Pilates on the road - 20+ tips and stretches for stiff travelers

With the Holidays approaching, many people will be getting on airplanes or taking extended road trips. Here are my travel Pilates tips for keeping your body happy while on the road or in the air

 

Tips, Stretches and Exercises for travelers

 

For sitting in a car or airplane, or in the airport

Seated hamstring stretch 

Seated hamstring stretch 

  1. Seated hamstring stretch: Extend one leg out in front of you. Put both hands on that leg, lift your spine, and slowly slide your hands down the leg, keeping your back as straight as possible until you feel a stretch. Hold for at least one minute each side. You can also do both legs at once...extend them straight out in front of you on the floor, pull your toes back toward your knees, and round your body over your legs. 

Pick up a pen with your toes

Pick up a pen with your toes

2. Toe exercises: Remove your shoes and move your feet around. You can pretend to pick up marbles or pencils with your toes to activate the arches of your feet. Then practice spreading all of your toes repeatedly to get some blood flow and circulation to them. You can even practice lifting all 5 toes up one at a time, and then putting them down one at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Keep your neck from getting stiff. Look right, then down to your belly button, then left, then straight ahead and reverse it starting left. Then tilt your right ear to right shoulder to gently stretch your neck, and then do the other side. 

4. Lift your spine by gently engaging your abdominals (pull your belly button in and up without holding your breath or sticking your front low ribs out) and find some length in the back of your neck by lowering your chin slightly.

 

Upper back and neck strengthener

Upper back and neck strengthener

5. Upper back and neck strengthener: With palm over palm, put your hands behind your head and VERY GENTLY press your head into your hands (keeping your chin down). This engages the muscles in your upper back, helps open your chest, and puts your head and neck in better alignment (many people tend to hold their head too far forward).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seated hip stretch

Seated hip stretch

6. Seated hip/butt stretch: Cross one ankle over the opposite knee, lift your spine so that your back is straight, and lean slightly forward. Hold for 1 minute at least.

 

 

 

 

7. Foot and leg massage: Use a tennis ball to roll your feet, and if you have a solid metal or plastic water bottle, you can roll the top of your legs and the back of your legs/hamstrings on it while seated.


Stretches for standing in the airport, gas and bus stations

Open your shoulders and chest

Open your shoulders and chest

8. Chest opener: Clasp your hands behind your back and lift them slightly until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and chest.

Side stretch

Side stretch

 

 

9. Side stretch: Clasp your hands over your heads, grab your right wrist in your left hand, and lean your body to the left for a side stretch. Hold 10 seconds and then use your stomach to change sides, clasping your left wrist in your right hand.

 

10. Spine lengthening: Clasp your hands over your head and lift your shoulders to your ears. Then keep the length in your spine but lower your shoulders, then open your arms all the way down to your hips, and give them a loose shake.

 

 

Standing hip/butt stretch

Standing hip/butt stretch

11. Hip/butt stretch: Using a wall for balance, stand on one leg and cross your other ankle just above the standing leg's knee. Bend you standing leg and stick your butt out behind you as if you were about to sit in a chair. Hold for at least 1 minute each side.

 

Standing thigh stretch

Standing thigh stretch

12. Thigh stretch: Standing on your right leg, bend your left knee so that your heel comes to your bottom, and grab your left foot or ankle with your left hand. Keep your knees close together and tuck your pelvis slightly under until you feel a thigh stretch. Hold at least 1 minute and then repeat on the other side.

Calf stretch

Calf stretch

 

13. Calf stretch: Facing the wall, take your right leg behind you on the floor and bend your left knee (this is best done without shoes on). Keep your right leg straight and push your right heel into the ground. You should feel a calf stretch. Hold at least 1 minute and then change sides. You can also get a calf stretch in your shoes by dropping one heel off of a step or curb, or by putting your toes up a wall and keeping your heel down on the floor.

 

Pec stretch

Pec stretch

14. Pec stretch: Using a wall or window, place your R hand on the wall with your fingers facing behind you and the thumb on top, and turn your whole body, including your feet, away from the wall (toward the center of the room) until you feel a stretch in chest, arm, and/or shoulder. Hold at least one minute and then change sides.

 

Arm and neck stretch

Arm and neck stretch

15. Arm/neck stretch: Put your right palm flat on the wall with your fingers facing up toward the ceiling. Tilt your left ear to your left shoulders and then bring it back up. Do this 5-10 times each side.

Foot massage

Foot massage

 

16. Foot massage: Roll the bottoms of your feet on a tennis ball, golf ball, firm water bottle, or dowel. At least one minute each foot.

17. Shoulder massage: Use the tennis ball against a wall or lie on the floor with it between your shoulder blade and spine on the muscle. Roll up and down and side to side...careful not to roll over your spine. This is a great way to get into those knots in your upper back that can be persistent when you travel.

 


Upon arrival and after any long day of sitting, or walking:

Stretch your hips (standing, seated, or lying down) (#6, #11)

Stretch your calves (#13)

Stretch your hamstrings (#1)

Stretch your quads (#12)

Roll the bottoms of your feet on a tennis ball, dowel, or firm water bottle (#16)

18. Lay on the floor with your legs up the wall at 60-90 degrees..you can tie a belt or strap around your thighs so that your legs can completely release.

Legs up the wall

Legs up the wall

 

19. Lay on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees over a couch, chair, or low bed and let your legs completely release. This helps relieve low back pain and relaxes your hip flexors. You can stay here for as long as you want...read a book, watch a movie, take a nap. A pillow under you head is nice here.

Low back and hip flexor release

Low back and hip flexor release


Comfort is key

1. Get out of the car as much as possible to move around, and similarly move around the airplane as much as possible. Stand as much as you can when you are waiting for your flight or in-between flights. Also walk as much as you can during your airport transfers. 

2. Put a pillow or your jacket rolled up behind your low or mid back to help keep the natural curvature in your back. Your low back should not be pressing or slumping into the seat.

3. Get a nice supported neck pillow for sleeping on the plane or in the car

4. Get a hand cart, or use a rolling suitcase to keep baggage off of your back and shoulders as much as possible. If you have a backpack, make sure it has a waist strap and use the strap so that the weight of the pack goes into your pelvis and legs, rather than your shoulders. Pack the heaviest items in your rolling suitcase.


Tips for jet lag

1) Set your watch to the local time at your arrival city as soon as you get on the plane.

2) Drink tons of water

3) Try to sleep right away on the plane, especially if taking a red-eye (lavender oil and neck pillow will help)

4) Go for a walk and get some sun when you arrive to help acclimate your body


To sum up: your packing list for a happy body

1. A tennis ball

2. Arnica gel, Traumeel cream, and/or Tiger Balm (all different kinds of topical treatments for sore and achey muscles)

3. Lavender essential oil (for relaxing and calming you if you need to sleep, especially if you have long travels or jet lag)

4. Neck Pillow

5. Neck scarf to keep you warm and also you can pull it over your mouth and nose for germ protection. A couple of drops of On Guard or Thieves Essential Oil is also helpful for anti-viral protection.

6. Comfortable shoes with wide toe boxes and NO HEEL (naturalfootgear.com has great shoes)

7. Emergen-c or other vitamins for immune support (C and D are recommended)

8. Water bottle (drink plenty of water...air travel will dehydrate you quickly. You can ask the flight attendants to fill your water bottle)