Tips to Plan and Enjoy your Holiday – a Physiotherapist’s Perspective
It’s the end of the year, finally! Yet this year flew by. Since the start of the pandemic, 2022 has been our first year to gradually return to what we knew as “normal life”. It’s been an extremely busy year for most of us, and surely you look forward to a well-deserved holiday. This, of course, means that you need to do some preparation and planning. In this blog, we give you tips on how to plan and enjoy your holiday from a physiotherapist’s perspective. We also discuss the things that physiotherapists will always pack when we go on holiday.
With the growing excitement around the upcoming holiday also comes a lot of stress to get many other things done. Whether it’s writing exams, finalising work projects, or doing Christmas shopping, most of us scurry to get it all done at this time of the year. With this rush might come some unwanted stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and irritability. Plus, exercise has probably been wiped from your list of priorities at this time.
If you’ve been experiencing more aches and pains than usual, it would be a good idea to visit your physiotherapist before you go on your holiday. Or if you have an existing injury, and don’t want to have problems with it while you are away, come and see us. No-one wants to get injured or have pain when going on holiday. A holiday should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment. Let us help you prepare for exactly that!
Tips to Pack and Prepare your Holiday
Follow these tips when packing and preparing for your holiday:
Plan where you want to go and what activities you want to do
If you decide to take a long journey somewhere, consider whether you can endure the long trip. Extended periods of traveling can be very taxing on your body. If possible, break up your journey. For instance, if you are driving in a car, drive a shorter distance and spend the night at a place more or less half-way to your destination. This will give you some time to explore a new place, but also to walk around and stretch your body. You can then continue your journey the next day feeling fresh and well-rested.
If you are flying, avoid sitting while waiting for your flight. Rather walk around the airport, or stand while waiting to board the plane. During the flight, also try to move often. For example, twist your spine to one side, then the other, or do some calf raises. Wearing loose, airy clothes and having a travel pillow on hand will also make your flight much more comfortable. Use the pillow to support your lower back or your neck during the flight.
If you decide to go to a place you have never been before, do some research to get a good idea of how to prepare. There may be some new activities you would like to try while you are there. New adventures can be a lot of fun, but make sure that your body is properly conditioned for the physical demands of these new activities. If you take on too much physical activity suddenly, you risk getting injured.
Choose suitable bags and suitcases
Having a sturdy-framed but light suitcase with wheels is helpful. Instead of repetitively having to lift and carry heavy bags, you can pull a wheeled suitcase. When packing your suitcase, place the case on a high surface to avoid having to constantly bend down. Try to start packing a few days before you leave. Packing a little bit every day helps to avoid having to do many repeated movements in a short period of time, which your body may not be used to. Also, pack only what you really need, since over-packing adds unnecessary weight that you have to carry, lift and pull around.
Keep your hand luggage as light as possible. Heavy handbags can strain your neck and shoulders. If you take a handbag, alternate between left and right shoulders while carrying it. Rather opt for a good backpack that you can carry over both your shoulders to spread the weight evenly. Make sure the backpack fits snuggly against your back, and not hanging too low. Choose a backpack that has two adjustable, padded straps. Tighten the straps to ensure a snug fit to avoid discomfort on your neck and shoulders. Pack your heavier items closest to your back to reduce the strain on your back.
Manage your luggage in the right ways
If your body is not used to lifting and carrying bags around, do so with caution. Rather than carrying heavy luggage, use a trolley to load your luggage on at the airport. Don’t hesitate to ask someone for help if you struggle to manage your luggage, or know that you will strain your body while doing so.
When lifting your luggage, bend at your knees to lower down, lift with both hands and hold the luggage close to your body. Then, use your strong leg muscles rather than your back to stand upright. When turning, turn your whole body, rather than twisting from your waist. Take care of your wrists and shoulders when lifting luggage above your waist.
Pack appropriate clothes and equipment
Knowing what the weather conditions will be like helps you pack the appropriate clothes and associated gear. Also consider what activities you would like to do. If you want to go hiking, make sure you have proper hiking boots with good foot arch and ankle support, and adequate grip on the soles. Wear light, breathable clothing but always have a waterproof jacket handy.
If you are currently using any prescribed aids, such as ankle guards or insoles, make sure to continue using them as appropriate. If you are still recovering from an injury, it is important to continue with your rehabilitation. Packing a theraband is easy, and can be a very effective exercise tool to use as part of your program.
Prepare for physical activities
Too often we see people getting injured because they did too much too soon. Make sure you condition your body for the demands of the activities you plan on doing. If you still have some time, do some targeted exercises or training. Contact us if you need some guidance on the type of training you may need.
With each new activity, pace yourself and rest when you need to. Make sure you warm up before taking on a strenuous activity, and drink enough water to avoid getting dehydrated. Apply a good quality sunscreen if you will be spending time outside. Ultimately, the most important thing is for you and your family and/or friends to enjoy every moment of your holiday!
Tips for Traveling and Enjoying your Holiday
Follow these tips when traveling & enjoying your holiday:
Move as often as you can, especially on long trips
One of the most problematic things of going on holiday is sitting still for a long time while traveling. Our bodies are designed to move. To avoid discomfort and pain when traveling, take regular small movement breaks. Incorporate some stretches and basic movements like squats or lunges whenever you get a chance. Instead of sitting while you fill up your car, or wait for your order at the café, walk around, move and stretch. Trust us, these movement breaks will help you feel refreshed, and your body will thank you once you reach your destination!
Maintain some level of physical activity while you are there
Of course you need to wind down and relax while you are on holiday. However, being completely inactive won’t benefit you in any way. Try doing some form of physical activity every day. For instance, go for a long walk on the beach or a hike in the bush, play with your children, take surfing lessons, rent a bicycle and cycle around town, take the stairs rather than the escalator, or simply do a quick hotel-room workout.
Balance is key
At the same time, you also don’t want to over-exert yourself. If you want to try out new physical activities, and you are not a very active person in general, only pick one or two activities. Alternate very active days with days where you simply go for a walk, a casual cycle or do some stretching.
Keep an emergency kit on hand
Accidents and injuries can happen at any time, anywhere. We recommend keeping a small emergency kit, containing basic but vital first aid items, with you. Read on for more information about what to put in your kit.
What do Physiotherapists always pack when going on holiday?
First Aid Kit
As mentioned above, having a small emergency kit on hand is vital. Our kits will always contain bandages, plasters, a pair of scissors, tweezers, an ice pack, burn shield (or something similar to treat sunburn), antibiotic ointment, alcohol pads, hand sanitizer, an antiseptic cleaning agent such as Savlon, and some cotton wool or gauze. Additional to that, we have basic medication such as pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and something for each of the following : diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps, colds, coughs and allergies. Other helpful items are hand gloves, a face mask, a plastic bag, a syringe and some duct tape. Another item of value is a hot pack. Heat is an effective way to manage post-activity muscle soreness.
If you are taking any chronic medication, make sure to pack them and keep them in a safe place. If you have allergies, or specific medical conditions such as epilepsy or have a pacemaker, wear your medical bracelet or necklace at all times. Also carry your emergency medication with you, and always tell someone where to find your medication in the case of an emergency.
Having a small portable nebuliser on hand can be very helpful for when someone develops a runny nose, a cough or breathing difficulties. This can be especially useful if you are traveling with your children, who can easily develop these symptoms. Make sure to pack a nebulising agent such as Saline solution.
Every physiotherapist has a roll or two of strapping with them at all times. Strapping is so versatile. It can be used to improve stability if you have a joint or ligament sprain. It can also reduce pain and tension in soft tissues like muscles. If you have an existing injury, taping that area prior to physical activities can minimize your risk for re-injury.
Whether it’s running shoes, a yoga mat, or a theraband, a physiotherapist will have some form of exercise equipment in their luggage. Since we understand the benefits thereof, we will always incorporate some form of movement or exercise into our holiday. Being in a dynamic and active work environment, it truly is not in our best interest to loaf around all day! Adrien will pack her running shoes and go for a run, while Marelize’s yoga mat will be rolled out in the early morning fresh air for an awakening yoga session. Anneen likes to take long walks along the beach or swim in the pool with her children.
We hope that you will have the most amazing, blessed holiday and festive season. We are always available to help you with any issues that may arise. Otherwise make an appointment before you leave to ensure you are properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable holiday! We look forward to seeing everyone in 2023!