at the gate for your flight.
If you have a layover on your travel day, bring your foam roller, as mentioned above, to avoid post-flight tightness that can develop from multiple long sessions on a plane. Here’s a combination of foam rolling exercises to target the areas of your body most impacted from sitting in a compact airline seat for an extended period of time.
Congratulations on being one of the select few to qualify for this meet and good luck as you start your journey!