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Back pain and travel: a survival guide

Back pain and travel: a survival guide

Despite my love for travel and exploration, I don’t get to travel that often. But when I do, I always come back home filled with travel blues and nostalgia.  I love the feeling of “escaping” and also experiencing things rather than living on autopilot. I am sure many of you relate to that feeling.  This year, I decided to go back to Cuba, a place where I traveled to couple times before and always felt like home to me.  To be honest, any place with a beach would feel like home to me. I love being by the ocean.

 

I decided to write a post about back pain and travel for all back pain warriors out there, because I know it can be very tricky to be away from your physio clinic, your therapist, and most importantly, your foam roller and healthy foods.  If you are like me, you may be following a strict schedule for your physio sessions, stretching routines and workouts. Going away for a week, two weeks or a month can make you feel a bit lost and unsure how to handle a painful back spasm episode, if it happens during your trip. This post will also include my trip highlights. 

 

We also worry about our diet and what we are gonna be eating.  Raise your hand if you also pack tons of healthy snacks and protein powders everytime you fly 😉

So here are few tips and guidelines that will help you get the most out of your vacation, hopefully pain free.

Realize that you are on a vacation

According to www.dictionary.com:

 Vacation [vey-key-shuh n, vuh-] , noun: period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually usedfor rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday.  

I know you know what a vacation is, but I also know that a lot of us don’t really “get” that a vacation is supposed to be a break from our regular routines. So it’s OKAY to deviate a bit 🙂

 

This time, all I took was my massage ball and few healthy snacks (Lara bars and nuts). I honestly didn’t know if I was going to have time to do a short workout there. I brought my gym bra and was expecting to only stick to bodyweight workouts.

 

Now, keep in mind that going completely off track would make it harder on yourself to bounce back to your normal routine. This is why I always make sure I am still eating as healthy as possible, without over obsessing about the little things. I normally don’t have desserts, so I definitely allow myself an ice cream or a fresh drink here and there. 

 

When I was in cuba, I got obsessed about sparkling water. I usually don’t drink bottled water at home, but since I was staying at a hotel that includes free drinks, I made sure I had a bottle of water in my bag in the a.m and in the p.m. They usually give you two bottles of water in your room (in case you are wondering why I haven’t used a reusable water bottle).

Cuba is very hot, and I still felt like I was dehydrated the whole time so definitely drink up if you are heading to the Caribbean or any hot location. Many people feel better in warm areas, and I am one of them. My joints don’t like the cold winters and I always seemed to have the craziest flareups in the winter seasons.

Back pain while flying

If you have back pain, flying can seriously get brutal. You have to sit in those super uncomfortable seats for “x” amount of hours and barely move around. Forget about stretching.

Here are few things that have helped me during my trip to keep in mind the next time you fly:

  1. I bring some comfy socks and dress as comfortably as possible. Don’t wear tight clothes or uncomfortable shoes. Breathable clothes will help you stay comfortable and also help reduce bloating. I know it sounds weird but wearing tight jeans and a belt will seriously kill your belly. You don’t want that. Believe me
  2. Eat very healthy before your flight. Stay away from carbs and anything that can cause bloating such as salty foods. You want to travel light.
  3. Bring a bottle of water with you. There is never enough water on the plane. They always bring water in those tiny cups that are filled halfway through #eyerolls
  4. Bring a book, and relaxing music. It will help your muscles stay relaxed during the flight. Even go for a nap if you can.
  5. I know we all love window seats, but chosing an aisle seat instead will give you the opportunity to get up more and move around since you don’t have to think of bother anyone.
  6. Definitely couple pain-killer pills. Juuust in case!

Buffet food at the hotel

 Guy, if any of you have spent time in an all-inclusive hotel, you know the struggle. It was rough – even in a 5 stars hotel. 

 

Most of the food that I wanted to eat was heavily prepared with vegetable oil. Coconut oil didn’t seem to exist there, and I was okay with that. I had to tell the cook to just skip adding oil everytime I ordered grilled chicken breasts. On lucky occasions, they would have roasted whole chickens, which I always had.  I then fill up my plate with steamed veggies and some rice. I usually don’t go crazy on rice back home but apparently rice and beans is a huge thing in Cuba and I had to indulge 😉

 

Story time: They usually give you the right to use à la carte restaurants at the hotel. Once booked, and were so excited to have a break from the buffet and eat some “fancy sushi”. The sushi restaurant was the only one open that day.

Anyway, so we make there, and shortly after we get in, we get kicked out for not wearing trousers #saywhat…who brings trousers to Cuba? Apparently the dress code is muy importante at à la carte restaurants, and you gotta wear trousers to get in.  We ended up going to town and enjoying a lobster at literally the best lobster restaurant in town; La Grotta del vino restaurant.

 

So, if you have to use the hotel buffet, and have no other alternatives, make sure you ask them not to use vegetable oils when grilling your food. Get most of your carbs from veggies and little starchy carbohydrates. I found that tropical fruits made my stomach achy, so I stayed away after the second day.  You may experience a lot of dehydration if you are staying at a hot place, so make sure you drink up all the time.

Staying active

I’m gonna be honest here, the only activity I did was swimming. I was busy enough visiting places around and resting and my body just couldn’t handle a workout in that heat. I spent few afternoons just napping and the other days I would be walking around or on the beach. It is important to give your body a break every now and then. I use my vacations to take a break from lifting weights and the regular strength routines. Swimming is another great activity that does wonders for back pain, so I take advantage of it whenever I can.

 

During  your vacation you can switch things up a little by going for walks, going for swims or hikes if you can. Do different things that move your body without putting too much pressure on it that you will feel tired all the time. After all you want to enjoy your time and not feel sore.

 

I know this guide doesn’t have tons of information, but I hope your takeaway is that a vacation is a wonderful opportunity to slow down, rest and recover.  It is okay to take a break from your regular routine, without going completely off track either. Find the sweet spot and don’t forget to have some ice cream 🙂

Trip highlights

Hotel view from a sail boat!

 

Touring Marina Varadero

Yes, I did have ice cream 😀

Few shots during my last day

 

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Heather
    July 19, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Your pictures are fantastic! Makes me want to go on vacation and soon! Looking forward to your new posts. Love your tips to vacation survival. Be well.

    • Reply
      Coach Sofia
      July 19, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Heather!
      I took so many but my favorites are the ones on that cliff 🙂 I definitely need to make plans to move by the beach one day haha and thank you so much! I’m excited to be back on the blog <3

  • Reply
    Gabe Burkhardt
    July 27, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that loves to travel, but doesn’t get to travel often enough to build up my “travel muscles.” These are great tips to help out though when I do get the chance to head back to the states soon. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Reply
      Coach Sofia
      July 28, 2017 at 3:42 am

      Thank you Gabe! Yess, we have yet to sit in a tropical paradise blogging 4 hours per week :p (not sure if that reality exists haha) Really glad to know the tips were inspiring to you 🙂

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