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I gave up on running last year after yet another stress fracture stymied my attempts to train for a long race. Still, I know the importance of a recovery plan for marathon runners.
Traveling is no different – whether you are returning from a long international trip like I just did or wrapping up a stretch of tiring domestic trips – it’s important to have a recovery plan for marathon travel.
I’ve now been back for a day and a half but I’m almost back in the swing of my normal routine thanks to some careful planning of what to do to get back on track before I returned as well as upon my arrival home in the States.
A few days before my vacation ends, I run the various jet lag recovery plans using JetLag Rooster to see which will work for me. They offer ideas for before departure, after departure, or after return that schedule light/dark exposure to help reset the body clock.
On this trip, I opted to follow a plan that began towards the end of my trip so I tried to stay up late (with a reading light) the last couple of nights of the trip and sleep in (with a darkened room) those mornings. I also try to reset to my normal sleeping pattern as soon as I’m home so I’ve stayed up until 10:30 pm the last two nights and tried to avoid any light before 6 am in the mornings – as a result, I’m feeling pretty good.
Vacation brings out the worst in my eating and drinking habits – and being on an open bar ship for two weeks did not help! On the last two days of the trip, I started to return to my normal eating/drinking patterns. Something I also do when I am traveling to/from Asia is to avoid lunch (or eat a very small one) a couple of days before departure to try to reset my digestive system for the upcoming meal pattern. When switching that many time zones, the current lunch time will be sleep time in the new zone so this helps me adjust faster to the rapid shift.
When I get home, I try to eat simple foods for a couple of days while my stomach readjusts – rice-based cereal and banana or a smoothie for breakfast, salad with light protein for lunch and dinner. I also work to keep my caffeine consumption regulated and I drink lots of water. If I’ve cleaned out the refrigerator before leaving, I will often have my housesitter restock a few basics so I can eat healthy for a couple of days until I have time to make a trip to the grocery store.
A good workout can help me keep the vacation endorphins flowing. Even with my broken toe, I’ve been trying to get some light cardio in to keep the blood flowing so the vacation glow lasts a bit longer.
Vacation usually means more sleep, spa treatments, and other self-care so if I’ve stayed hydrated and moisturized in flight, I’ve come home looking better than when I left. Still, I want to preserve that so in the first day at home I usually take time for a deep conditioning treatment and a moisture mask to undo the effects of dry cabin air. I also took care to get a fresh manicure after work yesterday so that my overall appearance was neat and polished.
I’m the worst when it comes to unpacking. Because I typically do 5-7 trips per month, my suitcase rarely gets put away. And if I’m not careful, I can end up tossing things out of it to hastily repack. When I come home from a longer trip, my goal is to always be completely unpacked before my next trip (which for me is luckily not for another week).
This time I took two suitcases with me so I tried something different. Because I was gone so long, I ended up doing laundry a couple of times during the trip (tossing a few items in a washer/dryer early on and then later using my Seabourn Club benefit for a free bag of laundry during the cruise). Since I had done this, I decided to pack my larger checked bag full of all my clean clothes, shopping purchases, and other cruise items and pack my smaller carry-on bag with all my dirty clothes, the last two days of items I’d wear, and my toiletries. This will make my unpacking much easier because everything in the carryon (which I’ll use next) is going straight into the laundry/dry cleaning sorter in my closet and that bag can be made ready quickly for my next trip. I can then unpack the larger bag at my leisure knowing that everything in it will get put up for the most part.
Before I leave on a long trip, I try to get my house as fresh as I can for the return. I do all my laundry and dry cleaning and (try to) put it away. I clean out the refrigerator and take the trash out and empty the dishwasher. I declutter as best I can. And if possible, I schedule my housekeeper to come while I’m away so I return to a clean home. I find that I’m much more relaxed when I am coming home to calm versus chaos.
This time I tried my best to get ready for Christmas before leaving, including arranging to have the tree set up before I returned. Alas, my old trees both have broken lights so they are getting tossed – and I somehow left a couple of fall/Halloween decorations out (including two ghosts blowing on my porch) so I’m now THAT neighbor. At least my door has a Christmas wreath on it.
I learned the hard way early in my travels that it can be hard to maintain friendships and relationships during heavy travel periods without a bit of effort. As such, I’ve made sure to schedule the time to check in with friends to see how they are and planned some social activities for the week while I was still away. It’s easy to get caught up in the “busy” of getting ready for a long trip and recovering from that trip, but making specific time for family and friends can be important to the recovery process.
Routine & daily grind
The most important thing for me is to get back in my daily routine as quickly as possible. It’s often overwhelming to come home to stacks of mail, household issues to deal with, and that inevitable return to work.
On my first day back, my rule is SORT SORT SORT!
In other words, I sift through everything and sort it out. Paper mail gets tossed (obvious junk), put in a priority stack (bills, statements, official correspondence), or a non-priority stack (personal correspondence, marketing pieces, catalogs) before I open it. Once I can evaluate those stacks, I can budget the time in the first few days to dealing with the priority stack and will save the non-priority stack for an evening on the sofa.
The same thing happens with my emails and voice mails. Some get deleted immediately (for me, that included about 800 Black Friday and Cyber Monday solicitations) and the rest are sorted out to either be quickly dealt with (read, file, delegate) or added to my to-do list.
I spent most of my first day on these tasks so by 5 pm yesterday, I had a very clear vision for what the rest of my week would look like and how everything would be tackled. Now I just have to work the to-do list each day as planned.
My recovery plan for marathon travel has helped me return with minimal impact to my day-to-day routine, jump right back to life at home, and prepare for the holidays. While I’ll still be catching up for the next few days, I feel like I’m already almost back on track. Now if I can just get into the holiday spirit, I’ll be there!