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Destination Thailand: A Healthy Honeymoon? (Part 1)

September 17, 2012
Kayaking in Railay Bay

Kayaking in Railay Bay

Howdy everyone, I just returned from beautiful (and sometimes rainy) Thailand!  Two weeks of amazing fun with the woman that I love, and am now married to!  We spent one week trekking around, exploring a friendly, welcoming country full of history and nature (including monkeys and elephants).  The other week was spent relaxing (and climbing, kayaking, etc.) on the confines of a pristine beach surrounded by natural limestone cliffs.

Needless to say, I was very much out of my usual “routine” of both physical activity and eating.  While reviewing the photos of my trip, I decided to also review what lessons I learned in the pursuit of staying healthy when traveling to the other side of the world.  Turns out I wrote a lot on this topic (surprise!), so I’m splitting it into two posts.  This post will discuss tips for getting to/from your destination (particularly, long flights) feeling great and how to re-acclimate upon your return.  My second post, in a week or so, will review tips to stay healthy, and happy, at your destination.

1. On the Plane (To & From)

Getting from New York to Bangkok required two flights, one 14 hours and the other 4 hours.  A long time to be sitting in a tight space (ahhh, coach).  Here are three ways you can prepare yourself for long flights:

  • Drink water

From the moment you get to the airport, start drinking water.  An airplane can be a very dehydrating place, between the dry air and difficulty in getting access to fluids during the trip (unless you’re like me who asks the flight attendant for an entire liter of water a few hours into the flight, with a smile of course).  In fact, I recommend bringing your own water bottle (empty first to get through security) and then go to the food area to refill it regularly during the flight.

Dehydration could contribute to physical discomfort during the flight including headaches and even upset stomach.   I’ve also talked to people who said being dehydrated prolonged their jet lag, so if you want to enjoy your trip, stay hydrated!  Try to avoid alcohol on long flights as well, as it becomes another stressor on the body and can have a dehydrating effect too.

  • Bring some of your own food

Food, of course, does depend on the airline.  Even if you know you’ll love the food on your flight, most of the time you’re going at least 8 to 10 hours between meal services on long flights.  Having some non-perishable, healthy snacks (i.e. nut/fruit trail mix, fruit, Kashi/Lara bars) can go a long way in keeping you satisfied and avoiding hunger pangs/crashing.  And if you don’t like the food, be sure to bring your own meal (from home or the airport) on-board.  Just be careful how long you hold onto the for, since perishable foods like dairy and meat can start to spoil after 4 hours.  If you want simpler food options on the flight, consider booking your meal preference as a “vegetarian”, even if you aren’t one.  Becca’s vegetarian meals actually looked better than mine on the flights (I was surprised…and jealous!).

  • Get up and move around regularly

Moving during the flight is essential to prevent you from feeling stiff for the first few days of your trip, keep your GI tract happy during the flight  (prolonged sitting could lead to indigestion or cramping) and to ensure you avoid a rare, but serious condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which involves developing blood clots in your leg.   Areas that tend to get tightest during long flights are calves/hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and chest.

If you’re drinking a lot of water, you’ll have to get up often to go to the bathroom, so that’s a great start.  Stand up in the aisle or go to the back of the cabin and run through a 5-minute series of stretches starting from your toes to your head (calf raises, quad stretch, hamstring stretch, chest stretch against a wall/ledge, shoulder/arm circles, wrist folding, marching in place, mini-squats, wall pushups, lunges).  If you don’t want to get up you can still do a few of these in your seat.  In fact, the airline I was on had a seat-based, 10-minute exercise video that they played towards the end of our flight.  Doing this even a couple times during the flight can pay significant dividends both during the flight (more relaxed) and when you step off the plane.

2. Getting Back Home

  • Avoid Injury by Gradually Returning to Your Workout Routine

When I went to Thailand, I stayed quite active, doing hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, swimming, etc.  But these activities were very different from my usual training routine.  Missing just two weeks of exercise can result in strength and endurance losses.  Therefore I am not planning on immediately running the same distances and lifting the same weights as I did when I left.  To avoid injury, I plan on giving myself a week at 50% intensity followed by a week of 80% intensity to ramp myself back up into my training regimen.  I may add an additional “recovery” day of foam rolling, dynamic warm-up and core stability training as well after having to sit for that long flight back home.  On the other hand, if you maintained your usual training routine during vacation, then feel free to continue as is (i.e. you’re a runner and have were able to log similar mileage and intensity to your home training regimen while traveling).

  • Review Your Habits

Did you pick up any new, healthy habits while you were away?  Would you like to continue them?  Take a few minutes to review those new habits and how you could potentially fit them into your current routine at home.  Did you eat more fruit because you were in a tropical place?  Were you more physically active because you had more time?   Did you try some new foods that you’d like to work into your routine?  Did you walk more?  Were you able to regulate your appetite better during your vacation because you could eat slower? To make room for these habits, consider any “usual” habits that you didn’t need to do while traveling, and don’t need to resume now that you’re back at homey (you probably have to go back to work, but maybe you don’t need to watch 2 hours of TV every night).

On the flipside, consider if you started any unwanted habits that you can make sure to stop doing once you’ve returned.  When I went to Italy for a week a few years ago, I had a scoop or two of gelato every day (it’s really good there!).  So when I came home, I made sure to avoid the ice cream shop for a week or so to allow my body to forget the ice cream habit.

Do you have any healthy travel tips?  Please share by commenting below!

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From → Fitness, Food

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