A Few Tips and Tricks when Traveling Abroad

A Few Tips and Tricks when Traveling Abroad

Aug 26, 2012

Airplanes, hotels, climate and customs. You can dehydrate quickly and the temptation to skip training can be significant whether you are on vacation or business! The bigger you are, the greater the potential impact of travel – trust me, I’m a fairly big guy, falling in the 308lb (140kg) class after dropping significant weight from my SHW days at the beginning of this year. While using powerlifting to get into shape, I have shifted some weight from around my gut to my shoulders.

One of the issues that came up on my present trip to Croatia was an elbow injury on the plane. For business overseas travel I normally fly business class which spares a lot of things plus better service and more fluids. On this vacation trip we took the upgraded stowage (economy plus) class and I took my customary aisle seat. With broader shoulders and bigger arms I tend to hang out into the aisle a bit. When I drifted off during the nine hour flight to Frankfort from Chicago one of the beverage carts banged my left elbow. The result has been some pain, swelling, and a tight tendon right at the joint.

Total travel time was about 12 hours, 14 if you consider the wait prior to the first flight, plus a two hour car ride when we arrived. The temperature from Zagreb, Croatia, to Gospic, Croatia, was close to 100F (35-40C) but the air was very dry. I drank very little water and some juice and coffee and noticed my urine had gone to an orange color and syrupy.

Yeah, that may sound gross, but it’s very important.

Over the next several days we were offered a lot of food and alcohol. I indulged in the first and avoided the second. There was a lot of time in vehicles, as well, making my first training session a little weak and my legs very tight. My hamstrings even cramped during squats – my calves, sure, my quads, sure, but never my hamstrings!

Basically, I allowed myself to become extremely dehydrated.


Hiking Along the Velebit Mountain Near Gospic, Croatia
Left to Right: Dragan Purisic; Marko Potnar; Branka Stemack; Howard Penrose; Martin Potnar

Tips and Tricks for Travel Abroad:

When flying:

1. If you are a big guy take an aisle seat, a window if you cannot. The aisle seat allows you to easily move and you can lean out for space, although watch for beverage carts! Keeping yourself cramped in a middle seat will tighten you up!

2. As powerlifters we often have bruises and we may be taking supplements that change how our blood coagulates. This can be dangerous as with restricted movement blood clots can form in the legs and break free causing heart problems or stroke (Deep Vein Thrombosis). You must exercise your legs and/or walk to circulate blood through your legs at least once per hour. If you must remain seated: then place your feet firmly on the floor and do toe-raises by tightening your calf muscles; point your toes and rotate your feet with your ankles; shrug; tense and loosen your abdominal muscles; pinch your shoulder blades together; and, flex the other major muscles of your body (ie: quads). These do not require a lot of movement nor will draw too much attention and should be repeated at least 10 times each (ie: 10 calf raises, then 10 rotations, etc.). If you are able to get up, at least a walk up the aisle to the restroom each hour, or a combination of both.

3. Drink lots of WATER! While alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated drinks are fluids they will actually dehydrate you. Juices and soda will only elevate your blood sugar.

4. Stretch as soon as possible after travel preferably with a roller or stick. Hips, back and legs are very important after sitting for extended periods.

5. Especially if you are big or tall (or both), upgrade to more leg room if possible. If you have thick legs, glutes, and/or a gut, you may want to use an extender belt. You can request from the flight attendant – these are usually the demonstration units – or you can purchase one at the airport or some stores in the travel sections. I used to have to use one a lot as different planes actually do have different length belts and I had both larger legs and a bigger gut than now. It also saves any potential ‘extra attention’ (read – embarrassment) if you have to struggle with a borderline belt or have a flight attendant call down to the other end of the plane to get one of the extenders for ‘the big guy.’ I sometimes still request the emergency row (extender belts are not allowed) but so does every other big/tall person who is upgrading. Normally I will try to get an extended legroom seat at least one row away from the emergency row as some of them won’t lean back for emergency exit reasons.

6. To ensure a good seat and to confirm that the seat you requested ahead of time is still available, I will normally take advantage of the 24 hour check-in. You go to the airline and select ‘check in’ within 24 hours of the flight, this will allow you to verify baggage limits and weights, carry on information, verify or select different seats, upgrade, and/or pay for extra’s including extra baggage and, in a few cases, carry-ons. This saves a lot of headaches at the airport and can improve your at-airport check-in and security times!

IMG 1687

For the Engineer in Me – This Was a Pilgrimage to Nikola Tesla’s Birthplace in Smiljan, Croatia, near Gospic

At location:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And when you are done, hydrate some more! Optimally your urine should be light to clear, with the exception of any supplements you are taking such as vitamin B or those with heavy coloring, if you are taking in enough water. Vitamin B supplements will often change the color to a little more ‘orange’ if you are taking a significant amount (I do) for the first few hours after taken. Become familiar with what is normal for you beforehand.

2. When hydrating, regardless of what is reported, use bottled water. I will normally buy gallon jugs and use smaller containers to carry with me if I am going to be somewhere an extended amount of time. Avoid ice and prepared fruits and salads as they are often prepared and washed off using local water.

3. Be aware of the climate! It might be hot and dry, humid, cold, etc. Dress appropriately. When you travel your immune system is retarded and stressed. There is no point in taking a trip abroad only to be sick at the other end!

4. Investigate gyms before you travel. Do not rely upon someone telling you over the phone that they have ‘free weights’ or ‘weight equipment.’ Their definition of these things and ‘lots of weight’ will be very different from yours. Websites and even requesting a digital photo will go a long way. If you are able to find a local power gym/team, then you’ve scored!

5. You WILL be prone to injury during travel, regardless of age, plan and execute your training accordingly.

6. Avoid alcohol even though you will be frequently offered. Your host may appear disappointed or insulted, and may even be pushy. But it’s not their training that will be affected, or their PR, or their next competition. I have stated many times that I am ‘in training’ and cannot drink. Most respect this, others do not, and still others will set a glass of alcohol anyways. I normally leave it untouched.

There are more tips and tricks which we will cover in the future. The ones in this article should cover the basics. You need to be aware of your surroundings and how your body is reacting to it and your training!

One of the most difficult things to do is keep on your training during travel, whether business or vacation. You lose gains quickly each week that you are distracted from that training. In the next installment I will discuss ‘Training and Travel’ recommendations.

Stay prepared brothers and sisters!

Seeing as there was no gym in Gospic I had them drive me at Warp Speed to the gym in Umag – enjoy the video across Croatia at 1000kmh!

Saturday August 25, 2012 training at Umag Gym

-Walk 45 minutes (95F and sunny) along beach to gym for GPP
-Squats (wood floor and thin mat): barx8; 145×5; 235×5; 285×5; 325×5; 375×3; 415×2; 435×1
-Good Mornings: 145×8; 235×6; 325×4
-Leg Press: Sets of 8 through 480kg in 80kg increments
-Band Crunches – orange band for reps
-2km swim in Adriatic Sea


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