*Remember, this is just advice from a well-travelled physiotherapist who stays healthy while on the road. It isn’t meant to replace medical advice*
No one will deny that having a trip on the horizon is an exciting time. As anticipation builds, this stage can sometimes even exceed the emotions of the actual trip. At the same time, however, the few weeks before a trip can also be a very busy time as we scramble to check off our bottomless to-do list. These bad stress levels can even run the risk of outnumbering the good ones, leaving us rundown and at an increased risk of getting sick. But…there are things we can do to increase our chances of staying healthy before and during our trip. They may seem pretty obvious but they also very easily go by the wayside when time is not on our side.
Mindfulness is not a dirty word
As your trip nears, I encourage you to make the effort to find the time daily to pause and acknowledge the positive emotions that this pre-departure time brings. Research has even said that this period may result in more happiness than the vacation itself. Take the time to break away from the stress-inducing preparation activities and instead prep by watching a movie or reading a book that is set in the destination you’ll be travelling to. Or meet with friends or family members to talk about your upcoming trip and the excitement it’s bringing.
Recognize when you’re trying to do too much or when your emotions or behaviours are signalling for you to slow down. It’s never worth putting your health at risk by ignoring your stress levels. Plus, being mindful prior to your trip may also translate to being mindful during your trip. Hooray!
Prioritize your trip to-do list
Maybe it’s just me but the last few days before take-off always seem to involve me running around waaaay against the clock. But truthfully, it’s probably because I haven’t taken the time to prioritize what I really need to do before leaving versus what can be saved for later, or completely taken off the list, for that matter. I mean, does it really matter if I don’t buy that new dress or new bikini before I leave? It may be hard to say, “well, no, it doesn’t” but it’s the honest truth, isn’t it?
A list of must-do tasks in order of importance may be helpful in keeping less important pre-trip tasks from taking up your valuable time. Getting started a few weeks beforehand may also be a good idea (now to listen to my own advice!). I also find getting out of my own head and talking to family and friends about my to-do list can shed some much needed light on how to tackle preparing for a trip.
Exercise - every little bit does count
Two or three weeks, or even a month before your trip, is probably not the best time to start up a brand new exercise routine, especially one that involves you exercising at an intensity you’re not used to (save that HIIT class for your return). And really, that’s not what’s necessary to stay healthy anyway - it may actually do the opposite initially.
If you’re a regular exerciser, continue your regular routine as consistently as possible. Exercise is a great immune-booster so keeping it in your schedule works so much in your favour. If you exercise sporadically, try to be more consistent. Remember, regular exercise is not only beneficial for the health of your immune system, but it may also help you tackle jet-lag - and who doesn’t want to bounce right back after a long flight to get out and explore as soon as possible?
And if the word exercise isn’t even in your vocabulary (shame on you!), then I would recommend starting something gentle, like a daily walk. Oh, and stairs instead of the escalator? Always a good idea!
Water - hydration is not over-rated
This is a perfect time to invest in a reusable water bottle and practice using it. Take it to work, grocery shopping, out for coffee, wherever. Try to get into a habit of carrying it with you to get the adequate amount of water into your system. Why? Because water makes up a huge chunk of your body and is necessary for proper digestion, circulation, muscle function and better looking skin, amongst a ton of other functions.
Once you get through security, fill that bottle right up and get hydrating. And if you’re worried about having to use the airplane bathroom? Well, this physio can’t deny that it’s advisable to get up often from a seated position so it may as well be the urge to use the facilities that reminds you to do so.
Diet - staying on track
Even the best of us fall off track with good eating habits when on holiday. Here are a few tips to stay on track as your trip nears:
Make a meal schedule for the 2 weeks before departure, when you’re likely to skip meals or replace them with less than ideal choices.
Turn your drink or dinner catch ups with friends into walks in the park (or surfs at the beach) instead
Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake to keep your hydration levels high - try decaf or lower alcoholic drinks if going cold-turkey sounds way out of the park
Sleep - staying consistent
A recent podcast I listened to talked about how sleep is the closest thing we have to a miracle cure to many of our current day health problems. I couldn’t agree more. Not only is it free and can be done just about anywhere, it’s necessary for just about everything that our bodies do for us. Yet, we often don’t allow it the opportunity to help us like it can - ignoring our need for it and shrugging it off like it’s something we can do when we’re dead. Since we’re all guilty of not giving sleep the credit it deserves and not using it to our advantage, I challenge you to a regular sleep routine for at least the 2 weeks prior to your next major trip:
Go to bed at the same time everyday (yes, even on the weekend)
Wake up at the same time every morning (yup, even on the weekend)
Keep your phone out of the bedroom (get a different alarm clock!) morning and night
Have at least a half-hour of unwinding time prior to going to bed (not involving your phone)
Here’s to a lifetime of healthy travel! Bon voyage!
Do you have any special tips for staying healthy before and during your travels? Share them with us below in the comments.
For when you arrive at your destination: