Holiday season is upon us, which means travel time to visit family and friends. This can be a very stressful time for a lot of people due to being out of your normal routine – whether that’s training, nutrition, stress, etc. This post is intended to equip you to handle some of these changes and provide some tips to take with you while you’re traveling for the holidays.
MOVE: This seems self-explanatory but just remind yourself to move over the holidays and don’t beat yourself up about not getting in your typical training or workouts. If you’re stuck on a plane for some time, try to get up and move as much as you can. Or, if you’re in the car, try to focus on making some stops along the way to move and stretch out. If you’re looking for some go-to movements to help keep you moving and supple, look no further:
2-3 sets x 8 breaths each direction
Half-Kneeling T-Spine Windmill
2-3 sets x 6 breaths each side
1-2 minutes each side
Lateral Hip Mobilization
1-2 minutes each side
90/90 Hip Rotations
2-3 sets x 8 rotations each side
You can even create a movement flow and roll through a circuit of these different movements. For training and working out, just make sure you squat, hinge, push, pull, carry something heavy, and test your lungs a little bit.
LOAD MANAGEMENT: I’ll keep this concept simple. Your body has a certain threshold and capacity before you start getting some soreness, aches, and pains. While traveling, it’s normal to do more walking or activities that are not normally within your element. We get a ton of people who get back from trips with different aches or pains. It’s totally normal. Imagine trying to run a half marathon when you’ve only trained for a 5k. The same concept can be applied to walking around a city or doing a long, strenuous hike. If you walk for 6-7 miles and you’re only use to 1-2, you’re going to be sore. If you don’t give your body time to recover, then that can become achy or even painful if done repeatedly. This doesn’t mean you did something wrong. It just means that your body exceeded its ability to recovery due to too much volume. The point here isn’t to just take a rest day or immediately run to a healthcare professional if something is painful, but more that our bodies are resilient and robust – you’ll bounce back from it and it should go away with some TLC. If you give it some time and TLC, and there’s no improvements, then seek out some help from a healthcare professional.
STRESS: This can go many different ways. You’re off from work – emails are piling up. You won’t be in your gym doing your normal training program and you miss squat day. You’re traveling to your in-laws for Thanksgiving and you’re already dreading Martha’s passive-aggressive comments. Typically, stress is associated as bad or with a negative connotation. I’m reading this book called “The Upside of Stress” and there are a lot of great takeaways from this book. To keep it very simple, your perception of stress matters significantly. Stress is just something that happens to us and our perception of whether it’s good or bad based on different factors such as past experiences, genetics, culture, etc. determines our mental and body’s physiological response.
Here are three simple steps described in this book:
1. Acknowledge the stress.
2. Welcome it.
3. Make use of energy it gives you.
Try to attack some of these stressors by viewing them as good/growth for you. Instead of stressing about spending time away from work, think about the time you’ll get to spend with your people or that it’ll help you recharge and hit it hard when you’re back. If you’re feeling in over your head, breathing and meditation is always a good outlet - download the Headspace app and take a few minutes to dial in your breathing and calm down your system.
WASH YOUR HANDS: More than you think. Lots of colds and phlem. That shit is everywhere – better safe than sorry.
NUTRITION: No one is perfect during the holidays. I think that changing your relationship with food will make a huge difference here, not only for the holidays but even for life in general. Instead of deeming foods as good and bad, try looking at it all as fuel and focus on quantity and quality. A good phrase coined by Ph.D. and author Michael Pollan is: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” With that said, eat some damn cookies, too. Just don’t eat 12 in one sitting. It’s the holidays, so sweets will be around. Don’t feel guilty - be happy.
SOCIAL MEDIA: You know what I’m going to say here. Limit your time to be on your phone/social media for a certain time of the day or total time in general. Try to challenge yourself with this. When you’re with friends/family, try to keep your phone in your pocket. Use travel and the holidays as an opportunity to disconnect and be present with your peeps or even during your solo time.
ALCOHOL:. Try to limit the Bud heavies and spiked egg nog. This can put a damper on your recovery process and research shows that a single alcoholic beverage can really impact a night’s sleep. All in moderation; right?
SLEEP: Use this as an opportunity to catch up on sleep. You might be traveling to different time zones, walking around a city, watching repeats of Friends’ Thanksgiving episodes. Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep. Avoid any blue light one hour before bed. Make sure the room is cold rather than warm. Figure out a good routine that works for you.
At the end of the day, enjoy this time to decompress from your “normal routine," while also not giving yourself a free hall pass to treat your body like garbage.
Move. Moderate load. Manage your stress. Clean your hands. Eat well, but also have some pie. Instagram less. Moderate your dranks. SLEEP. Be merry.
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.