Travel Fitness, especially for Aircrew & Flight Crew!

...with Captain Max of JetBlue Airways!  Written for pilots by a pilot!

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    I'm a Captain for a major airline (my 'day job') and I jetset about 3 to 4 days per week & spend the night in hotels at least 3 nights per week.  I've been an airline pilot for 15 years & was a Navy pilot before that!  As you can imagine I've dealt with MANY if not EVERY occupational health hazard associated with travel & flying!  I was the resident health & fitness advisor to our cadre of over 3,500 JetBlue pilots from 2004 to 2012,  To name a few health hazards, how about: Jet Lag; Circadian Rhythm disruption; posture-related problems from long term sitting; low-back pain, spasms & bulging discs; Dehydration; Dry Sinuses & sinusitis from low-humidity aircraft cabin fumes & hotel air; Hemorrhoids; Kidney Stones; Deep Vein Thrombosis, blood pooling & clotting; Enlarged/inflamed Prostate; U.V. & Electromagnetic Radiation; Jet-related airborne pollutions & carcinogens; Total Coliform & E.coli bacteria in aircraft on-board potable water tantks, BED BUGS; Sciatica; Caffeine abuse; Migraine headaches - and this is just the beginning!!

This will be the new page where I slowly start adding all of my travel-related health & fitness videos & posts, so keep checking back!

**My complete Travel Fitness LIBRARY of topics is below so scroll all the way down this page!

Instagram & Twitter: @maxwettstein @max_wettstein #pilotfitness #pilotlife 

**NEWest Article is up, written for JetBlue pilots but applies to all who sit excessively for their jobs! Quick link: Enlarged/Inflamed Prostate



Video Left: I show you how I eat to stay fit, while traveling, actually while I'm in the flightdeck!  Video Right: Long term sitting is a major occupational hazard for pilots!!


Above video:  This is how I TRAIN on my airline trip overnights when the hotel provides no gym: Making due with what I have!  Hotel stairwell, Resistance Band, whatever it takes!  Photo Right: Actual WARNING sign posted in my work place daily!

My Travel Fitness General Strategy:

        I truly believe Iím qualified to offer some useful tips to you since besides being a fitness model (with over 20 covers to include Menís Health) Iím also an airline pilot.  Iím a Captain for JetBlue Airways and have been flying commercially for almost 13 years and was a Navy pilot prior to that.  Okay so enough about me, but I figured it was necessary to establish my background to validate my experience with staying fit while traveling.

     My suitcase literally never really gets unpacked and remains on a luggage rack in my bedroom Ďstagedí for unloading & re-loading in between my flights.  I fly about 3 to 4 days per week, meaning Iím gone for the 24 hour period, thus laying over in plenty of hotels.

Letís start with some staple (fitness) items that are always in my luggage:

  1. Resistance Band

  2. Running Shoes

  3. Compression-Performance Shorts

  4. Massage ball for rolling out trigger points & adhesions & loosening up tight fascia.

  5. Polar brand Heart Rate Monitor

  6. iPod

  7. Shaker Bottle & Ďbottomlessí reusable zip-lock bag of protein/glutamine/creatine/greens powder blend that I custom mix my self..

  8. Vita-C, Joint Formula, Calcium-mineral blend, Omega-3 EFAs, Ibuprofen, Menís Blend supplement, Green-Tea Extract.

  9. Sometimes Valslides.

  10. Protein bars, tuna packets, Organic jerky, trail mix, dried fruit to include prunes, pumpkin seeds, some whole fruit, dark chocolate, ĎGreens+í brand (alkaline-forming) MRP bars.

 *None of the food items require refrigeration and I can just forget about them in my suitcase for weeks at a time.  So thatís some of what I bring on the road Ė not too much!

     Because basically it comes down to this mentality, and I always say this: You need to be able to work out any TIME, any WHERE, with any THINGÖmost importantly using only your own body weight.  While many hotels do have fitness centers now, some even with free-weights, the reality is you never know what youíre going to find, so you need to prepared for the worst case scenario, which is the hotel has absolutely nothing! 

     This MacGyver, impromptu, travel-workout mentality has an upside & even some benefits to your training (non) plan however:  It shakes things up & gets you out of your training rut; it adds to ĎMuscle Confusioní which is all the rage right now; it helps you evolve past your Ďgym-ratí stage and onto higher-consciousness & hyper-awareness about your body & holistic-health.  Whatís more, you learn to train smarter & truly make each workout count.  You may not think so, but for any body part or muscle group, you can come up with a bodyweight-only, exercise variation to target it effectively, right in the confines of your hotel room if need be.  Iím dead serious!  And donít forget you will always have access to the stairwell where you can manage a HIIT cardio workout and usually find a sturdy beam or pipe to do pull-ups on, or wrap your resistance-band around.  You can even do bodyweight plyometrics & jumps in your room if you have too.  Course you may piss of your neighbors.

     When it comes to eating & nutrition, itís kind of the same mentality: you make do with what you have.  Meaning, no matter how lousy the food-choices you have available to you, assuming you didnít pre-pack your own, there will always be a BETTER choice of the options presented.  Most of us have enough common sense to figure out which food item is healthier of the all the available options, and that is where self-discipline comes into play.  But even if you absolutely have nothing healthy to choose from, keep in mind that one day of lousy eating or over-indulging will literally make ZERO difference in your overall net body composition, so let it go and move on.  Donít obsess too much Ėitís not worth it and your travel mates or work colleagues might think youíre an OCD freak.  Traveling is stressful enough as it is.


     With glob-trotting & jet-setting also comes circadian rhythm disruption and jet-LAG.  No fun!  Coping with changing time zones is not as simple as just getting horizontal for 8 hours & closing your eyes.  Your sleep-wake cycle hormones are still set to your home time zone and will take a few days to re-synchÖthus the jet lag!  Strategic use of natural sunlight exposure and coffee/caffeine and timing your workouts can all help you adjust more quickly to your new time zoneÖbut then itís time to go home again!  Never under estimate the restorative powers of a NAP either!

     Donít forget flying is also very dehydrating too!  The cabin air is extremely dry with almost no humidity.  Obviously drink plenty of water while at cruise altitude.  Getting up from your seat during long TransCON flights & stretching out will also help you tremendously by: moving lymphatic fluid; preventing blood & other fluid from pooling in your legs; lowering risk of clot formation; lowering risk of hemorrhoids & constipation; and most of all will give your lower-back & lumbar spine a nice break from the destructive sitting posture, helping to prevent back spasm attacks the next day.  Consider using a pillow, your jacket or even a rolled up magazine placed between your low-back & seat for lumbar support. 

Iím happy to report that contrary to urban legend, commercial airplane air is not as nearly as dirty as Ďtheyí say, is only 50% re-circulated cabin air (the rest is fresh from outside thru engine bleed air valves) and is scrubbed thru HEPA filters.  Also pathogens rarely become airborne or spread via air (unless somebody sneezes near you) so youíre safe there.  Most pathogen & virus exposure occurs through direct contact of a contaminated surface with your hands so be sure to pack some sanitary, anti-bacterial wipes or gels!  And donít forget ear plugs & an eye-mask, and even consider noise-cancellation headsets too, to make sleeping on the plane more feasible.  I do NOT EVER recommend taking sleeping pills or muscle-relaxers before your flight in attempt to sleep the entire way!  BAD NEWS for so many reasons!

*UPDATE!* Regarding above, yes most times are cabin air is benign, with the particulate matter no worse than a typical office builiding, however, we now know that an oil-additive known as TCP, or TOCP, is a neuro-toxin when heated and vaporized, if it happens to contaminate the engine-bleed air, via over-servicing the oil, or, a worn seal.  Click on the link below for more info..

     Well hopefully Iíve just made your travel experience a little more pleasant next time you depart and also eliminated all of your excuses as to why you think you canít stay fit on the road.  I do Ė itís my way of life and Iíve had to adapt and you can too!

Check back monthly as I just started constructing this page & already have a tone of useful backlogged travel tips & media to get posted!  And I'll share a little secret: a lot of times the reason I get the idea to write about another occupational health hazard is because I suffered from it and then CURED myself of it, with no doctor's help! then I feel obligated to share with my fellow pilot cadre!

Max's Complete Travel Fitness Library - written by a pilot for pilots!

Cosmic & UV Radiation

Sitting: a Lethal Occupational Hazard

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Sleep Physiology

Sleep Hygiene


Back Pain & Strain

Colon Health & Hemorrhoids


Travel Fitness 101

Sinusitis/Dry Cabin & Hotel Air

Holistic Health 101

Cabin Fumes/Aerotoxic Syndrome

Enlarged/Inflamed Prostate

Obstructive Sleep Apnea/BMI


Links:  Back to Max's Training!    Back to Max's HOME!