Editor’s Note: This post is courtesy of the EF Education First Pro Cycling Team. You can see the original post at www.efprocycling.com.
Traveling the world is synonymous with learning and experiencing new things. We are huge advocates of exploring. We are a team of hardened travelers and over the years we’ve learnt a thing or two about how to make our journeys go that bit smoother. Our riders, sport director and team doctor offer up their well-honed tips and tricks to pack, beat jet lag, and keep your body healthy.
The Australian trip for the Tour Down Under is rough. It’s super long and anytime I do a long haul flight I try to get on the timezone prior to leaving. The day of flying I start to change my meals up a bit. I also hydrate quite a bit and I limit what I eat. It’s not quite fasting, but coming close to it for most of the flight, it makes a huge difference.
Then once you land you have your first regular meal at an appropriate meal time and it helps you get on schedule straight away. If you’re on a long haul flight from, say America to the UK, and you’re eating on the plane then you can be eating at 3am in the morning, which doesn’t make any sense.
By not eating much on the plane also limits your intake of salty food and so you’re not retaining a ton of water and getting super inflamed. I think the diet part is the most important part of flying, and the fasting bit helps with the illness prevention because you’re not consuming quite as many germs.
I always take shoe dryers. They’re heaters that you slide into your shoes. They help dry them out if I’ve been out cycling in the wet. It makes such a difference to put your shoes back on the next day and they’re not wet. I usually have to loan them to my roommate as well.
Wherever I go, I always take swim shorts and instant coffee.
Ken Vanmarcke – Directeur Sportif
One of the most important things is my headphones. From the moment I leave the house I put them on, then the first time I take them off is when I arrive at my hotel. It gives me a comfortable feeling and they’re noise cancelling so everything is quiet and it’s less hard on the mind.
Traveling with family can be stressful but I enjoy traveling with my brother [Sep Vanmarcke]. If we’re together we talk and laugh, but sometimes we also leave each other alone and have “me time” with the headphones.
David Castol – Team Doctor
When you’re traveling you’re three times more likely to get a gastrointestinal infection or respiratory illness, so our goal is to try and minimize that for the riders. Being athletes at this level takes a toll on their immune system, so they’re more likely to get sick, so that’s why we try to be really careful.
If you are traveling multiple time zones then it’s good to start adjusting to the destination time zone a week before you fly. Nowadays there are different apps and websites to help with this. We use a website called Jet-Lag Rooster, where you input where you’re traveling from, where you’re traveling to, and what time your flight is and it gives you a sleep adjustment program.
Once you get to the airport you should adjust your watch to your destination time zone. On the plane we ask riders to try and avoid blue light on their screens. Most of them have some blue light blocking glasses, and now most phones have a night mode. It’s a good idea to switch to that mode. Wearing ear plugs, night masks and comfy clothing will also help make sleep easier.
Throughout the year, we provide the riders with some probiotics from team partner Sound Probiotics to keep their gut health at its best, especially when traveling to, say, Asian races where food is different to what they’re used to. We advise them to get into a routine of taking their probiotics everyday to ensure their gut is stronger and healthier. The other important thing, never rely on airplane food, because it doesn’t fulfill your daily nutrition requirements. Always be prepared. Take some snacks, maybe a prepared meal from home, especially for long flights.
Also follow the meal schedules of your destination, even if you’re not hungry just have something. Keep well-hydrated, even take some electrolyte tablets for the plane and make sure you’re drinking all the time. Once at your destination remember to keep on hydrating.
Hand sanitizer is something that we always recommend the athletes carry. But the best way to discourage spread of diseases is regularly washing hands.
We tell the riders to pack two essential things for the flight: compression socks and garments for the legs and nasal sprays that help prevent colds and flu. These are easy to pick up from pharmacies and are worth spraying up each nostril before getting on the plane. If it’s a long haul flight, it’s worth repeating every so many hours in accordance with the dosage.
Another thing we advise them to carry is a spare water bottle, taking it through security empty and then filling it up before getting on the plane.
When the riders arrive at their destination, if it’s still daytime, we advise they go out for a walk or head out for a quick ride, just to get the body moving and to relax. It helps to get some sunlight as then the brain learns that it’s still day time and when it comes to nighttime, adaptation to sleep will be better.
Keep up with the team at www.efprocycling.com.