Cold and flu season is officially upon us, and the chances of getting sick are even greater for those who are traveling. Not only are you exposed to way more germs, but you’re also dealing with long hours confined on an airplane, changes in your sleep routine, and unfamiliar foods that can wreak havoc on your digestion. When it comes to staying healthy abroad, no one has more experience than Olympic athletes who not only endure long hours in transit, but who also have to be in tip-top shape when they get there. Take it from two-time Olympic champion rower Susan Francia, who has traveled to every single continent throughout her illustrious career.
I recently caught up with Francia to find out how she stays healthy while traveling abroad, and I’ve already started implementing some of her advice into my own life. Read on for five simple ways to tweak your travel routine so you don’t spend your whole holiday sick in bed.
Don’t ditch your workout
Easier said than done, right? While exercising on vacay might not be at the top of your to-do list, it’s imperative that you squeeze in some physical activity to keep your mind sharp and your body strong.
“The number one thing for me is just allocating that time and really just deciding that I will wake up a little bit earlier or use that small window in between meetings,” Francia advises. “Most hotels have gyms. Right off the bat when you check in ask, ‘Hey, where’s the gym?’ And that way you’ve already made a verbal commitment to yourself. You might want to sleep in, but trust me, it just makes your body feel so much better and you end being so much happier. And once you get that first workout out of the way, it’s a lot easier to get into a routine.”
If you can’t find a gym nearby, Francia doesn’t recommend doing body circuits in your hotel room. “That’s almost the hardest to motivate yourself for,” she says. Instead, start your day outdoors with a run, brisk walk, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up. Not only will you enjoy your workout more, but you’ll get to experience your new surroundings in a truly authentic way. And you won't feel guilty for kicking back later in the day!
Wear compression tights
We get it—compression tights aren’t exactly the sexiest apparel to travel in, but they’re a total gamechanger, especially when you’re taking a cross-country or international flight. According to Dr. David L. Green, a hematologist at NYU Langone Medical Center who was recently quoted in The New York Times, “compression wear can significantly reduce the chances of clots because it applies external pressure to the veins, increases circulation, and prevents blood from pooling.” Plus, these special tights can help reduce puffiness, so they’re great for aesthetic reasons as well.
“Sometimes I’ll wear full-on compression pants,” Francia admits. “If I meet the love of my life on the plane, that’s great—he’ll need to love me in my compression pants.”
Take an immune support supplement
Francia always carries a few packets of USANA’s Booster C 600 with her, especially when she’s traveling. “That stuff has saved my butt so many times. Even when I'm just feeling some sniffles or when getting sick is not an option, I take one on the plane and also when I get there,” she explains. “Or I’ll drink a few packets mixed in water. A vitamin C boost is a must.”
Editor's note: I recently tried it for myself and can wholeheartedly agree with Francia—this stuff is a lifesaver!
Carry health snacks
While most airlines have really upped their game when it comes to tasty and nutritious in-flight meals, you’ll probably still get a bit hungry during your journey. Francia suggests packing accessible and healthy snack options like nuts and granola bars for emergencies. “I also pack a little bit of dark chocolate. If I feel a sweet craving, it’s something easy to nibble on,” she says.
Don’t get too adventurous
When you’re in an exotic location, it’s only natural to want to immerse yourself fully in that culture—but be careful when it comes to food, because your body might not be equipped to handle a foreign cuisine. “I’m an adventurous eater, and I have to tell you sometimes it’s gotten me into trouble,” Francia admits. “Unfortunately, sometimes it’s better to just eat overcooked meat, which is usually safe. And even though it’s not the best for you, if you're in a pinch fried food is usually safe because it’s cooked at such a high temperature. Of course, in moderation!”