Although popular modes of transport, making a journey on a bus, coach or train offers limited opportunities to move around is not a great recipe for a relaxing travel experience. Even an hour in a cramped seat can leave you feeling uncomfortable and - more often than not - tired, dehydrated, stiff and sore.
Factor in longer journey times and the chances are you’ll arrive at your destination a little worse for wear - which can spoil your enjoyment of your trip. However, it doesn’t have to be like that, and by following these before, during and after journey tips can help make your journey less sapping.
Before your journey
Even before you actually set off, there are many things that you can do which will make your journey more enjoyable and lessen the chances of problems afterwards.
- Nutrition: You’re likely to be pretty static for much of your journey, so avoid eating large, heavy meals that will leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable in your seat. Instead, eat a light, low-fat meal containing both protein and complex carbohydrate - such as tuna and pasta - which will give you sustained energy throughout your journey.
- Hydration: Air-conditioned coaches can significantly dehydrate you, so it is important to be well hydrated before you set off. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cola, and consume natural fluids such as water or fruit juice instead.
- Clothing: Whatever the length of your trip, you’ll want to be comfortable - so wear light, loose-fitting clothing and avoid garments such as tight jeans. Several hours confined in a small coach seat can leave you feeling stiff, so try to choose clothes that allow you to relax and stretch out wherever possible.
- Sleep: Ideally you should try to get some rest before your journey, because you may not have much opportunity to sleep. There may be a number of distractions during your journey which will keep you awake - so it’s best to get some rest before you set off.
- Exercise: Before you take your seat, try to take a brisk walk outside. Really stride out, working your arms and legs to get the blood pumping around your body. A good few minutes of exercise will invigorate you and help you to de-stress - and will help to keep you energised and feeling alert during the journey.
- Stress: Plan your travel arrangements well in advance, allowing plenty of time for traveling from home, going back for forgotten items and buying tickets, so that an unexpected delay doesn’t throw your schedule and send your blood pressure sky high.
Keeping fit en route
Nutrition: Similar to your pre-journey diet: stick to easily digestible light meals and snacks, which will help you to both avoid stomach problems and keep your energy levels topped up.
Hydration: Drinking alcohol may seem like an ideal way to make you relaxed, but doing so will only dehydrate you and make you tired. Keep a bottle of water or fruit juice close at hand instead, and sip small quantities regularly to ward off dehydration.
Clothing: To help you relax, loosen your tie, belt or tight waistband and use the layering principle of adding or removing layers to stay at a comfortable temperature, rather than wearing thick, single items of clothing.
Sleep: Any sleep that you do manage is unlikely to be high quality, but it will help long journeys to pass more quickly. Remember to adjust your watch when you set off if you’re traveling to a different time zone, and stick to the time zone of the country that you’re visiting - so that adjusting your body clock will be easier when you arrive.
Exercise: The key is to be as active as possible. You should try to get up and walk around whenever you can (ideally, about every 10 minutes) - but you can also do some exercise in your seat. Try the following routine every half an hour to maintain mobility:
- Alternate between clenching and relaxing your feet and toes.
- Contract and relax all your leg muscles.
- Make a ‘pedaling’ movement with your legs.
- Stretch your legs, arms and hands.
- Take some deep breaths.
- Gently stretch and rotate your neck.
Stress: If you begin to feel stressed, try to distance yourself from general noise and other passengers’ activities, and instead immerse yourself in a good novel, listen to a selection of your favourite music or even watch a film on your laptop. Another great relaxation tool is massage. If traveling with a friend, take it in turns to give each other a light massage by working on areas such as the feet, arms, hands, shoulders and neck. Always use light, gentle strokes, working away from the heart. Massage is an age-old technique and will leave the recipient feeling relaxed and de-stressed - and will also aid circulation.
Keeping fit on arrival
Once you arrive, your workout doesn’t end. Now is the time to fully reactivate your body so that you can get the most out of your stay. To complement your ‘before’ and ‘during’ routines, a light arrival workout will energise you and help to combat any feelings of fatigue. Simply follow the post-trip energiser below and you’ll be prepared for anything!
- Get up and go - Despite doing your en-route mobility exercises, you will still have been confined for a long period - so as soon as possible, stride out into the bus or coach station and get the blood flowing with a brisk walk.
- Take a drink - Continuing to maintain your hydration is very important and will help you to avoid headaches and mental fatigue. Keep a bottle of water with you and drink frequently.
- Stretch yourself - Cooped up in cramped conditions can leave you stiff and immobile. After your brisk walk, spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching the major muscle groups to return your body to a more normal state. Flexibility exercises will make you feel loose, supple and light on your feet.
- Don’t overdo it - Whether you’re on holiday, a business trip or simply a regular long commute, it can be easy to throw yourself into activities, meetings or just exploring straight after your journey. You may be more tired than you initially realise, so try and pace yourself and avoid cramming a week’s worth of activities into the first day.
- Snack attack - While making travel arrangements and getting excited about your new environment, meals are easily forgotten. Similarly, a foreign country may have different eating customs and cuisine which may not fit in with your arrival time. To ensure that your fuel tank doesn’t run low, pack a selection of snacks to keep you going until you can eat a meal. Healthy cereal bars travel better than fruit, and even boiled sweets can sustain you while you find your feet.
Long-distance travel may be part of your everyday life - and providing you follow sensible precautions, it can also be an enjoyable experience. There is always a chance that problems such as stress, general fatigue and dehydration will occur, but by following the bus and train workout above, you are giving yourself the best opportunity to arrive rested, relaxed and raring to go.