Traveling can be hard on your body. Even after a short flight, I always find myself standing up at the end with aches and pains I didn’t have before. Neck pillows only do so much to keep your head in a good position while sleeping. Legs get crammed into a tiny space with no room to move. Carrying heavy luggage can put strain on our back and neck. Even getting proper sleep can be difficult when sleeping in a bed that isn’t your own.
So, what’s the solution?
Why Should You Stretch While Traveling?
You’re using your body in a way that it’s not used to. Taking just a few minutes every day to stretch your muscles can ease the aches and pains we often feel while traveling. You can do them at the airport, hotel, beach, or anywhere else you’ll be traveling to this summer and can do them all in 10 minutes or less.
Here are seven stretches you can do while traveling:
Why: Sitting for a long period of time, such as on a plane, can cause tightness in the quads and hip flexors.
How To Do a Quad Stretch: Use a chair or wall to keep you steady. Stand on your right leg with your knees together. Grab your left foot with your left and pull it towards your butt. Make sure you stay standing tall with your hips forward. Pull your foot only high enough to feel the stretch in your quad muscle and hips. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on your other side.
Why: Your neck will need this if you tried to sleep on the plane.
How To Do a Trap Stretch: While sitting or standing, reach down with your right arm, grasping your thigh or the bottom of a chair for stability. While looking straight ahead, place your left hand on top of your head, and gently pull your head sideways toward the left. Against the resistance of your arms, attempt to bring your right ear and right shoulder together for seven seconds. Relax and stretch further toward the left. “Lock in” to each new position, and do not allow any slack. Repeat three contract/relax cycles on each side.
Why: This is a basic stretch with enormous benefit in supporting the back and easing pain, especially if you are sitting for an extended period of time.
How To Do The Cat and Cow Stretch: Begin with a neutral spine on your hands and knees. Make sure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Breathe in, and on the exhale, engage your abs and round your spine up towards the ceiling while tucking your chin to chest. On your next inhale, arch your back and let your belly relax while lifting your tailbone up. Repeat at least 10 times or until your spine feels loosened up.
Why: This is a core strengthening exercise that engages the abs and stabilizes the lumbar spine.
How To Do The Bird Dog Stretch: Begin with a neutral spine on your hands and knees. Make sure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Engage your abs as you lift your right leg straight behind you and your left arm forward. Make sure to keep your hips and shoulders level and core engaged. Stretch out long. Hold it for a few seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat on the other side. Complete 10 repetitions on each side.
Why: This is a gentle stretch that can help relieve back pain.
How To Do Child’s Pose: Begin on your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide while keeping your big toes touching. Gently sit back to rest your forehead on the floor and your belly between your thighs. Stretch your arms out in front of you with palms on the floor. Stay in this position for at least 30 – 60 seconds or for as long as you would like.
Why: This is a good one to do anytime as most of us don’t have great posture. But it feels especially great after sitting on a crammed plane or lugging your suitcase around.
How To Do a Chest Stretch: Begin by standing in a doorway in a slight lunge, left leg in front and right leg in the back (can also be done at the end of a wall or in a corner). Bring your right arm up to shoulder height and position the palm and inside of the arm on the doorway. Your arm should look like a goalpost. Gently press the chest through the open space to feel the stretch. Moving the arm higher or lower will allow you to stretch various sections of the chest. Hold each position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on left side.
Why: Side bends not only stretch your spine, but they also stretch the intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs) which get short and tight when we spend too much time sitting.
How To Do a Side Bend: While standing, take a deep breath in and reach up with both arms straight over head for about 15 seconds. Then, while keeping the hips stationary, bend to the left for 30 seconds. Return to standing straight up, then bend to the right for 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides for a total of 60 seconds each.
What To Do After Your Vacation?
Already back from your summer vacations and needing a little extra help to recover? Come into Moyer Total Wellness for a massage, chiropractic, or acupuncture. Any of our services will assist in getting you back to where you were before your travels.
And if you’re not very good at stretching on your own, we even have a massage + stretching session where the massage therapist guides you through a series of stretches post massage.
Written by: Nicole Morrison
Stretching Photo Credit: Nicole Morrison