It's 4pm in Nice, France. You and your significant other have been walking the cobblestone streets chasing the smell of bread and melted cheese on pizza all day.
As you round the corner headed back to your hotel, a pain in your knee begins to well up until the sharp, searing discomfort cannot be ignored. With a sigh, you call out to your partner and ask them to slow down. You look around for a place to sit but there isn't a bench or chair in sight. Once again, an old pain has returned to sour a travel memory.
It doesn't have to be this way. The human body is a magnificently resilient creature. It may not feel that way when you're in a foreign country practically panicked finding a place to sit down, but it truly is. If you prepare your body prior to the trip, you can enjoy your time exploring without a care in the world except will the tonight's restaurant have the right Beaujolais. All you need to do in order to make your way through your trip without pain is recognize your imbalances and then train to balance them out.
It's rare that a Travel Agent will think as holistically as Martha Day does. When she and I first met the first thing that popped out of her mouth was her ideas for how she could create an even more memorable experience for her travel clients. The best way for me to help her do that, was make more time for memories. You see, we don't want your body failing you to be a time suck while you're in France, or Italy or Prague! We both want you to feel strong, excited and capable when touring new territories.
When I treat people at our Performance Physical Therapy clinic, located in the Design District of Dallas, we take everyone through a full body assessment to determine what imbalances are causing pain. For the purpose of this article I am including exercises that improve the most common imbalances we see causing knee pain with extended walking in our over 40 population.
To start, we must balance the glutes and hamstrings with the quads. These two exercises done in this order 5 days per week for 6 weeks will dramatically improve the strength of your legs and knees (click the title to watch a short video demonstration.)
3 rounds for a 3-5 breath hold (don't go in and out of the position, hold the position.)
3 rounds of 3-6 (when it gets a little shaky getting back up, that's enough reps.)
Next, it's imperative that your inner and outer hips are just as strong as your quads, glutes and hamstrings. When it comes to imbalances, this is where we see the most dramatic differences. Once again, these two exercises performed in order 5 days per week for 6 weeks will be enough for most everyone to avoid aggravating knee pain with walking.
2 rounds for a 2-4 breath hold.
3 rounds of 8 steps in both directions (left and right.)
These exercises are simple but effective. They should be easy to understand but challenging to perform. The best part, they can be used as a warm up after a long flight to ensure your body isn't all locked up around the hips.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about preparing your body for travel, reach out to myself or Martha. We can help you find the right person to help you achieve your goals. Whether it be injury or pain related or just general fitness, there are excellent people near by who can help you.
Have a great trip!
Johnny Earls PT, DPT