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Flying somewhere? The Cabin workout: 6 tips to ensure you start your trip relaxed!

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Flying somewhere? The Cabin workout: 6 tips to ensure you start your trip relaxed!

Yes, don that leotard, break out the walkman and lunge your way around the aisles. Maybe don’t, particularly if you fly United. Whilst leotards may conjure up ‘Wired for Sound’ by Cliff Richard, don’t worry! Exercising on a flight or at an airport need not look ridiculous or require loads of energy.

The question you may be asking is:

‘why bother?’

“There’s plenty of new film releases, I’ve brought something to read or I may just nod off and wake up at the end…..”

That may be ok for flights lasting a few hours but not anything longer. As the summer approaches many of you will be embarking on long-haul flights. This isn't forgetting those of you who travel as part of your job. If you fly to New York you can expect an 8-9 hour flight. To the West Coast 11 hours. To Thailand 12hours, Australia close to 24 hours!

Even the most sedentary people on earth may struggle with sitting in a cramped seat for 24hours.

It’s fair to say the warnings of not moving on a plane are frequently touted, not only by airlines but also the NHS, medical professionals and trainers. One solution is the use of compression socks, valuable if you are at risk of deep vein thrombosis but don't signify a change in behaviour.

I'm all about behaviours, or habits.

I recommend that at least every hour on a flight you get up and stretch, walk about and take your joints through as much range as the cabin space allows along with you regularly changing position whilst seated.

The thing is, it’s not an environment where you are going to come out unscathed, however much you mobilise and stretch you are going to come out knotted and stiff. The key is for the trip to do the least amount of damage!

Aeroplanes are not blessed with much space, so we need to be economical and space conscious with our exercises.

Tip 1: Explore the cabin, have a walk early in the flight and find a few areas where you think you can stretch, squat, twist etc. Make sure you have head room.

Tip 2: Practice leaving your ego at on the run way. You will look like your serious about travel, and your body will thank you for it.

Tip 3: set a timer to get up every 45 mins to an hour.

Tip 4: Find some movements which don’t take up space, I recommend:

  • Squat - This just requires you to have enough space to put your feet hip-width apart in the bottom position stick your elbows into your knees and pry apart. Move around in ankle circles and nod your head. This will do wonders. If you look to reach your hands above your head you'll also get a nice stretch can find this in my ebook
  • Upright stance - This exercise is a standing shoulder mobilisation exercise, very effective and you can find it in my eBook. It's fantastic for posture and surprisingly activates the gluten nicely.


  • Shoulder rotations - arms by side, arms out to the side (see my ebook). You'll need some space out to the side but not much. Cabins tend to have plenty of space in one 'plane' ;-)
  • Toe touch - the key here is to be gentle and don’t bounce. I’d look to keep the knees bent as you’ll be tight and knotted from sitting, so your hamstrings will be like concrete. Bending the knees on the way up will protect your back. In the bottom position gentlely sway and breath.
  • Hip Rotations - old skool hip mobilisation. Stand feet shoulder width apart and make circles with your hips, clockwise and reverse.
  • Standing Neck Nods - using the postural cues of the upright stance exercise above, nod your head up and down slowly and then side to side. Your neck will love it, and you'll find that you'll feel more awake and alert.
  • Spinal Rotations - these can be done standing. Look over your shoulders and twist your torso hold your breath then release and increase the rotation. These are very very nice!
  • Forward Lunges - These really only need space in front of you. You know that area near the toilet? there's usually a little space for a lunge... try it! You won’t have much space to play with so you’ll need movements that you can adapt.

If you’re lucky enough to be travelling business class you may have more space and leg room - so use it!

Once you touch down, go to your hotel and limber up for 10 mins, it'll really make a difference trust me. I've travelled a lot for work and I've learnt the hard way.

Tip 5: Drink Water - the air conditioning and air quality is bad on a flight, make sure you hydrate you’ll recover faster.

Tip 6: Don’t eat so much junk food, you’ll feel crap, you’ll feel tired, you’ll recover slower and you will put on weight and probably struggle to adapt to the time difference.

These 6 tips will get you going, I’m sure. Be mindful, think about movement, treat your body with respect and make sure you sleep enough! Jet lag is a whole other story!

Remember if you have stop overs or have time before the flight, the terminal waiting area will have loads of space so go to town on movement when you can.

Here’s a great video of a lady finding some time to practice before her flight (right)

If you are looking for ideas for movement in general, some of which could be useful for a flight check out my ebook which has a five minute daily flow - this is a guided picture lead introduction to daily movement. All my clients use it.

Training 3x a week is great, but it’s the micro habits in your day that make you truly healthy.


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