Life on the road is not easy. The promise of seeing new places, and total freedom can be enticing but it begins to take a toll on even the most grizzled veterans.
If you’re a commercial truck driver or serial road tripper, you know staying healthy on the run can be difficult. The lack of general space for movement and dearth of options for fresh food make life hard for highway haulers.
For career truckers these conditions can rear deadly consequences. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates all climb with increased time behind the wheel.
Furthermore, lack of exercise decreases bone density, and repetitive motions in tight quarters can wreak havoc on joints and certain muscles.
However, with a little diligence you can mitigate these circumstances with some clever thinking.
Here are 101 Ways to Keep Healthy for Road Warriors
1. Make a Plan
Having a plan is the first part of sticking to it. By making a plan that includes your goals for staying healthy on the road, you are showing yourself it is possible. That means you’ll have no more excuses for not abiding. This could mean a daily routine or a written manifesto it does not matter.
2. Don’t Forget the Schoolyard
Remember those old exercises in P.E. class. While you were probably busy chatting with friends these exercises are very effective at burning calories on the go as they require no equipment or special skill:
- Jumping jacks
- Sit ups
These tried and true exercises can get that heart rate up and build some muscle.
3. Jump Rope
Another recess favorite, the jump rope has been used by boxers for decades as an essential form of cardio. Jumping rope is a perfect way to sneak in a workout while having fun. It requires limited space, and you will be sweating in no time at tall.
4. Bring a Bike
Sounds easier said than done, but a small folding bike can be very compact. At the end of a long drive, ride your bike to the market or to a restaurant instead of driving. Don’t you want to get outside anyway?
5. Carry the Weight
Strength training is an excellent way to stay in shape. Carrying weights seems impractical as they are bulky and heavy by definition. Why not use things you already have around? Gallons of water, or other heavy items like chains, can function as tools for a workout. The only limit is your imagination.
6. Remember the Legs
The temptation can be to focus on cardio and upper body, but you’re forgetting a crucial element. Exercises like squats and lunges can burn more calories per minute. Plus, it’s essential after a long day to get the blood flowing to the lower extremities.
7. Don’t Miss 2 Days
We all have bad days, but that’s no reason to have another one. Instead of an exercise-less day to create a habit, focus on recommitting the next day. Your attitude goes a long way. One bad day should be just that, not the start of new routine.
Ok so not the most revolutionary advice. But it works. As someone who makes a living driving, why do it more than necessary? Rule of thumb if it’s less than a mile, walk. That simple.
9. Run or Jog
Start a running or jogging routine at night. After those long routes, you’ll be surprised how good a run can feel. It will be hard at first but after you settle into a routine it will get easier and easier.
10. Avoid Idling
All good drivers know idling is bad for the bottom line. Take advantage of every moment by doing something you enjoy. That can be working on a fitness goal, or watching a personal improvement podcast. Time is valuable don’t waste it doing things just to fill time. Do things you like or that will improve your life.
11. Find Your Thing
Exercise is hard. The trick is finding a way to trick yourself into doing it. Find something you like and base your routine around it. If you like boxing, or swimming see if you can squeeze in a routine during a stop. Better yet bring your gloves and portable bag on the road with you.
Stretching is vital to maintain good blood flow and muscular health. This is especially true in a mostly sedentary profession. Stretching is often overlooked but can be just as beneficial as cardio and strength training. This can be as simple as 5 minutes after leaving the cabin.
13. Yoga on the Road
In a mostly male profession many look at yoga as a soccer mom fad. However, the science is in and yoga is an excellent choice for true road heads. You only need a mat and enough space for your body. This can be in your cabin or in a small park. The combination of stretching and strength training is a perfect regimen for drivers that spend all day cramped and seated.
14. Core Work to Prevent Back Problems
Working on your core requires no weights. Short workouts are very effective and it also takes up very little space. Planks, sit ups, and leg lifts will help tone the midsection and improve your posture. This prevents back issues and can pay dividends during those trips to the beach or pool during summer.
15. Use Available Resources
Are you staying at a motel with a pool or gym? Put it to use. Sneak in a swim or a quick session. You’re paying for more than just the cable.
16. Gym When You Can
A good session at the gym can be a godsend. Chances are you drove past three gyms on you way into town. Park nearby and walk. Most gyms have a guest pass option or even a free trial. You’ll feel great on your way out and be ready to get back on the road.
17. Exercise and Sleep
It can be hard to sleep on the road. Especially if it’s in the same room you’ve been sitting in all day. To establish a sleep pattern, you have to leave the cabin. Exercise is an essential part of being able to sleep. While you may be tired after a day of trucking, you may not be sleepy. Exercise can help.
18. Sleep and Exercise
A good sleep pattern is necessary to have the energy to drive and exercise. A good exercise routine can help you get to sleep. It’s a cycle that is hard to get into, but gets better once you do.
19. Bring/Buy Gear
You can’t exercise if you don’t have the right clothes. Or at least that’s what you’ll say.
Just like you focus on the road, you have to establish clear goals and focus on attaining them. You can’t do that if you don’t have a clear goal.
21. Exercise as a Constant
In a job full of variables, make exercise a constant. This will provide your with focus and stability in an uncertain line of work.
22. Start Small
Start by walking a bit more. Do sit ups in the captain’s chair. Carry groceries from the store. Bike around. Do something different. It will get easier as you go.
23. Find a Playground
Sounds a bit creepy but parks are great places to get some exercise. Think pull ups, suspended leg lifts, and stair climbs. There’s a reason it’s called a jungle gym.
24. No Technology in the Bedroom
Mentally separate your sleeping space from your entertainment space. Don’t get in bed until it’s time to go to sleep. Your brain will appreciate the separation and you will waste less time falling asleep.
26. Don’t Buy a Bargain Mattress
Sleep is important, as you may have gathered. Ensuring you have quality sleeping gear is critical in getting a good shut eye. That means comfortable sheets, pillows, a warm blanket. It matters.
27. Bed is for Sleeping
It can be tempting in a small truck to do everything in bed. Eating, working, or generally hanging out in bed confuses your brain. Get outside or carve out a space for other activities.
28. Can’t Fall Asleep…Read
Reading a book in bed will help signal to your body it’s time to sleep.
29. Stay Hydrated
Drinking the right amount of water will make you feel full and stop cravings. Thirst is often confused for hunger.
How much water should you drink? Check out this hydration calculator.
30. Water is Better
Other beverages can have as many calories as some meals.
31. Switch to Black Coffee
This is an easy way to cut down on sugar and prevent insulin spikes. You will get used to the taste in no time. Don’t overdo it, however, too much caffeine can make it harder to sleep.
32. Mind the Alcohol
Alcohol is fun in moderation. Those extra calories can sneak up on you. Those hangovers can ruin your fitness routine.
33. Don’t be Fast with Food
Neon signs are tempting, but fast food is horrible for your system.
34. If You Must…Choose Fast Food Wisely
If you must eat fast food, make a good choice. Grilled > fried. Smaller portions and more protein.
35. No Combo
Those combo meals appear to be good value, but it’s often too much food for one sitting. Also, they usually come with a sugary soda.
36. No Diet Soda
Diet soda is processed the same way as real sugar. Plus, some studies show the chemicals used can be harmful over long period.
37. Don’t be Fooled
Many options billed as healthy can contain more fat, calories and sodium than industry standards. While a salad may look like a good choice, make sure to check the label, especially the salad dressing.
38. Be Conscious
In most states restaurants must provide nutrition information, and in some it is even listed on the menu.
39. Don’t Drive-Thru
Get in the habit of walking to dinner, plus restaurants with drive-thrus are usually lower quality and geared for profits.
40. Keep it Small
When available find smaller, local restaurants. These places feature more local ingredients and are more likely to have healthier options.
41. No Cold Turkey
Don’t try to change everything at once. Start cutting down when you can. A small victory is still a win.
42. Don’t Feel Bad
If you make a bad decision don’t compound it by giving up. One bad choice will not derail your routine. That’s the point of having a plan. You’re only human, there’s no shame in splurging once in a while.
Also, shaming yourself for being depressed, lonely, or homesick only makes it worse. Instead try to fix the problem.
Just as with exercising, don’t let bad habits become their own excuse. Recommit after a dietary blunder. Or give yourself a mulligan for a tough day on the road.
44. Be Prepared
Always pack a snack that can get you to the end of a food desert.
45. Nuts and Bolts
Nuts are a great high protein snack to keep around. They’re good for the brain as well.
46. Portion Control
Whether eating a meal or snacking, make sure you eat the right portions.
47. Fruit Suits You
Fruit is another amazing snack high in filling fiber and easy to eat on the go. Some fruits, however, are high in sugar, so choose your fruits wisely. For example, an excellent fruit is an avocado, which contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat known to decrease inflammation and improves heart health.
48. Veg Out
Vegetables like carrots and celery can be great snacks as well.
49. Keep Cool
Buy a mini-fridge or always have a cooler stocked with ice.
50. Stock Up
When you can stash many pre-washed fruits and vegetables in your fridge or cooler.
51. Lean is Mean
Keep a supply of lean meats like chicken, fish, and turkey in your cab.
52. Less Red
Red meat, and pork usually has more fat and less protein.
53. Skip the Big Breakfast
A light breakfast of granola, fruit, and coffee is enough to get you going.
54. Stick to Whole Grains
Whole grains will fill you up and keep you full.
55. Watch out for White
White bread is devoid of nutritional value and is designed to keep you coming back for more. Same goes for white sugar and rice.
56. Oats Rule
Oatmeal is great to keep around as it’s very easy to prepare, very filling, and can be quite tasty with fruits like blueberries.
57. Give Yourself Tools to Succeed
Along with a fridge, stock your cab with as much cooking equipment as possible. The more options you have, the more you’ll cook.
58. Cook Slow
A slow cooker is perfect for long hauls. Throw some meat, vegetables and some water in a pot, and by the end of the day you have a delicious home cooked meal.
59. Coffee Machine, Kettle, and Toaster
Having these makes sure you never have to go out for breakfast again. If you don’t stop, you won’t be tempted by less than healthy options. And you’ll save a few bucks.
60. Take a Lunch Break
Stopping and preparing a nice big lunch is the best option. It gives you time to relax, get outside and prepare what should be your healthiest and most substantial meal.
61. Cook Outside
Who doesn’t like a good barbecue? A small propane grill and a parking lot or park sounds like a recipe for a good summer’s day.
62. Cook More than One Meal at Once
Cook some staples, like chicken breast or rice, in large quantities so you never get peckish.
63. Leftovers are Your Friend
Leftovers make it so you can grab a bite of something healthy at all times.
64. Spices are Your Friend
Spices make bland food instantly more interesting. Keeping spices around makes sure you never get bored. Turmeric, for example, has long been known to be anti-inflammatory and associated with decreasing cancer risk. More recently, turmeric research shows that the spice improves cognitive function, blood sugar balance, and kidney function.
65. Look East
While chicken may get tired after a while, it won’t if you continue to mix up the sauce. The easiest way is to look at the variety of options offered by the Far East. For example one day, thai green curry chicken, the next day, tikka masala, the next day, teriyaki, etc.
66. Broaden Your Horizons
Picky eating is often an excuse to maintain unhealthy habits.
67. Good for the Body and the Wallet
Eating at “home” (wherever home may be) more often means more profits. Justify it however you wish.
68. Get a Cookbook
Don’t know how to cook? Take a class during a stop at home, or buy a cookbook you find interesting.
69. Grains and a Rice Cooker Go a Long Way
Staple grains like brown rice, quinoa, and couscous can all be prepared en masse with little prep. A good rice cooker takes away the guesswork.
70. Think Weekly
Think about preparing a week’s worth of meals at once. This will minimize prep time and ingredients needed.
71. Leave Gaps
Leave gaps for those days you just won’t have the energy or want to make a stop somewhere special.
72. Pack Smart
Pack meals during weekly prep and simply reheat them on the stove or in the oven. This makes sure you’re never eating more than one portion.
73. Cook Before Leaving Home
Cooking on the road can be difficult. There’s no excuse for not preparing before leaving home. Even if informed at the last minute, you likely have a few hours to get to the store and get some meals in your wheels.
74. Don’t be Lazy
It’s not the easy choice, take pride in doing things the right way for your long term health. It comes down to commitment.
75. Take Advantage of Technology
There are a myriad of meal planning and exercise tracking websites and apps for every device.
76. Don’t Neglect Comfort
There’s no glory in being a spartan trucker. It will haunt you in the form of nagging injuries.
77. Your Seat is Your Throne
The driver’s chair is where you spend most of your time. Make sure it’s the most comfortable thing in your cab. One way is to invest in a good seat cushion, which not only make driving comfortable, but it will help alleviate back issues and other health related problems from sitting for long periods of time.
Focus on the ergonomics of your positioning. Constantly reaching for things or feeling aches and pains is a sign of a bad set up and can cause repetitive stress injuries.
If you feel something just isn’t right about your positioning, you are the only one who is going to change it.
79. Stand as Much as Possible
The dangers of sitting too long include, bad circulation, and increased risks for a variety of diseases (heart conditions, hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
80. Focus on Posture
Slouching can put undue stress on your back and shoulders. Good posture is a workout in itself. You will feel the difference.
81. Health is More than Physical
Mental health is often neglected and it is an essential part of a truly balanced lifestyle.
82. Manage Stress
Deadlines can be tight. Maintain focus on what you can control. Accidents, bad weather, equipment failure are all bound to happen. It’s not your fault. Try to make the next run better.
One of the best ways to limit stress is to be prepared. That means not worrying about a variety of conditions. Make sure your truck is stocked with all the tools you need for emergencies, and technical problems.
83. Don’t Turn to Drugs
It can be an easy fix for a while. Drugs will only increase the feelings of helplessness. Focus on the situation that is causing these feelings, and try to change it.
Alcohol is a Drug – it’s legal but it’s still powerfully addictive and destructive. If you’re increasingly turning to alcohol, seek help.
84. Reject Unsafe Work Conditions
Your life is too valuable for one job. If you feel that a task is not safe, don’t do it. Your employer should value safety above all else.
85. Focus on the Positives
Driving regularly gives you access to some of the most beautiful and remote places in the world. Take advantage by stopping to appreciate the majesty of nature.
Thinking positively can also help reduce stress as well as improve cardiovascular health.
86. Keep in Touch
Use technology to call and even video chat with friends and family. This will cut into those feelings of loneliness and give you something to look forward to.
87. Bring What You Love
If you have hobbies at home, no reason not to bring them. Books, television, or other hobbies can be a welcome diversion.
88. Take Something Up
Don’t have a hobby? Take one up, such as photography, painting, writing, or video games, depending on your general taste. Learning a new skill can improve cognitive health.
89. Stay Connected
Wifi hotspots and mobile satellite dishes can make you feel at home.
90. Invest in Yourself
Decorate your cabin or vehicle to make it feel like home.
91. Treat Yourself
Stay one night in a nice hotel. Get a massage. Take a relaxing vacation. Do what you can to make the job a bit better when you can.
92. Money Isn’t Everything
Easy to say. However, weigh the benefits of that paycheck with how long you’ll be away from home. Don’t be afraid to say no.
93. Don’t Push Too Hard
Remember it’s not only your safety on the line. There are other drivers on the road. If you’re feeling sleepy or think something is wrong, pull over.
Meditation can be done anywhere – in your truck cabin or vehicle, a park, under a tree or your motel. Allotting some time for silencing the mind on a regular basis enhances mental health such as reducing anxiety and stress, as well, meditation improves your overall immune function.
95. Learn to Breathe
Truck driving or being constantly on the move has a lot of benefits, but it brings a lot of unknown, which most you can’t control. When things aren’t going your way, don’t exacerbate the situation by getting caught up in it. Breathing deeply allows you to calm down and think clearly, and when you achieve this state, you’re able to make sound decisions.
96. Bust out the Tunes
Listening to your favorite tunes not only make being on the road enjoyable but it also relieves stress.
97. Green Smoothies to Go
Being mindful of what you consume and setting yourself up to gain easy access to nutritious foods are great steps to good health.
These days, every kitchen equipment and gadget has a travel version, including blenders, like this Hamilton Beach on the go personal blender, with which you can make yourself a smoothie or a shake for a healthy meal or snack.
98. Understand Your Weakness
If you want to achieve your health goals, especially when you hit the road, it’s important that you take stock of your vices and their triggers. Do you have an affinity for sweets, fried or junk foods? Do you tend to eat these during a time of stress or boredom?
When you gain an understanding of your bad habits, find a healthy alternative and take a moment to get yourself organized and prepared. For example, hit the supermarket and stock up on nutritious snacks like nuts and granola bars.
99. Engage in a Brain Game
Taking up a healthy activity to engage your brain has many benefits like:
- Enhances brain function like memory, attention span and intelligence
- Relieves stress and anxiety
- Helps to pass the time and prevent boredom
100. Socialize with Others
Truck driving doesn’t have to be lonely. Having social engagements, whether communicating with fellow truckers on your CB, or networking at truck stops, have many mental and physical benefits in that social relationships are considered protective factors for morbidity and mortality.
101. Trust Yourself
Once you’ve found the desire to live a healthier lifestyle on the road. Make a plan, and stick to it. Trust yourself and believe you can do it. Do what you can and try to do more the next day.
Do you have a personal healthy hack while you’re on the road? Share in the comments.