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Fit for Life

Sean McCawley: Training for travel

From the Fit for Life: Napa-based fitness specialist Sean McCawley offers health tips series
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Sean McCawley 

“Take life by the horns.” A phrase some of the most inspirational people live by.

The ability to accomplish tremendous feats in life is cherished by many ambitious people. Summiting Mt. Fuji, diving in the great barrier reef of Australia, or taking an ice breaker to visit Antarctica are just a few samples of milestones people strive to achieve.

It seems simple enough to book a trip, use accrued vacation time, and set out to travel to such destinations. However, let’s not forget the elaborate orchestration to actually get there. These trips require a means of transportation and our bodies need to be intact to endure such journeys.

The logistics of travel are usually put first before anything else. Let’s not forget how a beautiful vacation we look forward to can immediately go belly up due to disruptions to the wellbeing of our body.

As we venture to faraway locations, we leave behind our comfy beds, recliners, and ergonomically customized office desk chairs. Stepping into an airplane, a sharply angled, thinly cushioned chair with less legroom than a kindergarten student's desk awaits us. Time to contort your body to fit into this Tetris-like opening. Now that the body has been jammed into this narrow space like a can of sardines, expect to stay in this position for a prolonged period of time.

Before landing in the location where the wonders of the world await, you may need some time to recalibrate yourself back to the initial shape of your body after being packed into the metal tube flying through the sky that brought you there.

Entering the airplane environment is just the beginning of putting the body in shapes it’s not used to. The spine, shoulders, hips, and knees are accustomed to our own unique everyday life activities. We get a good night's sleep because our bodies are familiar with the bed we are accustomed to sleeping in six to eight hours per night.

We get to freely move up and down from our office chairs of our own volition. The airplane ride, hotel bed, and hours on our feet while experiencing the trip of a lifetime are a completely different set of activities the general population to our native land is not acclimated to. This opens the opportunity for injury to the body even before stepping foot off the plane to our desired location.

To fully participate in the joys of these cherished traveling adventures, it’s critically important to keep our bodies physically healthy. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other important connective tissue act as reinforcing brackets around bones, joints, and the spine. Maintaining optimal strength assists the body from bending too far out of alignment when the body is placed in uncomfortable situations.

Ensuring the body is athletic enough to participate in walking long distances, hiking, and navigating through large crowds of people is necessary for lands foreign to our normal living conditions. Therefore, balance, dexterity, and coordination are key components to focus on before going on long trips. Most importantly, having a strong fitness foundation to return to following the conclusion to a monumental trip is equally important because we need to prepare for the next breathtaking voyage we have on our list.

Strength and conditioning routines for long voyages are identical to the routine a college athlete performs to prepare for their athletic season. Athletes train three to four times per week to prepare for their sport. The only difference is that travelers are preparing to endure the stresses of traveling. Why should it be any different for people who want to travel?

In order to decrease the likelihood of injury and perform well, a structured exercise prescription is highly recommended. Make sure to plan ahead for these trips with a balanced exercise prescription to ensure the body is strong and injury-free to enjoy these life-changing experiences.

Barbara Holthus says her fellow volunteers at the Tokyo Olympics have serious safety concerns with less than 50 days to go until the Games begin. More than 13,000 Tokyo 2020 volunteers have now quit.

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Sean McCawley, the founder and owner of Napa Tenacious Fitness in Napa, CA, welcomes questions and comments. Reach him at 707-287-2727, or visit the website

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