Traveling internationally is a whirlwind of embracing getting lost, experiencing NEW foods, NEW weather, NEW people and a lot of hand gesturing when trying to communicate.
Returning from all of these new experiences can often lead to feel overwehelmed by the need to overcompensate with a more intense regimen instead of sliding back into our old routine.
Our internal dialogue may sing loud with stories like:
“You haven’t gone to the gym in a week, get up early and hit it hard to make up for skipped days”
“You’ve been eating out of your normal, best to do a cleanse”
“You’ve gained weight, you should train twice as hard!”
“Your body needs consistency, subtle movements and rest”
Though moving your body and eating foods better suited for your body is a great idea to do post travel, I am more concerned about how to manage the guilt or fear behind these stories we’re telling ourselves.
We often fear we won’t be capable of getting back to our routine. We fear that we were so out of control that we lost strength, gained weight, and/or will never get to our goals.
If you’ve thought or said these same things to yourself, I did too. You see, we’re led to believe that one day off in the gym will set us back, rather than push us forward. We fear unstructured territory and feel unconfident in our skillsets as people. We feel the need to get back to our routine the day we land. Fear and uncertainty with a sprinkle of guilt run through our heads.
In this blog, I share some tips on how you can begin to replace post travel guilt.
So what should you do after a trip if it isn’t listening to the guilt driven stories or fear based motivation?
Well, let’s first discuss some important basics as to why your body needs less sweating and more compassion:
Flight time & Time Zone Change: After a long flight of sitting, your body may take a few hours up to a few days before it feels capable of working out. It all depends on the length of your flight, the time change and your own body’s needs. If you find that your body can adapt quickly to different time zones you may notice less jet lag, therefore, opting to get in a workout may be in your body’s best interest. However, if you find more stiffness, even pain, or that you tend to struggle with motion sickness your body will need you to slowly resuming your routine.
Under-recovered: Traveling is often pretty exhausting. Sleeping in a new bed, new sounds, new light and different time zones can all impact how well your body is recovering. Even if you’re getting 8 hours of sleep, it may not be as sound. The quality may be impacted as a result of you simply sleeping with a new pillow. These little adjustments has the potential to impact your REM cycle, causing you to feel as though you only slept 5 hours. And remember, recovery is a large component of your program. The better you recover each day, the easier it will be to successfully transition to the new changes traveling requires of you.
New foods: Enjoying new foods has the potential to impact your gut health. Your gut will be working a bit harder at digesting these new ingredients, which can often be more taxing on your nervous system. As a result you may notice a change in your bowel movements (frequency, quality), overall comfort or discomfort (gas, bloating), anxiety, energy and mood. Remember, that anything that affects the gut will effect the brain. Your body will need time during these transitions (adjusting to new foods and then re-adjusting to your old routine). Allow yourself the space and time to migrate through these transitions, and jot down some notes about how your digestion has been feeling.
Immune system: Your immune system is working hard on making sure you stay healthy (resistant to bacteria, germs, climate changes, weather changes, and further exhaustion). Hitting it hard in the gym the day you’re back, may compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to falling sick. The best thing you can do for your body is to give it just enough movement while still listening to your needs of rest.
I provided some strategies on what I would suggest you experiment with the next time you come back from a long trip:
Walking + low impact movement: Sitting on a plane is hard on the body. We’re meant to move. However feeling stiff and jet lagged is not the best combination to immediately resume your old routine (especially if it requires you to work above a 75% max capacity). I would suggest being intentional with low impact movement like walking, swimming, stretching or a mobility flow. Move your body, but don’t push your body.
Sleep: Re-adjusting to new time zones is tough on the body. Hunger cues are all over the place, your foggy and find yourself not being able to pay attention or focus as clearly. Sleep is so important. Personally, I make sure I start my nighttime routine earlier and in some cases take a very teeny tiny dose of melatonin to help me adjust. Getting myself back in the same time zone is one of the BEST things I can do for my brain and body.
Take a day to recover before going back to work: I used to roll right into work immediately after a long flight. In some cases, straight off the plane and back to work after a 4-5 hour night rest. However, the more I listened to my body, the more I realized that it needed a “vacation from my vacation”. I typically try to book my return flight a day earlier, allowing myself a day to adjust. It has been largely helpful in keeping myself from getting sick and readjusting.
Hydrate: Be sure to sneak in a couple of extra gulps of water the first few days you’re back. In many cases, with long flights, we tend to forget to drink as much water. We get behind on our hydration, which has the potential to contribute to achy joints and fatigue.
Eat How You Would: It is important to eat how you normally would. There is no need to immediately start a cleanse, diet, or calorie restricted program to “un-do” what you feel you did while away. Instead, take a moment to sit with yourself and ask “what am I craving?” What I have found is that your body has the loudest voice after trips. Having repeated days eating out of your norm, your cravings are clearer, more precise. Personally, I do not eat out too often, and when I return from trips where eating out was the norm, I typically crave something I cook and make at home. It’s typically made with the seasonings I like, the oils I enjoy, the way I cook it etc. Nothing fancy, just a home-cooked meal. It’s important to remind yourself that any drastic changes you do now, is not what your body needs. It needs you to listen and to just get back to what you normally did. No extremes, just the basics.
Gratitude recollection: I have found it beneficial to interrupt the feelings of overwhelm with gratitude. If your internal dialogue is overwhelming you, take a moment to jot down a few memories you’re grateful for. Gratitude recollections are extremely impactful in helping reinforce self compassion.
Remind Yourself Everything is Okay: Traveling is challenging. Many do not speak out about how it can be mentally and physically exhausting. Allowing yourself the space to enjoy traveling, and also the space to be overwhelmed by it, is completely okay. If anything, it has the potential to help set better expectations around your travels. Just remember you’re not alone for feeling stressed about traveling. It wasn’t until I was 29 that I traveled outside of the US.
I’ve said it before, and I plan on continuing to remind you of it again: the gym and your routine will be there when you return from your travels. Your body needs consistency, subtle movements and rest. Take time to provide some of these basic needs and I promise you’ll feel back in your routine in no time.