Long flights, trains rides and layovers. These extended stints of sitting and inactivity as you're preparing for--or recovering from--your Backroads trip are the perfect opportunity for tight muscles (and possible injury) in the hips, legs and back. But your travels needn't stifle your muscular health! All you need to keep your body healthy and ready for riding, hiking and adventuring is a little bit of space, forethought and this quick stretching routine that you can do in your hotel room, in the airport or even on the plane.
A couple of things to keep in mind: comfort during your journey begins well before you travel. As you're planning your trip, consider aisle seats since they empower you with more wiggle room and the opportunity to get up and move around at your leisure. It's a good idea to set yourself a gentle timer to remind you to get up and walk around every half hour or so. Once you're up--on the plane, train or even waiting at the airport--you don't need much space to do little movements that make your body feel better. The galley, exit row spaces and quiet corners of the terminal or station are your friends, and they're perfect for getting in a bit of healthy movement to keep you comfortable and loose en route. Your fellow travel companions may give you curious glances, but I guarantee their bodies won't feel nearly as flexible after their transatlantic flight!
Lastly, it's a good idea to pack a yoga towel that doubles as a blanket for the plane, so it can be used for mobile yoga practice or stretching. Having your own clean and comfortable space to sit or lay down will encourage you to do these few exercises on the go.
Reclining Hand to Toe
What it does: Stretches the hamstrings and the tissue running along the back of the hip, thigh and calf.
How to: Lie on your back and bend your right knee in toward your chest. Grab the ball of your right foot with your right hand and then slowly extend your leg up, keeping your head, shoulders and left leg square on the floor. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes; then repeat on the other side.
Eye of the Needle
What it does: Relieves tight hips.
How to: Lie on the floor with both feet pressed firmly against the wall, with your knees bent. Place the right ankle on the left knee and flex the right foot. With your right hand, gently push on your right inner thigh while keeping your hips, spine and head on the floor. To make this stretch less intense, move your body further from the wall. To get an even deeper stretch, move your body closer to the wall and clasp your hands behind your left hamstring, hugging it in toward your torso, with your head still on the ground. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes; then repeat on the other side.
What it does: Stretches the difficult-to-reach tissue at the top of your IT band, which runs down the outside of your upper leg.
How to: Come into a low lunge with your right leg forward and bent at a right angle, and your left knee on the ground (be sure to cushion the knee if you feel pain). Lift the hips up and back so they're stacked directly over the knee on the ground. Instead of pushing your hips forward to stretch the hip flexors, you'll want to keep your hips in this position. Next, without over-arching the lower back, place your right hand on your right thigh and extend the left hand overhead and to the right. You should feel this in the outer hip of the left leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, breathing comfortably; then repeat on the other side.
Reclining Cow Face
What it does: Stretches the gluteus maximus muscles, which attach to the IT band.
How to: Lie on your back and make sure the small of your back is flat on the ground. Cross one knee over the other, trying to keep the knees as closely in line as possible. Take hold of your feet with your hands and--keeping your head on the floor and your neck relaxed--hug your knees into your chest. If you feel a good stretch, stay here. If you don't, flex your feet, grab your ankles and pull them toward your hips. Hold for 1 minute; then repeat with your legs crossed the other way.
So how do you stay limber and healthy on long travel days?