The lifestyle of the elite tennis professional: so glamorous!
• Traveling to exotic and far-flung destinations, a different city each week, experiencing the culture and diversity of the world.
• Flying first class and arriving in each new city refreshed and alert.
You're Dreaming! What is wrong with this picture?
The reality of a tennis player's traveling life is more like this:
• Rushing to catch the last flight out after your match.
• Getting harassed about excess luggage.
• Being squashed in the middle seat.
• A cross-Atlantic trip with departure delays.
• Food not suitable for an athlete and not enough of it on the plane.
• On arrival it's another fifty minutes through traffic to the hotel.
• Then go to the courts to practice with a slight headache and feel slow, tired, bad tempered and disoriented.
Recognize this picture?
You have experienced the WTA players' travel companion: JET LAG.
WHY DO WE GET JET LAG?
• Traveling across time zones upsets your body's internal time clock.
• This clock sets the peak times for your mind and body.
• Your mental alertness, temperature, strength and flexibility all fluctuate over 24 hours.
• These natural "circadian" rhythms are disrupted by long distance travel.
• The more time zones you cross, the greater the disruption.
• It can take up to one week to recover from traveling across five time zones or more. (USA to Western Europe is a minimum of five time zones.)
• Traveling eastwards, when the day is shortened, is more stressful on the body, compared with westward travel when the day is lengthened. For example, you will feel more jet lag flying to Australia than you will on your return to Europe.
Jet stress is due to the cramped space, noise, altered diet and dehydrating effect of air travel. Jet stress adds to jet lag.
• Dehydration: The dry aircraft environment can cause fluid loss of about 300ml an hour. That is one large glass of water, just from sitting there!
• Results of jet lag include being tired, sleeping poorly and maybe headaches or an upset stomach.
• Your on-court performance DECREASES due to lower concentration, slower reaction times and mood changes like irritability.
MINIMIZE JET LAG & IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
Jet lag will always occur to some extent with across-time zone traveling. The good news is that the symptoms of jet lag can be minimized.
• Make your next trip a pleasant experience.
• Arrive at your next tournament feeling refreshed, alert and ready to play.
• Reduce jet lag and prepare for improved tennis performance upon arrival.
Try these practical steps next time you fly:
1. BEFORE YOU FLY
• The night before get a good night's sleep and avoid alcohol.
• Pre-book an aisle or exit row seat or use miles to upgrade for extra leg-room.
• Order special meals
• Low fat, vegetarian and high carbohydrate.
• Carry on board
o A few extra snacks (sports bars, fruit)
o Bottled water
o Things to help you relax and occupy time, like a good book, magazine, music or relaxation tapes.
2. ON THE PLANE
• Drink LOTS of water, about 300ml an hour.
• Avoid dehydrating drinks like coffee, tea, cola drinks and alcohol.
• Avoid overeating.
• Humidify. Use a water spray for the face, to hydrate skin and humidify the air
• Adjust your eating and sleeping patterns to match local destination time.
• Cat nap if you prefer.
• Change your watch at the start of your trip, to the local destination time.
• Move. Stretch, walk around, move feet/ankles when sitting to assist circulation.
• Wear comfortable clothes. Long pants and compression socks will help improve circulation.
• Sleep better with eye shields, neck pillows and ear plugs can improve comfort and reduce "airplane neck".
• Seek advice before taking any pills.
o A LAST option and should only be considered for short-term situations under medical supervision.
o These often have unwanted side effects, including a NEGATIVE impact on your performance.
3. ON ARRIVAL
• Adjust your eating and sleeping times according to local time.
• Go outside into the natural sunlight to help adjust.
• Light training only on the first day.
• Focus on movement and stretching to reduce afternoon sleepiness (jog, swim, bike, easy hit, unpack your bags!)
• Use recovery techniques like hydrotherapies, massage and relaxation skills.
• Be social. Research shows interacting with others upon arrival leads to faster adjustment to the new time zone.
• Have realistic expectations for the first few days to ease your body and mind back into full training.
CONQUER YOUR JET LAG! For more information read Physically Speaking topics "Travel Nutrition", "Sleep Easy", and "High Flyers".
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