I recently took a long road trip to visit my sister and meet my newest nephew for the first time. In another world, I would have flown up not long after the baby was born to enjoy some newborn snuggles, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed my visit and changed my travel plans.
Instead of an easy two-hour flight, I opted for a gruelling 10-hour drive. My sister and I decided a two-week quarantine, followed by a road trip — complete with a cooler of food, masks to wear at every stop, and a supply of hand sanitizer — would be the best way to mitigate risk.
With a lengthy list of audiobooks and music playlists to choose from, I wasn't too concerned with getting bored on the road. I was worried about what all that sitting would do to my body, though. I typically try to stay fairly active, starting my mornings with an intense workout, taking breaks throughout the day to walk around and stretch, and ending my afternoon with a long walk outside. Sitting for 10 hours was going to be an unwelcome shock to my system.
Imagine my delight when the night before my trip, Dannah Bollig — a certified personal trainer, former Division 1 athlete, and founder of The DE Method — posted a video on YouTube with stretches and exercises for travel. In the video, she recommends moves specifically for road trips and flights, as well as stretches for after you've arrived. Several of the exercises require resistance bands, which was no problem because I already own a set of her bands.
The next morning, I threw my resistance bands in the front seat and committed to following the video at every pit stop. The routine was simple – complete with quad stretches, calf raises, and side stretches – and didn't take much time. I did get some strange looks from people, but I hope it inspired them to get in some stretching as well. As the day went on, I got even more ambitious and incorporated some of the recommended air travel moves to switch up my practice. And before I went to sleep that night, I used my bands for the leg stretches and leg drain Bollig recommends.
My body felt pretty good throughout the trip, and I was relieved I didn't have any soreness the next day.
My body felt pretty good throughout the trip, and I was relieved I didn't have any soreness the next day, but I wasn't sure how much of that was thanks to my stretching routine. That is, until the drive home a week later.
On the way back, I decided to forgo the travel exercises. Tired from a week of playing with toddlers and helping my sister with the baby, I just wanted to get home, so I didn't take the extra couple minutes at each stop to stretch or use my resistance bands. And wow, did I feel a big difference! My lower back started to hurt about halfway through the drive, and the next day my legs felt sore, and my entire body was tight.
I will never again underestimate the importance of stretching my muscles and increasing blood flow as often as I can during a road trip. My resistance bands are now travel essentials.