“Sir, would you mind not reclining your seat during the meal service? I literally cannot bring the fork from the tray to my mouth.”
“HEY BUDDY I HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO RECLINE MY SEAT WHENEVER THE BAD WORD BAD WORD BAD WORD I BAD WORD WANT TO”
“[resigns self that it’s going to be that kind of flight] sigh”
“WHAT ARE YOU SIGHING ABOUT MAN? I PAID FOR THIS SEAT.”
“Oh nothing, it’s just that you’re reclining into the seat I paid for.”
“BAD WORD BAD WORD etc.”
I think you get the point. Sometimes flying in Coach really sucks. Even in the best-case scenario where you have a great flight crew and wonderful service (meaning you’re probably not flying a US carrier), you’re still crammed in a metal tube for 8+ hours with 200 of your closest friends. So how do you not only make it through the flight, but actually enjoy long flights in coach?
(This all hits home for me as I’m going to board the third longest flight in the world (DFW-HKG) in a few days for 16.5 hours of coach fun, then turn around and fly back in less than 48 hours. Ah, the joy of mileage-running.)
1. Hydrate. Starting a week in advance.
Modern-day jets are a very dry environment. They are pressurized to simulate the air pressure between 6000-8000 feet (depending on the aircraft) and humidity is kept very very low. I live in Dallas, Texas, which is a relatively humid environment. Many of my readers come from the coast of whichever country they call home, coastal areas are notoriously humid. According to a few different sources (the most trustworthy among them being this article by Patrick Smith, who runs a fantastically informative site), the humidity is kept below 15% on modern-day aircraft, which is about 70-80% less than I’m used to breathing.
Drink plenty of water in advance of your flight. The day of the flight is too late to start hydrating. Big tip: water can flush through your kidneys fairly quickly and wash away the minerals your body needs, so many people recommend sprinkling a pinch of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt in your water to ensure you get all of the minerals you need. The brand of sea salt I use is from Amazon and linked here. Really though it doesn’t really matter which brand you use as long as it’s not iodized and bleached table salt. Remember, just a pinch.
Many will tell you not to drink alcohol during your flight as most drinks (especially red wine) can dehydrate you even more, but I say to heck with that: enjoy a drink if that’s your thing.
A handy guide for how much water you should drink is to take your weight in lbs and drink half of that number in ounces per day (if I weighed 200 pounds I would shoot for 100 ounces of water per day). Start your hydration protocol a week before your flight. And, actually, it’s not a bad idea to keep up that hydration protocol permanently, many of us are chronically dehydrated.
2. Practice sleeping in a seated position before your trip.
Basically you want to simulate the experience of sleeping on a plane to get your body used to the difference between sleeping in a seated position versus laying down. I much prefer laying down in beautiful suites like this:
But that’s not always feasible/affordable. Your body is used to sleeping in certain positions and it can take a bit to get it used to something else. For a few days before your trip, try to take a long nap or sleep a portion of the night in a seated position in your favorite recliner/chair. It won’t perfectly simulate the plane seat environment but it will get you close. If you plan on using an eye mask/shade/cover/thing, use that as well before your flight. The more you can acclimatize yourself to your future coach environment the better. Adjusting your sleep schedule to match the sleep time aboard the aircraft is another option if reasonable.
Most of us need to stretch more. Our bodies are capable of quite a lot and stretching/mobility helps us in many areas. When you’re getting ready for a flight, there are three stretches I recommend. The first two are in this handy youtube video by Kelly Starrett. The intro refers a lot to CrossFit but the stretches are for anyone (they start about 2:00 in):
The stretch with your foot up on the couch cushion is fantastic because it opens up your hip flexors, and most of us have extremely tight hip flexors from sitting at desks all day.
The other activity I recommend is for your calves and ankles. You can even do this one right now at your desk:
Start doing these a week before your flight as well, and maybe even keep doing them when you get home, they all do a great job of reversing the damage done to our bodies from sitting at desks all day.
So there you have it
Three preparation tips to get you ready for your flight. Again, these tips are to prime your body to handle the stress of flying well. As far as what you should do on the flight itself, I’ll get into that tomorrow by telling you my Long Flight Routine.