Staying Fit as a Trucker
Staying Fit as a Trucker
by Katrina Manning
All of those long hours on the road can take their toll on your body. The evidence for the health hazards of sitting all day is piling up, so much so that standing desks are becoming a popular option in office environments. There are even desks that let you walk on a treadmill while you work—the ultimate in multi-tasking.
But none of that work for truckers. There is no option to drive while standing, and certainly not by walking. You can’t even take your eyes off the road without risking life and limb, so taking 5 minute breaks every hour to stand and stretch is impossible.
Are you doomed to be unfit and unhealthy as a trucker? It’s not easy, but you can definitely succeed at staying fit as a trucker. Obviously, before you start an exercise program or overhaul your eating habits, you should talk to your doctor, especially if you have known health conditions or are on medications.
Consistency Is Key
“Exercise regularly” and “maintain a healthy diet” are just two of the 35 rules for truckers, but their importance cannot be overstated. Exercise and healthy food choices should be part of your daily routine, as consistency is the only way to make a lasting impact on your health; being a weekend warrior isn’t enough to help you avoid a heart attack or stroke. Need some motivation? How about not being the next statistic in studies that show how severely overweight truckers have higher accident rates?
Exercises You Can Do on the Road
You can do some simple stretches while driving that can loosen up your muscles and prevent you from getting stiff, sore muscles or knots in your shoulders and neck.
Your hands are bound to become stiff and painful from gripping the steering wheel for hours. While safely stopped at a red light, spend some time rotating and massaging your wrists and stretching your fingers one-by-one.
Another good traffic light stretch is a shoulder stretch. Lift your shoulders and hold for about ten seconds. Gently roll your head from side to side to stretch your neck and shoulders. Roll your shoulders. Cross your arms in front of you at the elbows, bring your hands up toward your chin and push your elbows forward for a deep shoulder stretch. Interlink your hands behind your back and push down and out with your hands while pushing up and out with your chest, squeezing your shoulders together.
One great exercise you can do while on the move is an abdominal strengthening exercise. In fact, there’s nothing fancy about this exercise other than simply being more aware of your body and how you are holding yourself. Too often we let our backs do all the work while our abs get a free pass. To start strengthening your core, squeeze your abdominal muscles and hold for at least 30 seconds. Think about pulling your bellybutton toward your spine. Work up to being able to hold your abs tight for the duration of a song on the radio. You can even rest for one song, tighten your abs for one song, rest for the next song, and so on. At first it won’t seem like much, but with repetition you’ll feel the burn. Increase the duration if it gets too easy, though.
Kicking it Up a Notch
You don’t need fancy equipment to get a good cardio or aerobic workout in, but if you do have access to gym equipment at a hotel or trucker’s stop, take advantage of it. Even ten minutes is better than zero.
You can get your heart pumping without a treadmill, though. Jumping jacks sound easy—when you were a kid you probably could do hundreds without breaking a sweat—but you’ll be surprised at just how fast you’ll feel fatigued if you’re out of shape. Set yourself tangible goals, like being able to complete 50 jumping jacks without stopping, so that you can track your progress and stay motivated.
Weight training is also popular for truckers. You can easily workout in the privacy of your own cab with a single pair of dumbbells. Have a range of weights available at home for you to switch out regularly. If you are an OTR driver, make it your goal to move up, say, five pounds every time you hit the road for another 3-week stretch. Choose a starting weight that is manageable but that challenges you toward the end of your reps.
Take advantage of your time off to fit in some more intense training. After spending time on the road, it will feel good to see how far you’ve progressed in your overall fitness training by seeing, for example, how far you can comfortably run before you start to struggle. You should see progress happen slowly but surely, even if you’re not running every day, because your cardio, aerobic and strength training all adds up to your benefit.
There are a lot of free resources available for you to find example workout routines, even workouts specifically designed for truckers. You may even be able to network with other truckers to form workout groups to keep each other accountable with friendly competition and support. And if you’re lucky enough to work for a company like Prime, you could even participate in a company-wide trucker’s health program.
The bottom line is that you need to do whatever it takes for getting and staying fit as a trucker. Your health is your life—don’t take it for granted.