The long haul flight versus the body is a battle that’s difficult for the body to “win.” The hours of sitting, stale air and sodium-packed food in a pressurized cabin is a list that even I, as an experienced traveler, shudder at when re-reading. Luckily, I’ve grown accustomed to the long hauls, as with most areas of life, mastery comes with experience. In my case, I’ve mastered the form of moisturizing, wearing the right clothing (including, yes, compression socks), and eating the right things to ensure my body feels it’s best (well almost it’s best) upon landing.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned though, is how to keep my body moving on the plane. When you’re in tight quarters, it can be difficult to stretch without prodding your neighbor and honestly, difficult to turn the right away without tweaking your back after hours of being sedentary. For this reason, I asked four experts in the fitness industry to share their advice on tight-quarter stretching for the daunting longhaul. From neck stretches to spinal rotations, glute and full body routines, check out the moves to add to your agenda for your next long haul (added bonus: it’s something else to do to help pass the time!)
Drop your right ear to your right shoulder, reach your right hand over the top of your head so its gently resting just above your left ear. Apply a very small amount of pressure pressing your right ear a little closer to the right shoulder. Feel the stretch in the left side of your neck. Repeat on the other side. This can help keep your neck from cramping or getting stiff. —Autumn Calabrese, celebrity fitness trainer, certified nutrition coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and lifestyle influencer.
Spinal Extension Stretch: Begin with both feet firmly on floor. Clasp both hands together behind the back. Reach hands backwards until arms are extended straight out behind you. Inhale and lift your chest forward until your back is fully arched. Focus your gaze upward. Exhale as you relax back to your upright seated position. —Nicole Pernic, Nicole Pernic Personal Training and Corporate wellness.
Spinal Twist Stretch: Begin by crossing your right ankle over your left ankle. With your left hand, grip and hold onto the right arm rest. Inhale deeply while rotating your torso to the right until your chest is facing right. As you exhale, twist a little deeper. Inhale\Exhale two more times while holding your spinal twist. Repeat on the opposite side. —Nicole Pernic, Nicole Pernic Personal Training and Corporate wellness.
Find some way to fold your legs: squat in the aisle, bend one knee up in your seat, stand up and fold your leg back so your heal reaches towards your glutes, and if you already practice it, tree pose. Anything that folds the leg so that the knee deepens, the calf flattens, the quad stretches (in the case of folding the leg back) and there is some circulation and attention to the legs, which can get inflamed from the elevation and lack of movement. — Heather Lilleston, international yoga teacher & co-founder of YOGA FOR BAD PEOPLE.
It can feel really good to stretch out the sides of your glutes when you’ve been sitting for a long period of time. Sit up tall in your seat with your feet flat on the floor. Place the heel of your right foot on top of your left knee. Gently lean forward and feel the stretch along the outside of your glute. Repeat this on the other side by placing the left heel on top of the right knee and gently leaning forward. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds on each side. —Autumn Calabrese, celebrity fitness trainer, certified nutrition coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and lifestyle influencer.
Walking and lower body mobility movements are crucial because sitting for prolonged periods, causes stiffness in our legs and hips as well as placing a significant amount of pressure on lower back muscles and spinal discs. Perform circuit once an hour, when permitted by flight safety regulations:
- Walk up and down the aisle at a casual pace x 90 seconds
- Forward Circular Arm Rotations (start with small circles and progress to big circles) x 30 seconds
- Reverse Circular Arm Rotations (start with small circles and progress to big circles) x 30 seconds
- 90 Degree Shoulder Abduction x 30 seconds
- Single Leg High Knee x 30 seconds per side
- Single Leg Circular Hip External Rotation x 30 seconds per side
— James Adams, CPT, SFN, SCC, SET, Alchemy Fitness.