Many of you will set your sights on an international cycling trip or Gran Fondo. What a way to live the dream on two wheels, riding the iconic roads the world's best have graced! The hurdle with an international trip is usually a great deal of travel, usually via plane, and crossing time zones.
The worst case scenario with jet lag is that it will take your body one day for each hour of time zones crossed. This can mean you could, in theory, take over a week to adapt. There are ways to make life easier, so we've put together a few pointers to help you through the process and maximise your enjoyment when you get to your event.
There is no evidence to suggest jet lag will hamper your athletic performance once you actually kit up and get on the bike to ride, but it can knock you around in your day-to-day activities as you prepare for your big event.
We're no strangers to international travel in the lead up to races and events, so here is some advice to help you adapt to the time zone changes and deal with the long flight(s).
Jet lag is caused by drastic changes to your circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycles. In the days leading up to your flights, try to adapt your sleeping patterns towards the time zone you're flying to. Check the time at your destination, and try to sleep/wake earlier or later than your normal routine in the days prior to flying. Don't make drastic adjustments in one night, it's best to only adjust your sleep time by 30-45 minutes per night.
Two nights before your flight is a very important night to get a great sleep. The night before is usually stressful or you'll be too excited to get a good sleep. Sometimes you might have a rude wake up hour to get to the airport. Don't stress the night before you travel by ensuring you get a really good, long sleep two nights out.
There is nothing you can do on a flight to change the world, so sit back, get comfortable, and relax. Catch up on some movies and TV shows, read a book or magazine. Settle in and enjoy being stress-free!
It's a good idea to drink lots of water on the flight. Planes are pressurised to a higher altitude than sea level, and the cabin air is pretty dry. Drinking a lot of water will help avoid dehydration which can help avoid jet lag.
Compression tights, leggings or socks are great for flying. They keep the blood flowing in your legs and prevent the dreaded puffy legs that are all too common with long flights. Put them on when you get on the plane, and don't take them off till you reach your destination. They might feel a bit gross, but it's worth the minor discomfort!
If you're not good at sleeping on a long haul flight, it's worth getting up and wandering around the cabin every hour or two. Have a quick stretch, do some squats or lunges, anything that keeps the body in motion and some blood flow to the legs.
Some people are firm believers in melatonin or sleeping tablets. While these might be very effective in helping adjust your sleeping patters, we strongly suggest you seek medical advice to determine what will be the best option for you.
Once you arrive at your destination, build your bike up to make sure there is nothing that has gone wrong during the travel. Make sure your skewers and all other bolts are done up correctly, and go for a spin around the block in your casual clothes. It will feel great. 5-10 minutes is plenty. Keep drinking plenty of water, have a light dinner in the evening, and get a good night's sleep.
Try to spend time in the sun when you arrive at your destination. It might be an old wives' tale, but try to spend some time in the sun without sunglasses on as there is a thought this can help you adjust your circadian rhythm.
One of the biggest things to be cautious of in the few days after you arrive at your destination, is to be wary of how many hours you spend on the bike. We like to think that each hour you do after a long haul flight is worth two hours. Eg: 90 mins on the bike is equivalent to a three hour ride. For three to four days after you arrive, you really want to look after yourself with plenty of rest, drinking lots of water, and not doing too many hours out on the bike.
Be well prepared and organised so you can relax as much as possible. Remember, your athletic performance will not be jeopardised due to jet lag. Don't forget to drink plenty of water!