How to beat jet lag?
Sitting at the airport this week on my way to Glasgow to ply my trade at the Commonwealth Games got me thinking. What are some easy things that everyone could and should do to decrease jet lag and minimize muscle dysfunction?
So I am going to let you in on the five best things to help you beat frequent flyer syndrome. And yes, and am going to get you stretching out in front of perfect strangers!
There are three major problems which we need to address:
1. Tight muscles and postural pain
Sitting for long periods, leads to certain muscles getting tight and annoyed and other muscles being stretched out and switched off. Your hip flexors are a big one for getting short and tight from prolonged sitting – imagine couple of giant pegs bunching up the skin at the front of your hips, your hip flexor muscles tightening up has a similar effect. This leads to you being stuck hunched over and compensating by arching your back more = sore back.
The muscles that tend to get tight and switched off and (not surprisingly) the opposite muscles – your gluts and hamstrings. Yip, these poor suckers and stretching out and un-used for hours on end, leaving you weak and out of sync.
2. Poor circulation
Again, sitting for hours on end can do terrible things to you and in this case, it leads to poor circulation and your blood giving in to gravity. Normally your muscle help pump blood back up to your heart (veins travel up through muscle in a lot of places, so when the muscle contract, they squeeze the veins and form a muscle pump), but when you don’t use your muscles, i’m sure you can imagine what happens – this is why a lot of people need to wear compression garments when flying to prevent blood clots, DVT and swollen ankles.
This is a problem for everyone, not just the elderly.
The air conditioning in planes dehydrates you faster than normal. Combine this with a warped sense of time and often free beverages (alcohol is a diuretic – makes you pee more!), you can get dehydrated fast! This is a big contributor to giving you that jet lagged feeling. These all combine to make you feel tight, uncomfortable and out of sync during and long, long after your flight.
So, what are these five exercises then?
1. Calf pumping in-flight.
Keep your muscle pump working by paddling your feet up and down every 10-20 minutes. You can also try scrunching your toes up like soldiers often do when standing to attention for long periods to prevent collapse. Although this does not always work! Do this little and often.
2. Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more.
Too much i hear, “but i will have to get up and use the toilet” or even “I’m scared I’ll get sucked down the toilet!”. The way i look at it, having to get up and go to the loo means bonus exercise, helping prevent points 1 and 2 above!
Generally speaking, aim to drink double what you normally would – especially athletes.
And no, you won’t get sucked down.
Hold for 30sec at least
As shown in the picture here, having your elbows at different heights targets different muscle fibers, so do what feels best for you. You can also do this with one arm of course, just step forward with your inside foot and turn away to place the stretch on.
Do 2 x sets of 10, making sure to activate your gluts. – if you don’t want to get down on the ground, some squats can really be great for getting by our posterior chain firing again. Do 10 bum to chair squats, where your bum, just touches the chair and up again:
Note athletes: Wearing compression garments will really help minimize the effects of flying, especially if you are competing in the next 1-2 days.