Arrive to the airport early, especially in you are checking in any sports equipment. Be at the check in stand 2-3 hours until departure time. Don’t come at the very last moment, save your adrenaline rush for the race day.
Be as comfortable as possible. Dress loose comfy closing and have an extra layer that is easy to remove, so you can put it on/off if you get cold or hot. You might want to take off your shoes on a plane, so wear the ones that is easily removable and don’t stink 🙂
In case of a long flight, you might hope to catch on a sleep in a plane. Don’t fool yourself! You won’t, no matter how many sleeping pills you take.
Traveling rule for racing internationally:
Arrive at least one day in advance for every hour of time-zone shift.
For example, if athlete lives in Toronto, Canada and planning to race in Spain (six-hour time-zone difference), then ideally he will have to get there six days before the race.
When you travel across different time zones, day and night cues outside the window confuse your circadian rhythm which causes a lot of unpleasant symptoms. Some of the symptoms are:
- Sleepiness and difficulty sleeping;
- Digestive problems;
- Mental fog & reduced motivation;
- Impaired concentration.
It’s not easy to recover from jet lag and it takes time, for ones more, for others less. There are some jet lag calculators that based on your location, sleep schedule and the destination you travel to, can give you and estimate of how long it should take for you to recover your circadian rhythm.
I used Jet Lag Rooster. It is free and it provides you with the sleep plan to follow upon arriving to your destination or a few days before departure to smoothen the transition. For example, traveling from Toronto, Canada to Málaga, Spain I will be crossing 6 time zones. According to calculator I will need around 5 days to readjust. To minimize negative effects of jet lag I will take proactive approach and begin readjusting my sleep schedule 2 days before departing. Let’s look at the guidelines provided by calculator:
- Light ideal means try to get as much light as possible. Spend time outside in sunlight (even if it’s cloudy) or near a bright window. If it’s dark out, seek bright artificial light, preferably from a portable light box. Intermittent light works, but try to stay in light for as long as convenient.
- Dark ideal means avoid as much light as possible. Your bedroom must be DARK, really dark. Turn off all the electronics and close curtains, or wear a sleep mask..
- Sleep ideal means that sleep is ideal during this period. On days with no suggested sleep times, sleep as needed.
4 days before departure I will begin shifting my bed time 30 minutes earlier than the night before and waking up 30 minutes earlier respectively. It is important to get yourself exposed to the bright light for at least 3 hours right after awakening. When arrived, I’ll be going to bed at my normal times, from 9 pm to 5 am, but I’ll be playing with light and darkness, tweaking my body’s exposure to it. The first morning in Ukraine I wake up at 5 am and restricting my body’s light exposure to 2 hours, until 7 am. My second night of sleep begins again at 9 pm, but instead of limiting my light exposure for 2 hours, the next morning, I’ll reduce it to 1 hour, which will be followed by 3 hours of bright light. My bed time doesn’t change on the third night either. The only thing that changes is that I am not limiting my light exposure after awakening and allowing myself to have at least 3 hours of bright light from the moment I woke up.
Thats it! Second night after departure I sleep like a baby, waking up energized and refreshed.
Few tips for the time of travel
- Drink a lot of water (no tea, no coffee, no alcohol!). If you are hydrating correctly, you will essentially have to get up to use a bathroom. While you’re up, do a few stretches or dynamic movements. Don’t feel bad about having to disturb your neighbor a couple of time during the flight.
- Eat healthy, nutritionally rich food (a lot of fruits and vegetables). Plane food is far from ideal, so will be best to bring your own food in a sealed container;
- Make sure to take ear plugs, eye mask and a neck pillow with you if you are planning to sleep on a plane. I strongly recommend getting yourself one of those noise canceling headphones. They are not cheap, but well worth the investment! Personally I use Bose QuietComfort 35 and will never trade them for anything;
- Take a contrast shower upon arrival to refresh your nervous system;
- If feeling really sleepy, it is ok to take a short, 20-30 minutes, nap at the new place;
When you get to your hotel or the place you are staying at, get your body moving. Doing an easy exercise first thing upon arrival will speed recovery, promote good sleep, kick start your digestion system. Examples of easy exercises:
- Run. Easy run with 30 sec strides just to wake your brain up.
- Swim. Easy swim (not a hard stroke) including fast half-laps, where you accelerate from center to the wall or vice-versa.
- Strength Session. Most of the hotels have gyms with basic fitness equipment. Do a short (15-30 min) workout, focusing more on intensity of your reps.