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Lennard Zinn’s five tips for avoiding jet lag

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Jan. 1, 2013
  • Updated Nov. 22, 2013 at 10:57 PM EST
To avoid jet lag, sleep when you can and eat on the local schedule. Photo: Jason Sumner | VeloNews.com

1. Forget the light; remember the food

Your digestive tract is more affected by jet lag than the pattern of light and dark, which you can’t control anyway. Train yourself to wake up whenever meals are offered on the plane, and then eat on the local schedule immediately upon landing.

2. Exercise right away

Put your bike together and ride it as soon as you can. This will not only make you feel better, it will serve to establish the new time schedule. You’ll get hungry and eat when you might not have felt like it otherwise. American Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter ran at 3 p.m. local time wherever he was in the world, thus imposing local time.

3. Take direct flights

Avoid stopovers between long flights; they exhaust you and increase jet lag. When flying to Europe, for instance, take a direct flight to a major European hub and then a short flight to your destination, rather than making a stopover in the U.S. and then taking a long, direct flight to your destination.

4. Get some room on the plane

The most restful flight is in first or business class, but if that’s outside your budget, get the best seat you can. Avoid middle seats; an exit row or economy seating for elite frequent flyers is better yet. Some airlines offer purchase of annual membership into their elite-level frequent-flyer programs if you lack the miles to qualify.

5. Get enough rest

Do not work on the plane. Just sleep, and wake up to eat; stretch and brush your teeth before going back to sleep. Being exhausted when you land will multiply your jet lag, and you’ll know by your lack of digestive regularity. Go to sleep at a normal bedtime for local time, taking 3mg of melatonin if necessary.

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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