Adjusting to a new time zone can be challenging for anyone, even if you rest well on your flight. The good news: Studies show it’s actually less of a pain for the fit crowd. And not-so-coincidentally, research also proves that exercising upon arrival can reduce fatigue and other jet lag symptoms even more.
Depending on how long you traveled and how much of a time difference you’re adjusting to, it can take 12 to 48 hours to acclimate both psychologically and physiologically to the new time zone, says Dana McCaw, the Los Angeles-based creative manager of group fitness at Equinox.
“One way to help expedite this process is to perform a low- to moderate-intensity workout designed to reduce muscle stiffness, get your heart rate up, improve your circulation rhythm, and boost your energy after you land,” she says. That’s exactly why McCaw developed the Fit Flyer workout, an equipment-free routine that will help your body and mind adjust ASAP.
The Fit Flyer workout gets you moving in all planes of motion, stretches out your potential sore spots—hips, hamstrings, feet, shoulders and neck—and targets every major muscle group. It has three key pillars: mindful mobility moves to warm up, three bodyweight conditioning circuits for the main set, and six stretches to cool down. You should hold off on high-intensity training for at least a day or two after a long flight, since it can put additional stress on the body and requires more recovery, she adds.
“Each exercise is based on movement patterns we perform on the go (like carrying suitcases and placing your bags in the overhead bin) and ones we need to do as a result of our sedentary habits en route,” she says. For example, sitting shortens and tightens the hip flexors and hamstrings, sleeping in awkward positions makes the neck and shoulder feel stiff, and overall the pooling of blood in the lower limbs can make the legs feel sore.
For best results, find 15 to 45 minutes post-flight to fit in this workout. Some evidence supports exercising early in the morning if you flew east and later in the afternoon or early evening if you went west. Still, don’t worry too much about timing. It’s better to exercise at any time than not at all.
Whether your regular workout routine involves lifting weights, running, yoga, or something else, you’ll benefit from starting any vacation or business trip with this plan. The best part is that this workout can be done anywhere and anytime whether you are at home or on-the-go.
Perform each exercise for 1 minute, and then move on to the next one.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a small rolled towel with one hand on each end in front of you. Start to move your hips, knees, and ankles from side to side while moving the towel across your body. Then make a halo-like circle around your head with the towel. When you come back through center, keep arms extended in front of you as you swivel feet and rotate torso toward the opposite hip. Repeat in the opposite direction.
While seated, position hands behind the hips with fingers fanning away from the body and knees bent, feet forward at 12 o'clock. Keeping shoulders stacked over the wrists and knees over the ankles, lift the hips and the left hand. Start to move the feet clockwise, until you are in a fully extended plank and feet are at 6 o'clock. Reverse the movement by traveling counter clockwise back to 12 and lower hips to sit. Progression: Travel from 12 o’clock to 12 o’clock without stopping at 6 and then reverse, moving in counter clockwise direction.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Lunge forward with right leg, bending both knees, and then almost as if you’re hitting numbers on a clock as you go, lunge out to the right (9 o’clock), bending right knee and keeping left leg extended, and then lunge back (6 o’clock). Switch legs and repeat, lunging forward (12 o’clock), out to the left (3 o’clock) and then back (6 o’clock). Continue alternating sides.
Each round has 3 exercises that focus on upper body, lower body, and core/mobility. Perform each exercise for 1 minute, then move on to the next one without stopping. Repeat the entire round 3 times (9 minutes total), and then give yourself 1 minute to actively recover (keep standing, walk around, etc.). You can simply perform one round, or move on to the next one and repeat. Completing all 3 will take 30 minutes.
1. Hopscotch Squat
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hop forward, moving feet in and then out, in and then out, two times. Then squat down to tap ground with your hand. Reverse movement back to start. Repeat.
Start in plank position, with hands under shoulders, legs extended behind you, core strong. Push hips back behind you. Step right foot forward so knee is bent 90 degrees, and then extend right arm and rotate torso toward ceiling. Switch arms and rotate to left. Step back into plank, push hips back and step forward with your left leg. Repeat.
3. 3x Shuffle and Reverse Lunge
Start standing in a neutral stance, then travel feet laterally to the right for a total of 3 counts. Stop on the third shuffle and step your inside leg back (if traveling left, your right leg) and reach arms overhead and in the direction of your forward leg. Step back to neutral and travel to the right, this time stepping left foot back into a reverse lunge and overhead reach. Continue the side-to-side pattern for the entire minute working at a moderate intensity.
1. 4x Hook and Drop Turn Lunge
Start with feet hip-width apart. Perform a left hook by internally rotating at the shoulder as if you were sliding your elbow across a bookshelf directly in front of you. Alternate the hook 4 times total while also pivoting the feet in the opposite direction as the hook arm. Then, drop into a split lunge bringing left hand to the inside of right foot. Shift to the other side, lunging with left foot in front and right arm reaching down. Repeat the whole sequence as many times as you can in the minute.
2. Figure 8s to Lateral Lunge
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift left knee in front of you, and then trace a figure 8 with it, using your hip socket to move your knee out to the side and back. Lunge left leg out to left, reach left hand down to right foot and extend right arm overhead. As you come back into the center, balance on right leg, lift left leg up toward ceiling and reach arms diagonally overhead to right. Return to center. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
3. Traveling Plank and Airplane
Start in high plank position, with hands only a few inches apart. Lift the right hand and right foot to travel to the right. Left hand and left foot then lift and lower to join. Keep hands closer together and slowly lower down to the ground keeping elbows hugging in to the ribs and toes pushing down to the ground. Once your entire body is face down on the ground, extend arms to the sides. Lift the arms and legs, creating spinal flexion and glute activation. Keep the neck long and a slight tuck of the chin as well as a soft gaze toward ground. Lower arms and legs, then push back up to plank position. Travel to the left side and repeat, this time leading with left hand and left foot.
1. Triple Skater and Touchdown
Perform three skater jumps, landing on one foot. After your last jump, hold your back leg up, then extend it behind you as you bend your front knee, and hinge forward from hips to touch the floor with both hands. Return to start and repeat, starting the jumps in the opposite direction.
2. Kneeling Lean Back
Kneel on the ground (or a mat) with toes tucked behind you and upper body tall. Place hands behind neck, and then lean back from your hips, moving body in one diagonal line until you feel your abs engage. Reverse movement back to start and come to stand. Return to start and repeat, alternating your lead leg each time.
3. Straddle Run Down
Start with feet wide, knees bent, hands out in front of you and begin to step one foot in at a time until both feet are close together. Step one foot out at a time to return to your starting position. Travel forwards, alternating the foot work of in, in, out, out, then repeat backwards. Perform 4 to 8 counts of fast feet in place. Continue to travel to the top of mat and back with fast feet, repeat.
Perform each stretch for 1 minute, and then move on to the next one.
Lie face-up on ground with knees bent, feet flat on floor and arms extended out to sides at shoulder level. Drop legs over to right and look over left shoulder. Pause, come back through center and repeat to other side. Do once more to the right, and then come back through center. Lift hips into a bridge, forming a diagonal line from knees to shoulders.
Lie face-down on mat with left arm extended out to side at shoulder level, right elbow bent by chest with palm flat on floor. Rotate torso toward right arm as you lift bent right leg up and place foot on floor behind you. Place head down and get comfortable in the stretch, opening up your chest, shoulders, and hips. Hold for 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
Start kneeling, with right leg forward and left leg back; both knees bent 90 degrees. Shift hips forward as you reach left arm overhead. Lean upper body over to right. Come back through center and push hips back into a low hamstring stretch. Return to start and repeat. Move slowly through 3 or 4 reps, then switch legs and repeat on opposite side.
Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position and place small towel behind your neck, holding one end in each hand. Pull towel up on one side of your head as you gently pull down on the other end and turn head to the side, stretching your neck. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, come back through center and repeat to other side.
Sit with legs crossed in front of your body. Extend left arm overhead and then bend elbow to place hand behind head; extend right arm overhead and bend elbow to place hand between your shoulder blades. Gently push down on your head as you keep gaze on the thigh of the side you’re stretching. Hold for 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
Start in seated position, with legs extended out in front of you. Extend arms out to shoulder level in front of you and then slowly roll back, moving one vertebrae at a time, as you press heels and stretch toes toward you. When you reach the bottom, stretch your body as long as possible. Then reach arms forward and start to give your lower body a massage, drumming on your hips, all the way down your legs to your ankles, and then back up. Reach arms overhead and repeat.