Q: How to Avoid Jetlag as an Athlete (more like minimize it).

Hi Lauren,

Do you have any tips on handling running with jet lag – both heading out and returning home?
How do you manage training when you are traveling – either domestically or internationally?
On top of that, what country have you not yet gone to that you’d love to race in?

-Michelle

A:

Hi Michelle!

Jet lag is different for me every time. One thing is for sure, it gets easier to adapt with each trip. Here are my biggest pointers for traveling successfully, and planning your training once you get there:

    • Go into your trip rested (yeah right, right? It does help apparently).
    • Forget where you came from: set your watch to your destination as soon as you get on the plane.
    • Drink water CONSTANTLY. I’m talking 8oz every 45 minutes. I don’t care if you aren’t thirsty. Its worth peeing 17 times on the flight and missing crappy sleep on the plane. You will recover from the journey much faster if you are hydrated. Trust me on this one.
    • If you can sleep on a plane, do it. Catch sleep where you can get it, but make sure you drink loads of water whenever you wake up.
    • Keep the simple carbs in check. I usually sign up in advance for the gluten free or diabetic plane meal because its a bit lighter, and I bring some nuts and Picky Bars to snack on. Avoiding big meals while traveling makes it easier to get on a regular meal plan once I get there, and also prevents me from getting on a 3am poo schedule.

Once you get there:

  • Stay awake when you get there until a normal bed time. This part is very hard. To kill time, I always go for a shake-out run of 20-30 minutes once I reach my destination, and then I drag out my various tasks like stretching, unpacking, etc. Then I force myself to go out to dinner even if I’m not hungry because stimulus is the only way to keep myself awake.
  • More water.
  • I always sleep like a champ on the first night if I do all those things, but its easy to sleep past noon if you aren’t careful. Set an alarm for a generous sleep of 10-12 hours and then get yo-self some coffee!
  • Run easy the first day, (I do two short runs) and don’t think about what time it is back home. Just exist like a local (who feels like crap).
  • Don’t panic if sleep gets harder: I always struggle for the next 2-3 nights to sleep all the way through the night, but I just read a book and force myself to stay in bed. No computer, no internet, nothing overly stimulating. Just good old fashioned boredom.
  • Don’t expect to feel normal: For the first week I’m in a place, I just expect to feel crappy, and I run really slow.
  • More water.
  • Don’t do anything the first week that you don’t have to: I run normal mileage, but keep my training intensity light. I’ll maybe do a tempo and a fartlek that first week, just enough to keep the rust off, and make sure I have no idea how far or fast I’m really going.

As for the travel home?  Don’t ask me for advice on that one. I always travel home the day after the post-race party of my last competition. Read: hangover, hating my life the entire way home, and swearing I’ll never do it again.

Your final question: I’d like to race in Croatia and stay an extra week and soak it all in. I’ve heard from other athletes that it is the #1 place they wish they could have stayed longer after competing.

Got any ideas of your own on this topic?  Share your expertise by commenting!  Thanks peeps.