I thought I’d kick off my writing for Men’s Physique dot com by discussing a topic that I know all too well, because it is the story of my life…my ‘Day Job’ if you will – the one that pays the real bills:
How to stay fit & healthy during air travel!
I truly believe I’m qualified to offer some useful tips to you since besides being a fitness model (with over 20 covers to include Men’s Health) I’m also an airline pilot. I’m a Captain for JetBlue Airways and have been flying commercially for almost 10 years and was a navy pilot prior to that. Okay so enough about me, but I figured it was necessary to establish my background to validate my experience with staying fit while traveling.
My suitcase literally never really gets unpacked and remains on a luggage rack in my bedroom ‘staged’ for unloading & re-loading in between my flights. I fly about 3 to 4 days per week, meaning I’m gone for the 24 hour period, thus laying over in plenty of hotels.
Let’s start with some staple (fitness) items that are always in my luggage:
*None of the food items require refrigeration and I can just forget about them in my suitcase for weeks at a time. So that’s some of what I bring on the road – not too much!
Because basically it comes down to this mentality, and I always say this: You need to be able to work out any TIME, any WHERE, with any THING…most importantly using only your own body weight. While many hotels do have fitness centers now, some even with free-weights, the reality is you never know what you’re going to find, so you need to prepared for the worst case scenario, which is the hotel has absolutely nothing!
This McGiver, impromptu, travel-workout mentality has an upside & even some benefits to your training (non) plan however: It shakes things up & gets you out of your training rut; it adds to ‘Muscle Confusion’ which is all the rage right now; it helps you evolve past your ‘gym-rat’ stage and onto higher-consciousness & hyper-awareness about your body & holistic-health. What’s more, you learn to train smarter & truly make each workout count. You may not think so, but for any body part or muscle group, you can come up with a bodyweight-only, exercise variation to target it effectively, right in the confines of your hotel room if need be. I’m dead serious! And don’t forget you will always have access to the stairwell where you can manage a HIIT cardio workout and usually find a sturdy beam or pipe to do pull-ups on, or wrap your resistance-band around. You can even do bodyweight plyometrics & jumps in your room if you have too. Course you may piss of your neighbors.
When it comes to eating & nutrition, it’s kind of the same mentality: you make do with what you have. Meaning, no matter how lousy the food-choices you have available to you, assuming you didn’t pre-pack your own, there will always be a BETTER choice of the options presented. Most of us have enough common sense to figure out which food item is healthier of the all the available options, and that is where self-discipline comes into play. But even if you absolutely have nothing healthy to choose from, keep in mind that one day of lousy eating or over-indulging will literally make ZERO difference in your overall net body composition, so let it go and move on. Don’t obsess too much –it’s not worth it and your travel mates or work colleagues might think you’re an OCD freak. Traveling is stressful enough as it is.
With glob-trotting & jet-setting also comes circadian rhythm disruption and jet-LAG. No fun! Coping with changing time zones is not as simple as just getting horizontal for 8 hours & closing your eyes. Your sleep-wake cycle hormones are still set to your home time zone and will take a few days to re-synch…thus the jet lag! Strategic use of natural sunlight exposure and coffee/caffeine and timing your workouts can all help you adjust more quickly to your new time zone…but then it’s time to go home again! Never under estimate the restorative powers of a NAP either!
Don’t forget flying is also very dehydrating too! The cabin air is extremely dry with almost no humidity. Obviously drink plenty of water while at cruise altitude. Getting up from your seat during long Transcon flights & stretching out will also help you tremendously by: moving lymphatic fluid; preventing blood & other fluid from pooling in your legs; lowering risk of clot formation; lowering risk of hemorrhoids & constipation; and most of all will give your lower-back & lumbar spine a nice break from the destructive sitting posture, helping to prevent back spasm attacks the next day. Consider using a pillow, your jacket or even a rolled up magazine placed between your low-back & seat for lumbar support.
I’m happy to report that contrary to urban legend, commercial airplane air is not as nearly as dirty as ‘they’ say, is only 50% re-circulated cabin air (the rest is fresh from outside thru engine bleed air valves) and is scrubbed thru HEPA filters. Also pathogens rarely become airborne or spread via air (unless somebody sneezes near you) so you’re safe there. Most pathogen & virus exposure occurs through direct contact of a contaminated surface with your hands so be sure to pack some sanitary, anti-bacterial wipes or gels! And don’t forget ear plugs & an eye-mask, and even consider noise-cancellation headsets too, to make sleeping on the plane more feasible. I do NOT EVER recommend taking sleeping pills or muscle-relaxers before your flight in attempt to sleep the entire way! BAD NEWS for so many reasons!
Well hopefully I’ve just made your travel experience a little more pleasant next time you depart and also eliminated all of your excuses as to why you think you can’t stay fit on the road. I do – it’s my way of life and I’ve had to adapt and you can too!
Airbus 320 Captain
Fitness Model & Professional & Holistic Health Advocate