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Athletes and Their Travel – Some Tips and Tricks from Mitch Vanhille

This post comes from Runivore Ambassador and recent Kona Triathlon finisher Mitch Vanhille (Congrats Mitch!!). As a triathlete and ultra runner based in Singapore – he finds himself traveling quite a bit for races around the world and so he knows how to do it right. Without further ado, take it away Mitch:

As I sit on the plane traveling to Kona, I thought this is an opportune time to talk about our race (travel) journey.

As many of you know, it is not uncommon that we find ourselves having to travel specifically for races. In such situations, we have multiple options – fly and/or drive.

Considering I live in Singapore, I often have no choice but to fly for long distance races. However, if you are fortunate to be able to either drive (even if this means you drive for 8 hours) or take a 1-few hour(s) flight, my recommendation is to drive, drive, drive!

Why would I suggest this? Because by flying, you subject your body and mind to a lot of stressors (*) which you can otherwise avoid when driving. This includes:

  • Disassembling and reassembling your bike, while hoping that all is well once your bike is reassembled. This is, of course, specifically in case of triathlons/bike races.
  • Getting swollen feet and ankles, which could take (depending on the flight duration) a few hours, and even up to a day to get back to normal.
  • Being deprived from sunlight when on long haul flights.
  • Subjecting your body to dehydrating conditions as the cabin air is very dry.
  • Exposing your body to a variety of germs that come from being within a confined space. And for those who are wondering, no, I am not a germaphobe ☺.
  • Getting to the airport in time, waiting for your flight, getting on your flight and disembarking off your flight.
  • And then there is the stress of getting your luggage (in a timely fashion) and getting to your hotel.

On the flip side, driving allows you to stop every 1.5-2hours, take a walk, get your blood flowing and catch some sunlight. No disassembly for your bike is needed and you can keep the AC on a normal temperature and/or drive with the windows open so as to ensure the air is never too dry. Getting your partner to annoy you/swap drivers is an added bonus too ☺ .

That being said, if you are like me and have no other options but to fly, here are a few pointers about I deal with it:

Rule 1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

I always carry a large bottle of water with me that I frequently fill up. I also top it up with electrolytes and add chia seeds sachets. As I have high sodium needs, I use Precision hydration electrolytes as this product makes it easy to stay topped up. I find that both the additional sodium and chia seeds help ensure my dehydration is limited and ensure I have a good gut balance.


Bring healthy snacks along. The food on the plane might be very different from your day to day nutrition. Expect simple carbs, sugars, ‘unhealthy’ fats. I don’t say don’t eat it, yet moderate and top up with some high quality nutrients. For me those snacks can be nuts, avocado, banana, Runivore bites and bars…


I use both active and passive compression during flights to help me out. The passive compression is your standard compression pants or socks. The active compression are my “boots” that connect to a small compressor that you can use in any airplane electrical plug. For active compression, the compression is 10 times stronger than compression pants while massaging your legs in different zones. It is quite funny to see the look on people’s faces while I have my “boots” on, yet it feels like heaven while being on a flight. Pun intended.

Jetlag (especially if you are crossing time zones)

As soon as I get on the flight, I set my watch to the time zone of my final destination and try to plan my activities according to that time zone. I know there are some apps out there that could help you with overcoming jetlag, yet I haven’t experimented with those yet. Upon arrival at my hotel, and if it’s not sleeping time, I recommend going for an easy run or swim. Catch some sunlight. Stay awake until it’s sleeping time. And all throughout the day, stay away from caffeine.

I hope that above is helpful for some of you. I am not saying this is a magic solution but these are just some suggestions you might wish to consider as you plan your next travel…

(*) I’ll talk more later on the challenges with stressors in a next article.

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