How to Stay Limber in the Air

Surviving Airline Travel

In all my research, dehydration seems to be the major culprit of muscle tightness during air travel.  We tend to feel the most comfortable when the humidity is between 40-70%, yet in an aircraft cabin, it falls to about 20% - even less than the Sahara Desert!  In these conditions our body goes into overdrive to make sure our essential organs remain hydrated. Connective tissue (fascia, membranes, muscles, etc) is one of the first of our organ systems to dehydrate, leading to discomfort, headaches and irritability.  Movement and stretching, while helpful in the short term, don't seem to do the job on a long distance flight.  As one of my clients said, "Every time I get up to stretch on a flight, it feels like I've never stretched before."  We can combat this with a few simple steps to make sure our muscles stay hydrated.  

1.  Prepare

Look up your flight on SeatGuru - if possible reserve a spacious seat with your airline.  Exit row, bulkhead or aisle seats will give you more leg room.

  • Calculate your hydration needs by figuring out your fluid intake for a normal day
  1. Weigh yourself after breakfast - record the time
  2. Record your fluid intake throughout the day
  3. Weigh yourself at the end of the day - record the time
  4. Fluid Requirement = total weight loss + total fluid intake
  5. Fluid Requirement/total hours = how much fluid you should drink per hour
  6. Be sure to consume that much liquid per day for the week leading up to the flight
  • Plan your flying wardrobe - wear loose fitting clothing and shoes to make sure fluid can move easily through your body.  You might even consider compression socks to keep fluid from getting stuck in your lower legs.

2.  In the Air

  • Be aware - take an inventory of where you're holding tension in your body during take off.  Breathe into those tight spots and focus on letting go.
  • Exercise during the flight to keep your blood circulating - stretch your muscles, especially your calves.
  • Avoid crossing your legs - which blocks circulation.
  • Schedule times to get up and move around instead of waiting until you need to use the washroom.  If your neighbor gets up, take the opportunity to walk up and down the cabin.
  • Hydrate! Plain water cannot be consumed in large quantities and will not be assimilated if you tend to get nauseous on flights.  Opt for sports drinks like Gatorade which have 6-8% glucose and a small quantity of salt - which leads to easy absorption.  The ratio of sugar to salt is important, so fruit juices and sodas don't make the cut.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, cocoa and energy drinks as they are diuretics.  If you must have caffeine to avoid withdraw - stick to the minimum.
  • Alcohol is a triple threat - it's a diuretic, but also disrupts sleep and can lead to a hangover if the body cannot detox fast enough.  Steer clear.
  • During landing, it's easy to contract our entire body to brace the impact.  Use the impact of the wheels on the runway as your cue to completely relax.  It makes taxi-ing much more enjoyable.

3.  After Landing

  • When you enter the airport, find a chair and do some light Ki-Hara Stretching
  • Drink water immediately - stop and buy a bottle at the airport and drink it before you get to your destination
  • Schedule an exercise program as soon as possible after arriving (a walk, yoga, etc.)
  • Take your Resistance Stretching with Dara Torres DVD with you and do the entire Ki-Hara workout
  • Take a hot shower - this will not combat dehydration, but is soothing to the muscles and a great way to settle in to your new location

Air travel has become a major part of many of our lives, but we don't have to live with the aches and pains that coincide.  I hope some of this information can assist you in your next trip somewhere absolutely incredible!


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