by Pilot Ferdi
Good Morning, Good Day or Good Evening to wherever your operations have landed you. My name is Charles Ferdinand Junior & I have the pleasure of writing this blog post in collaboration with Airside.
A sprinkle of facts, a dashing of humour and a garnish of tips, hints and tricks to hopefully grab your attention and see you comfortably through to retirement. Ways to stay fit whilst enduring a layover, or what I would like to call a short holiday. Just do not tell the wife. Definitely do not mention that the vino tastes fantastic on the beach in Nice.
Now forgive me, I will of course touch on hotel room exercises, we have all given it a go at some point- I am certain that I have found the secret sauce to engaging those muscles, increase the blood flow and most importantly, it will not take all evening. Look at it as simply a way to work up an appetite for the much-anticipated dinner.
Hydration, I have a note or three to share around that topic. Simple additions that you can implement immediately with proven health benefits.
Healthy eating, I know we are all privy to giving that our best attempts. It does not have to be as morbid as first thoughts, it will simply take a little bit of discipline. As much discipline to follow Standard Operating Procedures. Once It is a habit, you will know what you are doing... sort of.
Let’s face it, it is what you make it of it and I am certainly not here to ruin the fun. More to prolong the pilot party for as long as possible.
As a corporate jet pilot for close to 5 years, the perks more often than not outweigh the drawbacks, and one of my many objectives is to ensure my weight does not slide the aircraft Centre of Gravity too far out of the envelope. We can always place the luggage aft to balance the seesaw.
One element I am proud to have found a reasonable remedy for is staying “Fit” down-route.
A topic I never thought I would have to consider during my years of flight training. I hedged like the majority that I would embark on a career within an airline, aviate during the day and be home back in time for gym, swim and a relaxing sauna session just like the old times.
Within a blink of an eye, I found myself in the right-hand seat of a private jet, snacking my way through every cruise phase of the flight, only to then find myself in an Italian restaurant, a pizza larger than life, a side of fries discussing with my crew how I used to be in impeccable shape. Judging by the way I just devoured my desert; I am sure they are not convinced.
Of course, I endured the tough life for as long as I could sustain being uncomfortable in my trousers. I will buy a bigger size just in case the wife decides to tumble dry them again. It just so happens that she shrinks them after I have binged my way around Europe. Coincidence I know...
It was only then I decided I had to come up with a plan. A reasonable plan. A sustainable plan that I could continually execute even post a six- sector day. Yes, SIX sectors, you read correctly! Private jet, private operations, welcome to the six-sector world where the least of your worries is doing press-ups upon hotel check-in.
Hotel check-in. Seems a familiar place to begin.
Undressing your way from receiving your room key to already tasting the first bite of your burger before you have removed your shoes. The race to meet the crew in the lobby has begun. Last person down buys the main courses was the regime in my previous operation, I lost most of my salary here. And I did my daily workout running up and down those stairs to tell the reception desk that my key does not open my room. Lost again, dinner is on me. What a surprise.
Decisions, we are paid to make them.
Decision number one: Make sure I am not the last person in the lobby.
Decision number two: Send your crew a message suggesting that you have just got to tie a few loose ends together and let’s meet in an hour.
I get it. Sometimes it really is a rush to change. Eat. Shower. Bed. Departure in 5 hours. I really do understand. It was the absolute shock of my life and my nervous system.
For those of you in that position, sadly you will not have the opportunity to eat as freely as you would like. It really is that simple. I have attempted to eat without thought of just what I am consuming paired with no exercise. It does not end well for the waistline and the strained trouser seams.
Before you skip, let me explain.
Calories in versus calories out. Effectively simple.
Sitting on your backside all day to then indulge in any element of calorie-packed dinner... I shall not insult your intelligence the way I clearly neglected my own.
Now, I am not a dietician, but this is what I have tried and tested. Before I touch on our much-loved subject of food, buy a smart watch. Track your calories burned during the day or night, essentially when you are supposed to be most active. Hands down, when used to its full potential, is in my opinion, easily the cheapest health investment.
A gentle reminder such as “hold on a minute, you have not done more than 500 steps today. Your heart rate has not budged above resting” and you have eaten all the snacks and treats possible in the time available.
Even a pilot can work out that this is not the best scenario for their health.
I picked up a midrange level watch for £79.99 and the addition certainly opened my eyes to just where I was going wrong. Not that I ate too much, I simply ate too much of the wrong foods and I did not move my body enough to compensate my intake. That is the honest truth.
Again, Calories in versus calories out.
A previous colleague of mine would be overwhelmed to have had a mention, but he changed my outlook. As a pilot, I would question his skill but as a life example, I would choose him every time. He would eat and eat and eat and eat. Undeterred by a 4 AM departure, five sectors, a diversion and a non - precision approach down to minimums, upon landing he would be raring to complete his minimum ten kilometers of running. Topped off with some abdominals and press-ups just for fun.
To those of us who lean more towards normal...
You have delayed dinner for an hour.
-Hotel room towel (optional)
Duration -30 minutes
Let’s spend 5 minutes limbering up. Believe it or not this feels fantastic! After a long-winded day with very limited mobility, there is no feeling like a targeted stretch.
Stand up straight - Gently roll your head down. Chin to chest, hold for 5 seconds and reset back to the neutral position.
Stand up straight - Slowly turn your head. Chin to your shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds and reset back to the neutral position. Repeat action on the opposite shoulder.
Cycle 3-5 times.
Expect to hear a few cracks and clicks and I really emphasise the absolute need to do these actions gently, slowly and controlled.
Next the classic shoulder shrug rolls. Well that is what I call them.
It is just what it says in the title.
Stand up Straight - Shrug your shoulders just the way you respond to your other half when asked “when will you be home?”
You know what I am talking about- that is the action I am looking for. Hold for 5 seconds as you reduce the length of your neck, rotate your shoulders backwards until you land yourself back in the neutral position.
Repeat 3 - 5 times.
Finding this easy I know but let’s not pretend we have not been sat all day.
Stand up straight - slowly rotate your upper body until it feels good. Then simply all the way back around to the other side.
Touch those toes.
This usually gets a few groans.
Off you go. Fold that over worked body in half and touch those toes. You are welcome, I know it feels good afterwards. But please get up off the floor, you are not finished.
As many as you fancy!
Do the hula! Be a gyro.
Do it in the mirror and admire yourself, it usually gets the best hip movements out of me.
Continue until you have had enough.
Rotate your ankles.
This requires some thought. Balance on one leg and slowly circulate your ankles. Let’s add some difficulty. Anti-clockwise and clockwise.
Hands up in the air. Reach for flight level 510 and slightly arch your back. We are not aiming to cripple ourselves. Simply a reminder to our body that I am still here, and I do love you. It is just the job I choose does not love me.
Now the body is awake, it is time to blast through a quick workout. Brief, snappy and to the point. Almost like the arrival brief into your home base.
High Knees – 30 Seconds – Absolutely go for it!
Squats – 1 Minute – Slow and controlled.
Abdominal Crunches – 1 Minute.
Plank – 1 Minute – Feel the burn.
Rest for 1 minute
Repeat the cycle until it is time for a shower.
If you are unsure of the technique required for the above exercises, check online.
No, of course this will not help you toward winning beach model of the century but in regard to my version of staying fit during a layover, this is perfect. There is nothing worse than a boring workout and I truly believe this little circuit is great for targeting the fact you may have been sat down for the majority of the day.
In particular those temptations called snacks!
I am guilty. So very guilty.
I am a self-confessed “snackoholic”. I cheated the system slightly in the area of I still do snack, I have simply changed what it is that I snack on.
The term you are what you eat springs to mind. Why is it so hard to say no to the crisps and sweets? Is it because it is free? I do not think so. It is merely what we are conditioned to. Snacking in my opinion holds the pole position for adding those pointless calories. Not only pointless but also laced with saturates and sugar. Again, I feel it important to re-mention that I am not attempting to dull the atmosphere, more so to prolong the party. Never will I say “Do not eat”. I simply emphasise to control the amount of certain types of foods. Here is what I snack on.
Unlimited raw radish. Do not knock it until you have tried it.
Unlimited raw carrots
Unlimited raw bell peppers
1 cake OR
1 pasty OR
A normal portion of pringles OR
2 to 8 cookies…
Just to paint the picture, let’s compare the above to previous normal
I love to highlight the obvious simply because it is that simple. No one said do not eat those sugars and fats, I do remember the keyword, in moderation.
I hear you cry, goodness this is basic. But are you doing the basics? Are you consistently drinking water? I do not mean - I have a headache, I had better drink some water. I am talking about drinking water just for the sake of it. Let’s agree, water is not selected for the taste. Well that is my opinion- I enjoy drinking it simply because, for just such a small action of choice, will aid so many elements. I will let the only negative out the bag - frequency of toilet use will increase. That is it.
Benefits of drinking water, I shall share a few.
It may improve memory and mood - Yes please!
It can help reduce sugar cravings and aid weight maintenance. - Well sign me up!
It may improve exercise performance – Just in time for our workout.
It may reduce headaches and migraines – Does this include headaches induced by my partner?
Just to mention a few.
Not bad at all for 6 to 10 glasses of water per day.
I would certainly search up the benefits of drinking water, you will be surprised. Oh, before I forget to mention, whilst on the topic of liquids.
If you do not drink a type of herbal or green tea. I am an advocate for it. I know what the critics say about green tea. The taste, the look, blah blah blah. If you thought water was impressive. Here are some positive thoughts and facts surrounding the illustrious Green Tea;
May improve brain function - Never enough brain power!
Increases fat burning- Already loving the sound of this I bet!
Antioxidants may lower the risk of some cancers. Well cancer is a b@£&h and I speak for us all that we will look to avoid this one at any cost.
May protect the brain from aging. Not sure much could save the brain of my Captain, but he has nothing to lose trying a cup a day.
May reduce bad breath. 3 am departure briefs... need I say anymore.
Exactly. Just drink a cup a day before your morning coffee. You have everything to gain.
Your mental health is very delicate and although society holds pilots in a form of robotic manner whose mental health is indestructible unless it is featured in the news.
As a large society we know the truth. We are humans too. Life throws curve balls and sometimes we deal with life whilst dealing with the balance of being a Pilot.
Find a purpose outside of the flight deck. It is fantastic to be motivated by your profession. Believe me, I too am a lover of all things aviation, but I do invest my time in other interests. It keeps me feeling human. I enjoy the life of being a pilot, whilst being paid to be a pilot. That is fair enough.
Something else to focus on instead of just aviation. For example, I am writing this blog now, writing is an interest of mine and quite frankly, this is a pleasure. If you are not into sports, research a subject you are curious about. Please note, “How do planes fly?” does not qualify as a researchable subject. It is not possible for me to list all things that one is able to partake in outside of the flight deck, it is personal. Do what you love. As long as it is legal. Go for it!
Objective - Enjoy life. Time Frame - Who knows. That is what makes it so important.
Although the title is staying fit whilst on a layover, I truly believe the habits installed whilst out of normal home routine will only benefit life moving forward. Balance being the keyword, is it not what it is all about? I would say so. Mental health is just as important as physical fitness. The focus on a little workout, structure with healthy snacks and hydration is a perfect start on looking after your mental health as well as summer body.
Good Luck! Fly Safe, Land smooth and until next time.
welcome aboard the new airside
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