The Travelling Body – Tips and Tricks

The Travelling Body – Do you ever feel like your body needs a holiday from your holiday?

Does your body seem to fall apart just as your holiday arrives? Do you find that new pains or stiffness set in as you travel? Having a sore neck, back and feet seem to be a common trend among the travellers I have met! I have discovered some tips and tricks for the travelling body!

As many of you know, I have been travelling over the last few weeks. With all the flights, train, car and bus commutes I find myself in slumping into prolonged sitting and sleeping positions that put a lot of extra strain on the travelling body. Spending most days exploring new cities, hiking forest trails or discovering hidden local beaches, by the time we plop down for a well-deserved vino our feet feel like they are burning swollen lumps and our bodies feel completely drained with exhaustion!

Rolling bulky luggage and carrying heavy day-trip laden personal items for long periods of time. Even though our suitcases have wheels, pulling these heavy loads causes some strain through the shoulders. We tend to tense up by locking our shoulders into a lifted and rounded position trying to muster a secured strength, which is counter-productive in the long term.

At first, the holiday excitement diverts our attention and our mental relaxation dulls the aching but after a few days you may notice as you wake, feelings of stiffness or areas of tenderness start creeping in. This is what we want to prevent so that your holiday can be a completely blissful escape rendering you feeling rejuvenated mentally as well as physically and not feeling like you need a holiday from your holiday!

Here are some quick tips to keep your travelling body feeling relaxed and refreshed through your travels!

Dynamic Neck Stretches: These are a favourite of mine and great to perform at any time, especially during your commutes.

  1. Sit on one hand and with the other, gently bend your neck pulling your head towards the opposite shoulder, hold for a few seconds.
  2. Maintain this side bend position then slowly rotate your neck so your nose moves closer to your armpit (this can also disguise a cheeky freshness check!), again holding for a few seconds.
  3. Next, rotate your neck so your nose now points up towards the ceiling and again hold for a few seconds.
  4. Looking for a little more — I tend to rotate my head back and forth a few times so my nose comes towards the armpit then back up towards the ceiling a few times before switching to the opposite side.

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this exercise below!

Chin retraction: To correct the inevitable forward translation of our neck and head from all the seated postures during travel we can activate our deep neck flexors and postural neck muscles that keep our neck held up straight we can perform neck retraction exercises!

  1. Use your fingers to follow your neck up to the base of your skull, here you will feel a little bony ridge. When you push your head back, it is from this bony ridge that the movement should initiate, as opposed to tipping the top of your head backwards. If you are completing this exercise correctly you should create a double chin when holding the position.
  2. If you have a headrest on the back of your seat, such as those in a car or plane, you can push your head back against this. Otherwise, you can use the resistance of your linked hands placed behind the bony ridge. Holding for a few seconds before releasing. Perform this 5-10 times every few hours!
  3. Looking for a little more — I like to add slow rocking motions side to side as I apply the backwards pressure.

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this exercise below!

Shoulder and rib cage stretch: Sleeping in all kinds of positions end up compressing the rib cage and shoulders. This stretch will help open up the rib cage and stretch the shoulder capsule to increase mobility and flexibility.

  1. Reach arms overhead, placing one hand on the opposite elbow. Apply a slight downward pressure on the elbow towards the shoulder as you gently pull the elbow overhead towards the opposite side.
  2. To include the lateral rib cage, from the above position, slowly add a gentle side bend through the torso, continuing the arch of the arm.
  3. Maintaining the side bending and downward pressure on the elbow towards the shoulder, lower the upper arm down and in front of your torso challenging the shoulder capsule by adding some pressure pulling gently across the body.
  4. Challenge the shoulder range of motion by slowly lowering and raising the upper arm with the downward pressure on the elbow maintained through the range, as if you are looping your head through your arms then back up again.
  5. Perform on both sides.

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this exercise below!

Gluteal sitting stretch: When travelling we tend to move from our usual routines which can cause an increase in body stiffness. Not to mention we tend to do more walking to take in all the beautiful sites! This is another great stretch you can do while sitting in the car, train or ferry or simply once you unload at your hotel!

  1. If you have enough space in your seat, you can cross your ankle over your opposite knee. Place your hand on your knee as if flops out to the side to gently challenge the stretch.
  2. With a straight back slowly hinge forward from the hips and feel your self-sink into the stretch through your bum muscles and the outside of your leg. Holding this position for a few breaths.

Alternately, if are lacking the space or flexibility for the above gluteal exercise you can try the stretch below to challenge your hip capsule and gluteal muscles.

  1. Lift one knee slightly by wrapping your linked hands around the front. Use your hands to apply a gentle pressure back on your knee towards your hip.
  2. While maintaining this pressure, gently guide your knee in a mini rainbow-like arch by moving your knee from left to right then out again in an arch-like movement. Perform this arch 3-5 times on both sides.
  3. If you find areas of particular tightness or tenderness, try to hold your leg in that position as you take 2 slow deep breath, this will help relax and lengthen the hip capsule and surrounding muscles.

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this exercise below!

Ankle Range of Motion: You may notice that if you take your shoes off during a flight then try to put your shoes back on, they will feel tighter. When we are sitting for long periods of time our blood begins to pool because if our leg muscles aren’t moving, the blood is not getting pumped back up around our body. This effect is most commonly noticed on aeroplanes due to the change in pressure. Even small movements can be a great help!

  1. Performing the ankle range of motion exercise such as pointing your toes towards the ground then back up to you and side to side.
  2. Moving them in circles
  3. Even just tracing out the alphabet.
  4. If you are on a train or aeroplane you can get up to walk along the length of the cabin. If you are in a car you can make sure you get out for pit stops when at a gas station, or simply to check out a beautiful view!

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this exercise below!

Now for my 2 favourite tricks for the travelling body!

1. Low Back support: Place a pillow in the curve of your lower back for support during long journeys. As this will help prevent a rounding slump that allows the pelvis to tip backwards and creates a prolonged stretch of the connective tissues, muscles and joints of the spine.

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this travelling trick below!

Poor Travel Sleeping Posture 1Poor Travel Sleeping Posture 2

2. Neck Pillow Trick: Another trick I have picked up is if you have a neck pillow that can be fastened in the front, spin the pillow around so that the larger padded section is actually in front of your neck. This prevents your head from being pushed forward by the pillow as well as the headrest and it also provides a larger support at the front and sides to prevent your neck from falling in a sharp-angled position when you inevitably dip into sleep. This particular tip works best if the recline feature to your chair is only at a slight angle, such as on a plane, train or bus. If you are able to recline your chair quite far, the neck pillow may be more comfortable in the original position.  Give it a try and see if this works for you!

  • If you are a regular or burst traveller, I would recommend investing in a more structured pillow that will keep your neck supported in a neutral position. That way no matter how far you travel, what kinds of crazy sleeping positions you slump into, or how long it is before your plane hits the ground, your neck, spine and sleep cycle will thank you!

Scroll down to watch Katie demonstrate this exercise below!

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September 10, 2018
Katie MacRae