How to #DelosYourself During Holiday Travel

[Disclosure: This post is a part of a sponsorship with Delos Therapy. As always, we only talk about the places, people, things and experiences we truly love.]

We’re racing towards the end of the year, and one thing’s for sure: we have not yet conquered the convenient travel that Santa and his reindeer have mastered. From now until January, Team aSweatLife is spending a lot of their waking hours on and in planes, trains, and automobiles. Whether you’re heading home for the holidays or off to a tropical destination to escape winter, we’re guessing you are too.

But holiday travel (especially as you get older) often results in stiff necks, wrenched backs, and tightened muscles from sitting in cramped spaces for so long, warns Eric Owens, co-founder of Delos Therapy.

“Hips, low back, and posterior shoulders between the shoulder blades — those are the most common complaints I get post travel,” Owens explains. “I definitely think it’s being in one position for long periods of time; that’ll stiffen pretty much anyone up.”

The surprising way to fight muscle tightness during travel

Of course, getting up and moving around on the plane or taking occasional stops on the road will help, acknowledges Owens, but you might be surprised by his number-one tip for maintaining muscle pliability while traveling.

“The first thing that comes to mind is hydration, especially on a plane,” reveals Owens. Sure, staying hydrated at altitude has major benefits for your skin, but drinking water also keeps your muscle fascia nice and loose.

Here’s how it works: in your muscle fascia, you have two layers of collagen with a layer of water in between. That layer of water allows your fascia to slide and move around. If you’re dehydrated, that layer of water dries up, and your collagen molecules stick together, which causes that stiff feeling.

And heads up: once that collagen binds together, there’s no amount of water you can drink that would penetrate that layer because your body won’t absorb it. The most effective way of hydrating the fascia, surprisingly? By squeezing it, similar to wringing out a damp sponge.

“It’s another layer of understanding what we’re doing,” Owens continues. “We’re pushing directly into collagen and we’re forcing a separation so that if you have water in your system, it’ll push the water layer back into position. If you’re dehydrated, I can loosen up your muscles, but they’ll go right back to being tight.” (That’s why, Owens adds, your Delos therapist or a regular masseuse might offer you water right after your appointment.)

On a plane, you’re at major risk for dehydration, thanks to the low humidity levels; that dehydration can ladder up to pain, stiffness, and several other problems. Drinking water and applying pressure to tight areas can help fight off any stiffness before it occurs by forcing the separation of collagen.

Avoiding salty foods, fast foods, and alcohol during travel can also help decrease the risk of dehydration. Our solution? Bring your own airplane snacks — those little peanut bags are never satisfying, anyway.

As far as how much to drink during a flight, the Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking 8 ounces of water per hour (this would be a good guideline for road trips as well). And boom — if you’re drinking a cup of water per hour, you’ll likely have to go to the bathroom every so often, which is the perfect excuse to get up, move around, and loosen up your limbs.

How to apply pressure to tight areas during travel

For any areas that are feeling particularly stiff on your day of travel or that you know to be a problem area (even if they feel okay at the moment), Owens advises you to bring something to apply pressure to that area. 

A lacrosse ball or Knobble are incredibly easy to throw into your carry-on; a Thera Cane is great too, but be mindful of your neighbors in tiny plane seats.

The lacrosse ball or Knobble are particularly great, Owens notes, because you can use the back of your seat or your armrest to apply extra pressure.

“The good thing about being in a small, confined space is that you have plenty of spaces to lean up against… you’ve got a corner right there you can press up against,” whether you’re in a middle, window, or aisle seat, says Owens.

What if I fall asleep in weird positions on a flight?

As someone who tends to fall asleep before take-off on every flight I’ve ever been on, I asked Owens if he had any thoughts specifically about sleeping in weird positions while on a plane or in a car.

“Well, the more muscle pliability you have, the less likely it is that an awkward sleeping position will cause a kink in your back,” he informed me. He continued by using children as an example: “Think about all the awkward positions kids fall asleep in. Do they wake up with muscle pain? No, because they have tons of muscle pliability.”

Why you should schedule a Delos appointment before and after a long flight

Owens recommends coming to Delos for a 50-minute “full-body tune-up” before and after especially long flights. Think of it as the greatest hits of everything Delos has to offer your body, and settle in.

fight holiday travel muscle pain
You’ll start face-down with the paraspinals as your Delos expert will apply pressure up and down your spine.
Fight muscle pain during holiday travel
Next, you’ll move up to the posterior shoulders, between the shoulder blades.
delos therapy neck pain
You’ll get a little neck massage…
delos therapy glutes and hips
… before going back down the body to the glutes and posterior hips.
delos therapy hamstrings
delos therapy calves

Next, you’ll flip onto your back for the same head-to-toe routine on your anterior side.

delos therapy abdominals
delos therapy quads
delos therapy hip flexors
Hip flexors
Delos therapy shins
And finally, the shins.

How to #DelosYourself on a plane or in a car

All of these #DelosYourself positions can be done in cramped quarters and seated, so there’s really no excuse for NOT doing them during your next trip.

lacrosse ball plane delos therapy
Start off by bracing a lacrosse ball against the side of your seat; lean in to apply pressure. You can use a Knobble here as well.
delos yourself glutes lacrosse ball
Next, place the lacrosse ball or knobble underneath your thigh to get into your hamstrings or glutes. Wave to a friend if you see one.
delos therapy lacrosse ball shoulders
Finally, move the lacrosse ball between your shoulders and the back of your seat. Lean in and apply pressure to tight areas, shifting areas every 30 seconds or so.
low back thera cane
If you’re traveling with a Thera Cane, apply the nub at the end of the hook to your low back. Lean fully back against the seat for extra pressure.
Delos yourself thera cane shoulders
Taking the end of the Thera Cane over your shoulder, use leverage to apply pressure to your tight shoulders. Hold for at least 30 seconds. From here, you can also use the end of the Thera Cane to apply pressure to the crease of your hip flexors.

Want to get your pre- and post-travel Delos in? Questions on how to #DelosYourself or more targeted therapy can be directed to [email protected] Or, call them directly to make your first appointment: 312-600-7716.

Move Recovery & Mobility

About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.