TRAVEL HACKS: My Lifesaving Secrets When on the GO

My lifesaving secrets when on the go

I have been traveling a lot throughout the years and this is one of the best sides of pro volleyball. But sometimes it takes its tall on you, especially if you have to perform at your very best the day after. There are certain trips that make you feel like you have never played ball ever. 

So what are the things we can do to fight stiffness, swollen legs, jet lag and etc.? 

I found about some of these hacks the usual way - advices from people around me and basically the process of trial and error. I was never quite sure if what I was doing was working and why. Until I came across dr. Kelly Starrett and bought a few of his books. After reading his Survival tips for both airplane and car seats my 10 hour trip to Athens last week was actually pretty easy and a lot of fun! 

Airplane Seat Srvival Tips

#1 - Use a Lumbar support
For this trick any pillow or rolled up sweatshirt would do, even if you don't have a lumbar support pillow. Even if it's called lumbar support you do not want to place it exactly behind your lumbar spine. Instead you want to position it right at the end of your rib cage. This way you avoid sitting in overextension and end up stretching those always-short tissues of your lumbar spine. 
Another thing you could do it place that pillow bellow your belt line in a way that it lifts you slightly from the seat. That way you will achieve a more neutral position. 

#2 - Make friends with people around you
This is a weird tip, I know, but dr. Starrett has a point here. If you are a tall volleyball player (or any tall person in a matter of fact) you would know how disturbing it can be when you can't move your legs and arms, switch positions or stand up as often as you want. So the best alternative is to be nice to your neighbours in the airplane and they hopefully won't mind as much when you lift the armrest, stand up periodically or mobilize in your seat. 

#3 - Open your hips, shift positions, and stand up as often as possible
Here's why you want to make friends with the people around you. You want to get up every 20-30 minutes and move around. If you can't get up, just try squeezing your glutes and quads force your hips into full extension. Just keep on repeating that and it will help you reset the position of your femurs and you will feel much better.

#4 - Mobilize in your seat
For this trick you want to have a lacrosse ball or a soft ball (or both) with you. If you are spending so much time seated you might as well want to use it to work through nods in your forearms, chest and neck, your back and hamstrings. You will be surprised how many techniques you can perform while seated. (For more info on the lacrosse ball techniques used for mobility, read "Becoming a Supple Leopard" or "Deskbound" by Dr. Kelly Starrett). 

#5 - Use your seat belt to stabilize your pelvis
When you sit your lower back rounds and your pelvis rotates, which is a tremendous stress in the discs of your lumbar spine. To soothe the discomfort, try sitting as far back as you can and tightening the seat belt over your hip bones. This will prevent it from rotating underneath you and will provide a momentary relief. 

#6 - Wear compression socks
This is the easiest way to assist you r body circulatory and lymphatic system, especially if you can't move around every 20-30 minutes. Compression tights and socks should be your best friend anytime you travel! If you don't have a pair of your own, try buying some on - tights here and socks here

#7 - Stay hydrated
Super important tip - hydrate! Flying causes your tissues to hypo-hydrate, which basically makes them look like a piece of beef jerky. The key here is not drinking water but making sure your body actually absorbs that water. To find out more you can read my article on hydration - HOW TO: Stay HYDRATED During The Day 

Car Seat Srvival Tips

#1 - Change the orientation of your seat
The best thing you can do to help your back while driving long distance is to change your seat hight, angle and position in order to force different muscles in your back to work. Practically the worst thing you can do is to remain in the same position for long periods of time. Do not forget about your lumbar support, same applies here as what we mentioned in the airplane tips. 

#2 - Periodically squeeze your butt and point your toes
When driving our legs are typically stuck in a slightly flexed position. To reset the position of your femurs squeeze your butt, and to avoid your feet swelling and stiffening in that flexed position - point your toes every so often. 

#3 - Use the steering wheel to keep your shoulders organised and stable
Position your hands at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock and besides that it's safest it's also best for your shoulders. Create some external rotation in your shoulder, keeping your shoulder blades back and activate muscles on your upper back. This is very important for your neck and thoracic spine. 

#4 - Move and mobilize during stops
This is the key - stop often, move, stretch, perform a couple of exercise to increase the blood flow and move your arms. It's refreshing and it will take you far! I just drove 8 hours from Sofia to Athens with 4 stops and when we arrived I felt great! Tired, of course, but definitely not like I've been driving for so long. 

Last but not Least...

Post-travel Mobility

Just find the time to roll, stretch and brace your body after arriving at your destination. It is tempting to just crash in bed and sleep but if you don't find 10 minutes for that prepare to be super duper stiff the day after. 

Bottom line - it's up to you to make your traveling life easier! Use that knowledge to keep your body in condition and perform at your best no matter the distance you traveled, the time difference at you destination point or the climate you have to adapt to! 

Gabi K.