Here we are, less than a week out from the beginning of the season and I am starting to get that really excited/kind of nervous/a little apprehensive – but, mostly excited and a little giddy feeling somewhere deep in my gut. It’s similar to the feeling I still get on Christmas morning (I’ll always be a kid at heart) or that feeling you get when you know you’re about to get great news.
But, that would only make sense because the beginning of the season IS great news! Besides all of the typical sports clichés, “everyone gets a fresh start,” “you’re in control of your destiny,” “nothing from the past matters” (feel free to insert your favorite here), it’s the first chance I get to put on my new team’s color and compete with my amazing teammates.
However, a lot has to happen before I’ll find myself in the locker room Saturday afternoon preparing for our first match of the season. Our first game happens to be an away match so I thought this would be a great time to shed a little light on the tricky topic of traveling. I always get questions about how my team travels, what I personally do to prepare for travel, what I do while traveling, best ways to prepare for matches on the road, etc so I’ll try give you a taste of that.
It’s safe to say that most athletes prefer home matches. You get to sleep in your own bed the night before. You get to be on your own schedule, eat your own food, be in your own locker room, have the support of your family and friends (of course unless they all live around the world in; which case it doesn’t matter if it’s a home or away match), and defend your home pitch. But away games are an essential part of a season and I believe the goal should be to make it feel as much like a home match as possible.
When I am at home I like to have oatmeal, fruit, and Starbucks coffee for breakfast. So, why would I change that to bagels, cream cheese and Gatorade on the morning of an away match? I don’t always know what will be provided for breakfast at a hotel while on the road so I always travel with packets of instant oatmeal and Starbucks Via. Same goes for what I have for snacks and game time preparation. It’s hard to eat healthy when traveling through airports or on the road so I find it’s healthier, cheaper, and smarter to pack what I am going to need. The down side of that is that I always feel like the security officers at the airport are judging me because my carry-on consists of at least 80 percent food.
Nutrition on the road is tough but so is taking care of your body in other ways. I always travel wearing Skins (no I am not sponsored by them and this isn’t a plug, but, if you know someone who knows someone I wouldn’t be above giving them more plugs in the future). Skins are tights that are specifically made to prevent swelling and dehydration while traveling and I find them to really help. It is also so very important to make sure you are hydrated to help prevent muscle fatigue.
I find that travel can be a great opportunity to spend quality time with teammates. If you’re sitting next to someone for a few hours it can be a great chance to get to know them better than you did before. Some athletes use that time to nap, listen to music, catch up on missed episodes of Dexter, or read. For me personally, I will do a little of each of those. I mentioned that 80 percent of my carry-on is food. Well, the other 20 percent consists of my playing boots (you must always carry these with you!!) and my iPad. I have textbooks on my iPad so I can keep up with my graduate school work; I also have leisure books, the Bible, TV shows, podcast of sermons, and a few movies. So, whatever I’m feeling like that particular day I can keep myself busy if the person next to me is passed out on my shoulder.
Overall, I think it takes time for an athlete to figure out what exactly works for her (or him) while preparing for home or away matches. I think it’s important to remember that it is as individual as your playing style. But, don’t get too caught up if there are changes or glitches in travel plans. It’s not going to be the end of the world if I have to eat a bagel for breakfast instead of oatmeal. It’s not going to change how I play if I forget my iPad at home. As long as we make it in time for kickoff and all have something that resembles the same uniform we can play, and you should enjoy every moment of it!
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