If you are a would-be fan of thrill rides, but not able to participate because of the physical discomfort they cause, here are a few tips that might make riding them possible again. Start slow. You can still overdo it.
The three tips for today are just the beginning. They are related to nausea, blacking-out and getting shaken too hard. I use these any time I start to feel uncomfortable. Riding a rollercoaster should not be a passive experience. Sure, there isn’t much you can do once you are strapped in, but there are some physical things you can do to help keep your body feeling good during and after the ride.
If you think you’re going to throw up, or have strong nausea, you can improve your chances of keeping your composure and possibly your expensive lunch by grinning.
This is a funny-looking tip that I remembered from the original CSI (Vegas) TV show. The character Sara was working on a particularly gross crime scene and she looks up with a big teethy, Cheshire Cat grin. It was weird. Then she went on to explain that the big smile or grin helps control the gag reflex.
I’ve tried this and have had great success. There may be a doctor who can explain why this happens, but it may be one of those mysteries of life. Like how saying the words “peanut butter” aloud immediately shuts down the feeling you are about to sneeze. (Just a weird bonus tip there. Doesn’t cost you anything extra.)
I love aviation. I briefly studied to be a pilot a few years back. This tip is something I learned while watching documentaries about fighter pilots and aerobatic pilots.
If you’re abdomen feels bad from too much jiggling, or if you feel like you might pass out at any point during a ride, flex your abdominal muscles hard! Tightening down your stomach muscles is one of the ways these pilots manage the effects of g-forces.
This has worked for me. Specifically I run into this during the beginning of the Backlot Stunt Coaster, and to a lesser degree Flight of Fear. These two rides have the magnetic-induction launching mechanism that occasionally makes me, and others I know, start to black out. Since I’ve been using this abdominal flex, no problems!
When you’re in a particularly aggressive ride that is turning hard or rattling your body a lot, you can save your head, inner-ear and spine some of the rough usage by actively riding the ride. Think of a bobsled team hurtling down the run at the winter olympics. Those skilled riders are shifting their weight and angling their head with every turn. Horse riders also actively move in rhythm with and counter to the horse’s motion for efficiency and to maintian comfort and control while on the moving seat.
But when I say to ride actively, I need to be clear that you’re not to brace yourself or fight the ride forces. That will hurt you. Keep a little tension, but allow your body to flex and flow with the ride’s motion. It is kind of like if you have to stand a long time and people tell you to not lock your knees. You can maintain a slight muscle tension that helps resist damage.
This is not official medical advice. I’m not a doctor. I’m a dad in his 40s who likes to ride lots of rides with his kids. Using these techniques has made me able to handle more than two big thrill rides in a day. That used to be my cut-off point.
Maybe it was because of my interest in flying, or maybe I’m just fortunate, but I have no fear of heights. Nothing. I could ride the three tall thrill rides Windseeker, Drop Tower and Diamondback all day. I could also hang out on top of the Eiffel Tower with no feelings of vertigo. I want to also offer these park hacks for those who have trouble with heights, but I haven’t had to develop techniques for that problem. I’m researching the topic now.
>> If you have found ways to manage a fear of heights, or other techniques for the other thrill ride challenges I mentioned above, please share them in the comments!
Photo credit: fighter pilot Public Domain