Travel fatigue as an athlete
Managing travel fatigue as an athlete can be difficult, especially when travelling internationally or when travel schedules are not always within your control.
Travel fatigue is defined as temporary exhaustion caused by travel, typically following irregular sleep, prolonged inactivity, restricted food choices, dehydration as well as other factors associated with long distance travel. This can occur during any form of travel.
As travel forms as integral part of modern-day athlete’s lives, managing it’s effects is important to care for not only your health but also optimise your athletic performance while on the road.
Although often used interchangeably, it is not jet lag. In contrast, jet lag is a temporary condition which occurs due to the disruption of your circadian rhythm when crossing multiple time zones.
While more research is needed to assess the effects of this condition on athlete’s wellbeing and performance, some practical strategies can be beneficial in reducing its affect.
What causes travel fatigue?
Travel fatigue is a complex aggregation of environmental, physiological and psychological factors that take place during travel. These can accumulate over frequent travel. This can reduce your ability to perform and recover.
Some aspects that can cause this condition include:
- Scheduling too much into your trip
- Insufficient recovery time
- Chaotic travel schedules
- Sleep deprivation
- Excess stress
What are the symptoms of travel fatigue?
While it can manifest in a variety of ways, the common symptoms of this condition include:
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Feeling disengaged
- Reduced immunity
- High stress levels
How to combat travel fatigue?
Unless managed appropriately, travel fatigue is likely to affect your athletic performance.
There are numerous ways to combat this condition while on the run. These strategies will also help you adapt to the challenges that result from travelling.
Helpful strategies to combat this include:
- Plan your travel schedule advance
- Allow time for additional time for recovery, especially during recovery
- Ensuring you stay hydrated and prioritise sleep both during travel and upon your arrival
- Revise your schedule and reduce unnecessary activities to relax your itinerary, where possible