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Fly like a top athlete – Six tips for a smooth long-haul flight

Article published
24.06.2019 kl 09:00
Passengers sitting by the window at Helsinki Airport
How do athletes prepare for long flights and recover back to peak condition?

Many professional athletes are experienced air passengers as they glide between training camps and competitions in various locations and sometimes across several time zones. They often have a lot of luggage, and no room for jet lag.  

Here are some tips that athletes use for stress-free air travel. Any passenger can utilize these, regardless of their fitness-level:    

1. Ship luggage that is heavy or hard to carry  

If you’re bringing a lot of baggage with you on a trip and you’re worried about lugging it through the airport, you might want to consider shipping it instead.  

It’s good to measure and weigh the piece of luggage before shipping. Make sure you know the overall time your bag is expected to reach your destination, especially if the place is hard to reach. 

2. Pack the most valuable things in your hand luggage  

It might seem funny to bring something you won’t need during the flight with you on the plane. However, we all have items we feel are absolutely indispensable. If possible, pack your most precious things in your hand luggage.  

Athletes may carry their shoes, clothing or other competition gear with them because it saves them worrying about losing important equipment.  

3. Choose the window seat  

To get as much sleep as possible during a long-haul flight, many athletes prefer the window seat. Leaning your head on the wall may help you find a good sleeping position. You can fold your jacket into a pillow, for instance; ear plugs and a sleep mask may also let you get some rest.  

4. Pay attention to hand hygiene   

Taking care of hand hygiene is important on a flight. There’s a slightly elevated risk of catching the flu on a plane, as in any public space you share with a lot of people. Wash your hands carefully with soap before meals and after the flight, and keep a travel-size hand sanitizer within reach. 

5. Calculate your sleep 

Tiredness, dizziness, indigestion, loss of appetite and memory and concentration issues are the most common symptoms of jet lag. Our bodies are programmed to follow a certain sleeping and eating rhythm during a 24-hour period, and traveling across time zones disrupts this, causing jet lag.  
Before a long-haul flight, it might be wise to plan how to get enough sleep at a suitable time so that adapting to a new time zone would be easier. Setting your watch to the time at your destination may help you make these calculations. If you’re bad at sleeping on planes, try to get more sleep on the nights before traveling, and take daytime naps after the flight.  

6. Take time to get adjusted 

If the change in time zone is extreme, recovering from the flight will take some time. Adjusting to this time difference is normally easier when traveling to the west compared to flying east; our bodies are better equipped to cope with longer days compared to going to sleep earlier than usual.  

Give yourself two to three days to adjust to the new surroundings and sleep schedule especially if you’re expecting to engage in an activity that is physically or mentally demanding. 

Hear the former speedskater Mika Poutala’s thoughts on air travel and the expanding Helsinki Airport in the video below.

Thumbnail from the video with title Traveling as a top athlete