Coaching Association of Canada

How to Prepare for Air Travel from Departure to Arrival

Competition at the highest level requires international travel across multiple time zones, which may cause stress on your athlete and have negative effects on performance. Below are suggestions for your athlete to help minimize the effects of travel exhaustion.

  • Pre-Travel 

    Be Organized and Rested: A little planning and organization will reduce the pressure and ensure you are well rested prior to travel. Create a checklist of items to pack and tasks to complete prior to departure.

    Reset your body clock:
    The shift in time zones is significant so it is beneficial to begin to re-adjust the internal biological clock prior to travel. Start re-adjusting your body’s clock in advance of travel up to three days before you travel. Go to bed one to two hours earlier and adjust wakeup accordingly.

    Nutrition: Eat cultured yogurt or other probiotic food regularly in the week before travel, as this can provide some sustained protection against gastrointestinal problems.

  • During Flight

    Live by the clock: Set your watch to the destination time as soon as you get on the plane and try to adjust your sleep/wake cycle to align with the destination time. If you are having trouble with this, nap frequently using a sleep mask and ear plugs, if necessary.

    Try to get an aisle seat or an exit row that will allow you to get up, move and stretch often (every hour or two). Performing some simple exercises intermittently will keep your blood circulating, to decrease the chances of stiffness.

    Hydrate: Drink plenty of fluids such as water or sports drinks and a minimum 250ml (1 cup) of fluid per hour of travel. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sleeping pills!

    Eat light and healthy: Focus on fruit, vegetables, and healthy snacks enroute. Avoid salty foods as they decrease urination and contribute to the retention of fluids.

    Wash your hands: With an antibacterial hand-wash, cleanse your hands every one to two hours to minimize the risk of picking up a cold or flu.

  • Post-Flight

    Go out into the daylight as much as you can, be active, socialize, and try to “live by the clock”.

    Move: Do light exercise as soon as possible (walk, jog, swim).

    Live by the clock: Have your evening meal at the local time and go to sleep in the local time zone.

    Optimize Sleep: Allow yourself only a short nap if you arrive in the morning, otherwise stay up until bedtime. Create a positive sleeping environment (quiet, dark, relaxing). If you wake in the night and have difficulty sleeping just relax and go with it!

    Nutrition: Include protein in your breakfast to stimulate the wake cycle (but not too close to competition). Focus on carbs in your evening meal and/or snack to stimulate sleep. Avoid caffeine in the 6 hours prior to going to sleep. Pumpkin seeds and soybeans are natural foods that may stimulate melatonin release and promote sleep.

Coaches, put your athlete at ease when travelling. Enroll in the Manage a Sport Program. The National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) multi-sport modules series are available through your Provincial or Territorial Coaching Representative.