Fuel up the tank and load up the snacks. It’s road trip season!
I’ve always loved road trips. There’s just something thrilling about setting off on the open road and exploring new byways. I feel like I get to channel my inner Magellan. Albeit with some help from Google Maps. Then again, didn’t Magellan die before he completed his voyage? Maybe I’m more of a Vasco da Gama.
Some of my favorite childhood memories live in the back of a station wagon. Sometimes in the rear-facing seat with a panoramic view out the tailgate window, sometimes in the coffin-like trough between the second and third rows. But for all the potential physical discomfort, there was always a big payoff at the end – a beach, a campground, an amusement park, or even just the hotel itself. But the destination wasn’t the only reward. I always enjoyed the journey as well. Sure the hours could be long, but I was fueled by snacks and a sense of adventure. And besides, what was a little physical torture to my youthful body? Hours on end in a cramped position? Ha! Open the door and I’d uncoil like an instigated cobra.
That was then. Although I like to think I still have plenty of strike left in me today. The ferocity might be more representative of a black snake than a cobra, but that’s of little consequence to me. What matters is that I know how to maximize my resiliency.
Long drives and flights can certainly take a physical toll on your body, but a few simple practices can go a long way toward minimizing the harmful effects of vacation travel. I’ve seen too many trips hampered or downright ruined by poor physical health brought on by the rigors of travel. A little prior planning can help you overcome physical wear and tear, and ideally, help you prevent it in the first place. Here are 5 of my go-to devices to help you get the most enjoyment out of your trip. They take up very little space, and can easily fit them into your luggage. Swing by the office before you hit the road. We stock all of the following products.
First things first. Let’s get you to your destination comfortably.
Sitting for long periods can really wreak havoc on your lower back. Airplane seats are notoriously horrible for supporting your lumbar spine. In fact, most of them are so bad that they allow your spine to sink backward into a banana shape. Many car seats aren’t much better. Even if your seat has a built in lumbar support, you might want to consider bolstering it with a lumbar cushion.
A compact D-shaped support is more conducive to travel than a traditional office chair cushion, which typically has a good bit of bulk to it, as well as support wings on the side. This can be particularly troublesome in a car, as it can affect your driving set up. A more compact design will fit snugly into the small of your back.
If possible, get up and move around frequently during travel or stop for rest breaks. Otherwise, when sitting, place a lumbar support just above your belt line to maintain proper support through the lower back. The last thing you want is to be hobbled by lower back pain before the vacation fun even starts.
So now you’ve arrived at your hotel. Whether you traveled by car or by plane, you’ve probably just spent a considerable amount of time with your head slightly forward and your arms in front of you. This posture sets you up for shoulder tension and neck stiffness that can also morph into headaches and symptoms into your arms and hands.
Now it’s time to break out the resistance band to help unravel all that tension. I know…it’s vacation. You’re here to have fun, not to work out. Trust me, if you tend not to handle the rigors of travel well, the 5 minutes of inconvenience is well worth preventing a week’s worth of aggravation. A few simple sets will take you just a handful of minutes, but can potentially head off hours of misery.
Start with shoulder shrugs. Grab a handle in each hand and step on the center of the band. Start with your arms straight down by your sides, palms facing your legs. Pull your shoulders upward toward your ears and hold for a second or two. Release straight back down and repeat for 12-15 reps for 3 sets. This is an effective exercise for working out tension that builds across the top of your shoulders.
Next, work in a couple sets of rows. Sit with your feet slightly out in front of you. Take a handle in each hand and anchor the middle of the band under the soles of your feet. Raise your elbows about 45 degrees away from your body as your starting point. Now draw your elbows straight back, focusing on pulling with the muscles between your shoulder blades. Hold for a second or two at the end and repeat for 3 sets of 12-15 reps. This is a great exercise to counteract forward draw through the shoulders and to alleviate tension through the back of the neck.
Now that you’re warmed up, the lacrosse ball is a handy tool to work out any knots that might still be hanging on. Pay particular attention to the inside border of the shoulder blades (between the shoulder blade and spine), the top corner of the shoulder blade closest to the neck, the back of your shoulders, the lower back, and the glutes. The lacrosse ball is great to do when you wind down with some TV at night in the hotel.
Lie on your back on the floor and place the ball underneath you. Search out the meaty part of the muscle as well as the junction between the muscle and tendon where it attaches to the bone. Be careful not to put direct pressure on the spine or the bony shoulder blade. Sink some of your body weight into the ball until you find a tight or tender knot. Once you’ve located a knot, relax into it and apply as much of your weight as is tolerable. Hold pressure on the spot for about 5 seconds and then slowly release. Hunt out the next area of tension and repeat the process. The session itself can be a bit uncomfortable, but like deep-tissue massage, the end result is worth the effort.
If your vacations are anything like mine, you’re on the go. After all, isn’t the point of going to a new place to check out the sites? I figure I can lounge at home. In fact, I have a piece of furniture on my deck dedicated to just that purpose.
If all that running gets the best of you, a gel pack is a handy item to have in your room. Ice can really calm down any discomfort brought on by inflammation, while heat is excellent for relieving muscle tension.
Wrap your pack in a moist hand towel and pop it in the microwave for a quick moist hot pack.
If your room doesn’t have a refrigerator, ask the staff to freeze your gel pack for you and pick it up when you return to your room at night. If need be, you can always freeze it in the ice bucket.
Remember not to apply a gel pack directly to your skin. Wrap it in a towel, and limit its use to 15-20 minutes at a time.
When you finally fall into bed each night, a cervical roll is great for relieving neck and shoulder tension that tends to result from travel. Most hotel pillows I’ve come across are more suitable for floor seating than for supporting your head and neck.
Lie on your back with no pillow under your head, and place your cervical roll under your mid to lower neck. Doing so will support your neck’s natural forward curvature and alleviate pressure from the joints, discs, and muscles. Shoot for about 15 minutes on the roll each night.
Everyone loves vacation. But sometimes the stress of getting there, and the flurry of activity when you do arrive, can put a damper on things. Take these 5 items with you on your next trip, and send your pain packing!
We’ll see you for your post vacation adjustment when you get back!
Be Your Best,