Tips For Staying Pain Free and Fit While Traveling

thanksgiving travelingWhile on vacation it is easy to lose all motivation to stay in shape. Extreme temptation is present to eat too much, to indulge with lots of fatty or sweet foods, and not to exercise. It is not fun to take the time to exercise versus sleeping or to say no to foods that the heart desires. However, staying a bit more fit is often easier than one may think, and making it a priority will serve you well. If you have chronic pain problems, keeping up with an exercise program will make travel go much smoother.

Exercising on the Go

If one stays at a hotel, most places have some exercise equipment available. Business travelers often exercise early in the morning, and if there are only a few pieces of equipment present, you may have to adjust your timing during the day if using it is important to you. Oftentimes no one else will be using workout equipment during the middle of the day and before dinner. I have often worked out with no one else around hours before dinner. The other benefit of exercising before dinner is that exercise tends to reduce your appetite.

Starting the day with exercise often helps get the body moving and decreases overall pain throughout the body. Many routines do not require any significant amount of equipment and can be done anywhere. The first thing is to spend 5-10 minutes with a good stretching routine. If you have low back pain, work at sitting on the ground and touching the toes, stand and touch the toes, and then do hip stretching by leaning forward with the pelvis. Tight muscles hurt, and although initially a stretch might slightly increase pain, as the muscles loosen, the pain often goes away.  

Strengthening does not require any amount of special equipment. Core strengthening can be done without any or with simple things like rubber tubing or bands. Basic core exercises to do include planks, leg lifts while lying or sitting, stomach crunches and supermans. Planks should be held for only 30-45 seconds and repeated one or two times. They can be done with leg and arm lifts and performed on the side to make them more difficult while working more muscles.

Using a balance board or balance cushion can add even more of a challenge, and these portable boards and can be found for $20-50. Rubber tubing can also be used for strengthening, and anchoring it in a door allows a number of exercises for the arms, trunk, lower back and legs. Affordable rubber tubing for exercise with a variety of resistances, handgrips and door anchors with a carrying sack can be found on Amazon. Just doing balance exercises requires no equipment and works the core muscles too.

Finding Time To Exercise During Holidays Or Vacation

Maintaining general conditioning may be one of the easiest tasks while on vacation. Start walking and do some sightseeing. Walk to a restaurant or take a walk in the morning or evening. Explore the area where you are on foot and spend 30 minutes to an hour just walking every day. Google maps will even give you walking directions an estimated time of when you’ll arrive. If more ambitious, go for a run, go swimming or in many cities there are now inexpensive bike sharing services that allow one to explore the area and get some exercise.

Lastly, while on vacation, eat sensibly. Try to keep to a similar diet while traveling as you do while at home.  A high protein meal plan with fresh fruits, salads and vegetables will keep you from overeating. Keep the simple carbohydrates down like the bakery goods, pasta, potatoes and desserts. Avoid stuffing yourself at meals, eating late at night, and drinking lots of alcohol. It is okay to splurge somewhat, but if you do not overeat you definitely will feel better.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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