Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. Tayte is currently in Karpacz, Poland and still waiting for his checked bag to arrive.
I’m grateful for how my running career gives me the opportunity to travel more than I ever have before. In the past month of May, I’ve been in Portland, Salt Lake City and all throughout the South of France. Now in June, I’m preparing to travel to Poland to race the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. After the race, I’ll travel around Europe and then again return to the US for more racing and training. Such travel means lots of hours sitting on planes and also waiting in too many customs lines.
But just as I’ve trained my body to get used to the long distance trail races, so too do I train my body for the long distance flights. I’ve come up with a few tips that help me get through the long travel and help me overcome the jet-lag before a big race.
Hydration: Hydration is important on the plane just as it is for me in the long trail races. Both on a plane and on the trails, one can easily forget to drink, the body can get dehydrated, and one’s electrolytes can get out of balance. This can lead to fatigue or feeling sluggish. That’s why when I travel, I always take my favorite electrolytes and mix them in my handheld racing water bottle. I’ll drink the whole 16oz bottle before the end of the flight and I’ll usually ask the flight attendants to fill up my bottle another time.
Aisle seats for Extra Mobility: Remember the classic track advice, “don’t get blocked in!”. I’m always more likely to get up and stretch my legs if I’m in an aisle seat and I can easily get up whenever I need to. I’ll do a few lunges or some calf raises when the captain turns off the fasten your seat belt sign. My muscles feel less stiff after a few exercises, especially after a post-race flight.
Mobile Passport App: Customs can be a drain on the mind. It can be hard to stay positive when I see a giant line waiting for me and my post-6-hour-flight tired brain. Luckily, there is an app to make the customs process easier; the Mobile Passport app. Upon entering the US last May, I easily skipped 45 minutes of waiting in line at the Boston airport with this app. I was lucky enough to hear one of the flight staff telling some people to download this app to help speed up the customs process. Essentially, the app takes your photo, records your passport information and allows you to answer the usual questions that you are not smuggling anything illegal into the US. Then your phone gets scanned by passport control and you are on your way. I went from a big wait to no wait with this easy download. Who would have thought going through customs could suddenly leave me feeling excited!
The Little Things That Make Your Day: Is there something you can bring on your travels that just makes the world seem a bit better? For me, I open up my bag and take out my travel-sized olive oil container and pour it over the plane meals. These meals always remind me of astronaut food. The familiar taste of my amazing olive oil makes the flight so much more smooth.
Waiting Time is Useful Time: Never think about how long the hill is. In other words, when I start thinking about how long the flight is, the time seems to drag on and on. That’s why it’s important for me to come up with something that takes my mind off the long duration of time I’ll be sitting in a plane-seat. When I fly, I think about how much extra time I will have to do the things I’ve always wanted to do but might not have had time for. For example, I’ve never read the book, Born to Run, and maybe waiting at the gate for my Poland flight I will have the time to read a chapter or two. I might also have extra time to practice my French before watching an inspiring in-flight movie such as Rocky.
To Sleep Or Not to Sleep: I adjust my sleep schedule to the local time as quickly as possible. For example, when I arrive in Poland next week, my body will likely be tired but I will not sleep until the nighttime. For me, it helps to stay awake by getting exciting about discovering somewhere new. I find an energy stronger than a double-shot espresso in my curiosity to learn about new places and cultures. Poland, what do you have waiting for me to find besides fabulous pierogis?
Remind Yourself Why You Love Home: As much fun as it is to travel and discover new places, I find much excitement upon returning home. No matter how exhausting my travel is, I can beat the jet-lag by returning to my favorite places that make home feel like home. It’s becoming a habit that within the first day of returning to Utah, I spend time up at Lake Blanche in the Wasatch Mountains. I love climbing through the Aspen trees and relaxing by the lake on the red rocks slabs that I know so well. I never feel jet-lagged in a place so wonderful.