By Athlete Ambassador, Peter Glassford
As competitive or recreational athletes, our passion for our sport will inevitably necessitate travel in the name of bigger challenges, wilder adventures and/or increased competition. Travel is amazing and something I have been fortunate enough to do for over 15 years as an athlete and coach. The catch with travel, though, is that you have to go through the travel process to get to your destination.
While many trips will go smoothly, there are many potential stumbling blocks in travel, especially when traveling with groups and with expensive, heavy, large gear.
1) Accept that it will not go smoothly and focus intently on the next step and remaining calm. While this sounds a little kooky, I promise it is going to make your experience better. Put on your best meditative ‘face’ and remain calm. I focus on breathing and smiling. I try to be neutral and await a next step. Airport travel is filled with ‘hurry up and wait’ moments where you will be called to action to lug your 121lb—I mean 50lb, wink-wink—bike bag two kilometers across a terminal only to wait two hours in a line for someone to pull back a ribbon that lets you stand in another room for an hour. Accept you are part of a group and let yourself flow through each step as the ‘gate’ opens. The calmness and inability to do anything else can be a vacation in itself and the focus on the ‘next step’ can transfer very well to focus in your athletic life.
2) Prepare for huge delay and catastrophe, because it will happen. Amazing backups and delays happen all the time. Generally, if you are on time and in the right place then the travel company you are dealing with will make arrangements to get you where you are supposed to go. You cannot control a damaged plane or over-booked flight, so keep coming back to relaxing and the next step. Being prepared to keep yourself hydrated by carrying a easy-to-clean water bottle, fueling with products like Hammer Bar and Hammer Recovery Bar and staying comfortable with flexible clothing to keep you warm/cool as the environment demands can change the discomfort a delay causes hugely.
3) Wash your hands and don’t touch your face. This can take some training but keep your hands away from your face, don’t bite your nails, pick your nose/teeth etc. Whenever you see a washroom during your trip, use it and spend a minute—two times through ‘happy birthday’—scrubbing your hands with normal soap. I tend to avoid hand sanitizer, but some people swear by it for travel days. This is to minimize how many people’s bugs/sicknesses you end up with around athletic events, especially on red-eyed flights post-race when you are short on sleep and dealing with some lowered immunity.
4) Be Weird. Public situations require certain courtesies and also cause most of us to retreat to very reserved behaviour—fine, but not conducive to getting off a plane in your best shape. Push yourself to vary your position during your travel, especially to avoid singular seated positions, such as when seated on a plane. Find ways to mix up your posture by going to the washroom several times, walking up and down the aisle, engaging the flight attendants in conversation at the back of the plane, visiting other friends around the plane and by changing seated position as possible in the seat (think knee hugs, cross-legged). While in the terminal walk around, use high stools, do some mobility/stretching and/or try to lay down with your feet up in a quiet corner of the terminal.
5) Have a System. Travel is like any skill. The more you do it, and perhaps more importantly, the more focused you are on improving your travel skill, the better it gets. Start working on a system of bags, wallets and gear that you will bring on most trips. You might remove/add for certain types of trips but a basic ‘tool-kit’ makes transferring between ‘real-life’ and ‘travel-life’ much easier. I have a specific back-pack that I can hike or bike with that always has my passport wallet, foreign money, eye-shade/ear-plugs/travel-pillow, compression socks, ‘S-Pork’ eating utensil, and a few Hammer Bars. Usually, I am also traveling with a bike bag and I have a system for how that bag is packed and how my clothes are used as padding in that bag to reduce number of bags and bag-weight. Recently we got new bags with wheels to avoid getting stuck carrying boxes/bags ridiculous distances… Although I do like the challenge, it is good to be able to control how sweaty you are before getting on a plane!
Wherever you are going and for whatever reason you are going, spend some time planning so you can operate smoothly under any delays. Having your own system makes you more resistant to undue stress and leaves you more ready to enjoy the adventures you are traveling for.