Column 22 - Exercise on the Plane

Original publication date: February 1, 1984

We've done it! We've made it to February! Now we only have seven weeks until spring and nicer weather. Can you last? Or will you be one of thousands of tourists who will head south? I for one will be one of the tourists who will head for a luxurious stretch on the hot beach, soaking up as much sun as possible. Let's face it, our winter is long and we've had a lot of snow. Great for skiing and skating, but who wants to ski and skate for 13 weeks? Most of us at one time or another have dreamt of giving the thumbs down sign to winter and taking off to the sun.

Depending on where you go, your plane trip can take anywhere from one hour, to 20 hours (if you go to Australia). Assuming your trip takes at least three hours, you're going to have a lot of time on your hands. Once the adrenaline has slowed down and the food and wine consumed, you'll be faced with not much to do.

If you're nervous about flying to begin with, a long trip can be devastating. Your stomach goes up and down over each air pocket, often taking the just-eaten food with it. If you are tense, use your nervous energy to help take your mind off the fear of flying. (Not Erica Jong's interpretation of fear of flying.)

If you are a white-knuckle flyer (hands clasped to the chair arms as tightly as possible), use this subconscious movement to your advantage. Instead of being controlled by your fear, control it. Sit up straight with back and stomach muscles tightened. (If you're nervous they'll probably already be.) Hold the ends of the chair arms even tighter and squeeze firmly. If someone notices your white knuckles and asks if you're OK, you can look them squarely in the eye and tell them you are exercising.

If the tension has climbed up your back and is circling your neck and shoulders, bend at the waist and clasp your ankles with your hands. With back rounded, pull your chest into your thighs. This stretches your spine. Make sure your stomach is tight and make sure your food has had a chance to digest.

You can cross your legs and do ankle rotations and foot taps to stimulate circulation in the legs. Nobody will notice you're doing this. It will give your legs the extra strength required to make it to the washroom without wobbling and crashing side to side into everyone's lap.

Your rear-end may stiffen up a bit with extensive sitting. Squeeze it as tightly as you can and hold for about six seconds. Do this in a repitition of five and feeling should return, enabling you to sit even longer. If you get really stiff and feel as if you're going to crawl out of your skin from sitting too long, slowly stretch out your entire body to relieve the cramped muscles. Begin in a sitting position, with hands gripping the chair arms. Stretch your legs out as far as they'll go in the cramped space and lift your rear-end up so your body forms a straight line. Don't bend your elbows or let your head fall back.

My favourite exercise has got to be the "twist and turn." Sitting with your back straight, twist your upper body, including head, to the right as far as it will go. This gives a good stretch to the upper body while strengthening the mid-section. This also gives you a chance to pick out someone you'd like to get to know better. When you twist to the left you may find someone even more interesting. You may want to spend the entire trip twisting from side to side.

Copyright 2021 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.