Forget the Mile High Club. These days, airline bathrooms are jammed with (super annoying) can’t-sit-still passengers like yours truly who get up every 30 minutes to walk those valuable, cherished few steps to “go to the bathroom.” These fake bathroom breaks are an excuse to go into a space where I can stretch my legs, wash my face, extend my arms…it’s the box inside the crammed box that isn’t quite so crammed. I’m sorry-not-sorry to the other passengers, because its survival of the fittest when it comes to sitting in a freaking box, surrounded by humans, when all you want to do is scream but you can’t for fear of them kicking you off the plane and making you a headline. Did I just say that out loud?
So anyways, what’s the deal with airlines today? I swear that ‘scum class’ is getting smaller and business class is getting bigger. I’m only 5’7″ and my knees bang on the seat in front of me – I can only imagine how my 6-foot-something brother feels. My weight is on the smaller side of normal as well, so I can only wonder what those on the other side feel like. The whole business of flying these days is nothing short of crazy town.
In just over a week, I’ll be flying from Vancouver to Auckland, New Zealand. The travel time is – no joke – 34 hours. Thirty-four hours! I’m from New Zealand, so I’ve made the immigrant trek to the motherland about fifteen times over the last 20 years, and I therefore consider myself an expert on long haul flights. Even though I hate them.
Negativity aside, there’s a reason those short “bathroom breaks” make flights suck a little less: exercise. Getting and staying fit requires that you exercise at least a little bit, and your body will crave it when you’re in a situation where you can’t move about freely. That stir-craziness isn’t just in your head; it’s in your muscles and ligaments and joints, too.
But how do you squeeze in a workout when you’re a tourist on the go? Here are three essential strategies for staying fit while traveling:
Squeeze in Exercise Where You Can
No matter what time your flight is, try to do a workout before you leave for the airport. Even if it’s at 4am. And make sure you do a kick ass workout the day before, as well. When you’re sitting still for a million years on the flight, you’ll feel better having sore muscles as a reminder that you’re not always this sedentary.
If you didn’t manage to squeeze in a workout, and you have a few extra hours at the airport, ask at the information counter if there is an airport hotel with a drop-in gym option. Most hotels don’t advertise this service, but will make it available to you upon request, usually for less than $20. It’s not as cheap as working out at home, but it beats not working out at all.
Dressing for the occasion is essential, so be sure to wear your running shoes. You can always keep dressier shoes in your carry-on if you want to pop them on when you arrive, but staying fit means you need to exercise, and you’ll be less tempted to let yourself slide if you’re dressed for the part. Plus, runners come in very handy when you have to walk miles through airport terminals: your feet won’t be killing you, and you’ll find it easier to stand and stretch while waiting for flights.
Speaking of which, a normal wait time in the departure terminal is over an hour. You’ve already checked in your bags, so why not take this opportunity to walk, stretch, and hey, maybe even do some squats? I once saw an old dude bust out some tai chi right in the middle of the crowd! And there’s always some viral video floating around Facebook of someone doing a dance in the terminal. It’s your space – do what you want with it by staying fit your way!
Be Mindful of What You’re Eating
Sitting in a plane doesn’t require much energy, and choosing what you put into your body is essential to staying fit. Help your bottom line by eating less than you would normally. Don’t eat crap from the food malls in the airport terminals. Sometimes I see a guy sitting down to a 2000 calorie feast of cheese and beans and who knows what else. And I can’t help but hope that he’s not going to be using the bathroom before me on my extra-usage leg-stretching fake bathroom needs on the upcoming flight. Yuck.
The food on the plane isn’t much better for you. Yep, the airline meals are pretty disgusting. So either pack your own meal or pick the good bits out of theirs. Although it’s tempting to eat everything they give you because you’re so bored, try to keep your calories to less than 300. After all, you’re not doing much.
You can help yourself out of both these food traps by ordering a vegetarian meal, even if you’re not vegetarian. It’s generally a healthier option than chicken or fish, and, because they only make one vegetarian dish per flight, you’ll get the first-class meal, even if you’re flying economy or business class!
As tempting as it is to drink on the flight, try not to. You’re already going to feel like shit when you arrive. Drinking will make you feel even worse. And the worse you feel, the less inclined you’ll be to keep staying fit when you’ve reached your destination.
Instead of guzzling booze, bring an empty water bottle into the airplane and ask the flight attendant to fill it. You should drink plenty of water before boarding, though. Staying hydrated throughout the flight is much easier when you don’t have to ask the attendant to keep filling up your cup.
This inevitably brings us back to the first point: exercise. Why? Because all the extra water you’re drinking will lead to more real bathroom breaks. You can still take a few fake ones for the chance to stretch your legs, but be sure to help yourself out by choosing an aisle seat. You’ll be more motivated to get up frequently – because you won’t bother anyone by squeezing out and back in – and you’ll be thankful for the easy access to the bathroom after drinking so much water.
As for me, well, I don’t need to have a window seat. Ever. My best window is that window of opportunity to move – without having to put my butt in the face of my poor neighbor who is trying to read her book.
Urgh. Yeah right.
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