There are many reasons that people choose to participate in races that involve a lot of travelling. On occasions, it can simply be down to qualifying for a set race, where the location is out of their control. Other times, it’s simply the opportunity to discover a new city or the temptation of a particularly iconic race route to tick off your bucket list.
The downside to flying to a destination for a race is that flying can be uncomfortable, cause stress and disrupt your sleep. These are all factors that may get in the way of your race performance if they aren’t managed. To help improve your flying and travelling experience, we’ve put together some tips to help ensure you’re rested and ready for race day.
Try to arrive with as much time as possible before your race
When booking your flight, try and allow for a few days (when possible) to acclimatise to your location. This will help you fight jetlag and get over any post-flight sleepiness.
As well as this, we recommend staying for a couple of days extra after your race, especially if you have an interest in the location and want to explore. That way, you won’t need to rush out and see everything on the days leading up to your race and will have some recovery time before getting on the plane home. Flying is uncomfortable enough without having to deal with post-race injuries or stiffness.
Consider the following when booking accommodation
Is it close to the start line? If you’re booking a hotel that is further away from the start line, consider how you’re planning on getting there in the morning. Make sure that it’s as simple as possible – you really won’t appreciate any additional stress on race day!
Do you have the facilities to be preparing your own food? It may be worth looking into booking an apartment, with kitchen facilities, as opposed to a hotel room. That way, you can prepare your pre-race meals yourself, to make sure you’re fuelling your body in the best way possible.
Will the sleeping conditions be good? If you’re a light sleeper and are travelling in a group, consider paying extra to have a room to yourself. If you’re travelling with a partner, maybe consider a separate bed for extra comfort. Try and mimic the optimal conditions you would need before a race. Bring earplugs and an eye mask with you.
Consider what seat you want on the plane
Would it be worth paying to upgrade to business or first class? This will give you a far more comfortable journey, which will benefit your race performance massively overall.
If you’re flying on a budget, maybe consider paying for an extra-legroom seat or exit row seat. Or, request an aisle or window seat. The benefits of having an aisle seat are that you can get up and walk around as much as you like, as well as having a little more room. However, if you like to sleep on planes, be aware that you’ll probably get woken up a lot by whoever is sitting next to you as they need to leave their seat too.
Say hydrated before and during your flight
Ensure you’re drinking enough water, as flying can really dehydrate you. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and consider bringing electrolyte tablets to add to your water. Adding electrolytes will keep you hydrated and your muscles happy, as well as helping to prevent DVT while flying.
Wear compression socks during the flight
Compression socks will help increase your blood circulation, and your legs will feel much better for it.
Another way to improve blood circulation is to get up and walk around often throughout the flight to prevent your legs feeling stiff when you finally get up. If possible, try some basic calf stretches too, to alleviate any stiffness.
Prepare in advance as much as possible
Make sure that you’ve organised the entirety of your kit as much as possible, so there’s no chance of forgetting something and frantically having to search to buy and replace. Pack your bag in the order of what you’ll need and arrange how you’re getting from the airport to your accommodation well in advance. The more prepared you are before you leave, the less likelihood there is of anything going wrong. This sounds simple, but it’ll prevent unnecessary drama when you need it the least. If you’re worried about remembering everything, write a list of actions and kit that you need and tick it off as you go along.
Pro tip – pack a yoga mat! We advise you to pack a yoga mat into your check-in luggage for when you arrive at the hotel. Once there, take 10-20 minutes to do some light stretching and light yoga, to help any stiff muscles and help you feel refreshed.
Bring your own snacks, and avoid airline snacks
You won’t want to be trying any new food so close to your face, so as to avoid gastrointestinal issues, so make sure you prepare snacks that are more appropriate pre-race foods, such as nuts or flapjacks. High carb, low fibre foods are advised.
It’s also possible on some airlines to require specific dairy requirements for your in-flight meal when booking. Be sure to look into these options if there are certain foods you need to avoid before racing.
Keep all your ‘on-the-day’ race gear in your cabin bag
Prepare every bit of kit that you need for the race and pack as much of this as possible in your cabin bag as opposed to your check-in luggage. That way, if your check-in bag gets lost in transit or ends up in another country, you know that you have the most important bits of kit on you, and you’ll find yourself in much less of a panic.
Set your clock to the destination time before you get on the plane
If the time zone differs, then set your clocks to the destinations time zone before you get on the plane and try and adapt to it as early as possible. Try and sleep when it’s night-time in your destination and stay awake during the daytime hours. However, if you struggle to sleep on flights then don’t keep yourself awake and end up un-rested.
In following these tips, we hope that your travel experience is as seamless as possible, and you feel refreshed and ready for your race.