The Travelling Triathlete – Avoiding Jetlag

Interstate and overseas travel involving a triathlon event is becoming more accessible & common amongst age group athletes. Whether you are going for a holiday with a race, a race with a holiday or just a race then we have compiled some important things to consider when planning your trip. These will ensure you arrive safely, with your gear and ready to race.

Prepare for your long haul trip by planning in advance

Pre-planning and organization is the key to a successful trip and will minimize athletes becoming distracted from the task at hand.

  1. Pre-book aisle or exit row seating to allow more room to stretch especially when travelling with teams of taller athletes (e.g. basketballers).
  2. Special meals on most major airlines can be easily arranged with as little notice as 36 hours prior to departure. Examples include low fat and vegetarian. Some airlines even provide athlete meals for group bookings (e.g. low fat, high carbohydrate). Avoid overeating. Remember that you are sedentary, perhaps even tapering, hence your caloric intake will not be high. Adjusting your meal times to those of the country you are heading to can prompt the resynchronization process.
  3. To avoid transit hunger, pack healthy snacks which need minimum storage fuss and are long lasting (e.g. fruits, dried crackers, sport energy bars, liquid meals).
  4. AIS physicians suggest that pharmaceutical intervention to combat sleep difficulties during long haul flights should be based on individual preferences. Should athletes choose to use prescribed sleeping agents, trial at least one week before departing to observe potential side effects.
  5. Make contact with the proposed accommodation to determine when sporting facilities are available for guests or locally.
  6. In-flight stretching programs discreetly done from your seat can aid “travellers thrombosis” (e.g. pins and needles, swelling). Moving around the plane from time to time is also helpful. Transit stops are also a good opportunity to do some light exercise.
  7. Adjust your watch to the destination time when boarding the plane and try to synchronize daily routines accordingly. In-house entertainment and blackout eye pads may help.

Respect the impact travel has on your body

You will likely be dehydrated. Plan ahead & travel with your chosen electrolyte powder/tablets along with clean bottled water. Sip on this constantly throughout the trip. Air travel in particular dehydrates the mucus membranes (nose & mouth) and skin. Apply moisturiser, lip balm, use saline nasal spray & rehydrate with non diuretic fluids (not coffee, alcohol etc.).

Your sleeping patterns will change. Employ methods to ensure you return to a normal sleeping pattern as soon as possible after a long haul trip. Consider bringing your own pillow, eye mask, herbal sleeping tablets (speak with your GP) and limiting phone use. The old rule of thumb is to allow one day per time zone travelled through to adjust to your new time zone. More recent research suggests that this adjustment begins to take affect after 5 – 7 days and should be fully adjusted in 10 days. Allow more time for large changes in climate.

Adjust your goals based on your travel. If you are arriving only one to two days prior to an event with a large change in time zone or temperature, be realistic. You are very unlikely to race at your full potential in this circumstance.

When you arrive. We recommend a very light training session such as a walk, easy cycle or swim. Due to the swelling experienced in long haul travel, running isn’t as highly recommended due to increase in injury risk. Adjust your sleep patterns to replicate your new time zone. This may mean a short nap in order to stay awake until night time. Set an alarm which allows sufficient sleep but you arise at a normal wake up time locally.

Further travel blogs by GPC Squad:

Tri Racing Overseas – Dos & Donts

Preparing for an interstate or overseas triathlon – Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3