Every driver knows how tough it can be to stay healthy when on the road, making it no surprise that approximately 70% of truckers are overweight or obese. We’ve written previously about general practices for good health, how to maintain mental health, and achieving proper posture, but we haven’t taken an in-depth look at exercises on the road – until now. In this post, we’re breaking down which exercises can help drivers stay fit during long hauls, with little or no equipment required. Here are our top exercises for truckers.
Sit-Ups & Crunches
These exercises require no equipment and minimal space, and don’t take long to do, fitting easily into morning and evening routines or breaks on the road.
- Sit-Ups: To do a sit-up, simply lie down on your back and bend your legs so that your feet are placed flatly and firmly on the ground. Cross your hands to place them on your shoulders or place them behind your ears (but don’t pull on your neck), then curl your upper body up and as close to your knees as you can, exhaling as you do so. Slowly lower your upper body back to the ground as you inhale. Aim for 10 reps at a time.
- Crunches: A crunch is almost exactly the same as a situp, only this time you only raise your head and shoulders off the ground (instead of curling your body all the way to your knees). Crunches only work the abdominal muscles (unlike sit-ups, which also exercise the chest, back, and hips), but are great for beginners who may struggle with sit-ups. Aim for 15-20 reps at a time.
- Tip from the Trainer: Make sure you are pulling up from your core abdominal muscles with situps and crunches and not from your neck or back to ensure you do not injure yourself.
These exercises require little or no equipment and, though they can take a little more time, help you lose weight and strengthen your heart and lungs.
- Walking, Jogging, and Running: Stretching your legs with a brisk set of laps around your truck or around a parking lot is one of the best exercises for your body. Regardless of your exact speed, best practices for this exercise include looking ahead as you move, keeping your hands relaxed around waist level without being clenched or swinging too much, keeping your back straight and shoulders level (slouching during this exercise could lead to neck, shoulder, or back pain), and taking steps that are short and light (steps that are too big and hard will waste energy and can damage your knees). Aim for 20-30 minutes two or three times per week at least.
- Cycling: Not every cab can fit a stationary spin-bike, much less an indoor cycle machine (though some can), but almost every driver can bring along an easy-to-store folding bike, which lets you get the cardio benefits from running, without putting as much weight and pressure on your knees. As with running, avoid slouching in any direction and aim for 20-30 minutes two or three times per week.
- Tip from the Trainer: Sitting for long periods of time can cause a greater risk of blood clots. Wearing compression socks while driving or making sure you take a 5 to 10 minute break between long hauls every few hours to get a little cardio will help prevent this.
Push-Ups & Planks
These exercises require no equipment and only minimal space and time, while improving your strength, posture, and flexibility.
- Push-Ups: Set your hands palms-down on the ground slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your elbows pointed slightly back (from above your body should look more like an arrow ↑ than a T). To alleviate wrist pain, make sure your hands are spread wide open and they are directly under your shoulders. You could also use push-up handles, which not only provide a better angle for your wrists, but also make the pushup a more dynamic exercise. Generally your feet should also be shoulder-width apart – though you can place them however you are most comfortable – with your weight on your toes. Keep your body in a straight line, so that your butt is not sticking up in the air or sagging low. If you struggle to maintain that posture, clench both your butt and your abs, which will engage your core and help your body to keep the correct alignment. You should look slightly ahead of you – not straight down – so that if you went all the way down your chin would be the first part of your face to touch the ground. Keep your body in that straight line while lowering yourself to just above the ground and then raising yourself back up until your arms are straight. Aim for 10 reps at a time.
- Planks: Place your body in the pushup position as described above, but this time place your forearms entirely on the ground, with your elbows placed directly underneath your shoulders and bent at a 90° angle, and look down towards the ground. For the exercise, simply hold this position for as long as you can without bending your hips. Aim for 30 seconds at a time. To make the exercise more difficult, alternate raising each foot off the floor for a few seconds at a time.
- Tip from the Trainer: If you have issues with your wrists with either of these exercises, instead of laying your hands flat on the ground, flex your fingers to grip the ground (as if your were clawing it). If you encounter pain in any exercise, do not push through it!
You probably won’t bring a bench press on the road with you, but dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands are much easier to store and transport. Dumbbells and kettlebells are compact and versatile weights that allow you to perform a number of lifting, squatting, and swinging exercises. Men’s Fitness describes a 30-minute dumbbell program that is worth checking out, while Kettlebell Workouts lists 52 different kettlebell exercises that you could adopt. Alternatively, you could use resistance bands to perform suspension training, which involves stretching rubber or elastic bands that are hooked to a stationary object – like your parked rig – or held down by your feet. Resistance bands allow for many, many different kinds of exercises that allow you to conduct a complete full-body workout and are compact and easy to carry multiple options as you build your strength and up your resistance.
Stretching & Yoga
One of the best ways to keep your body loose and limber is to stretch, which improves blood circulation, burns fat, builds muscle, and prevents soreness. Shoulder shrugs (raising your shoulders to your ears and holding for 10 seconds before releasing, relaxing, and then repeating) and hand stretches (rotating your wrists left or right in a circle, or stretching your fingers) can be done while you are stopped at red lights. Front, back, and side bends can be done at any rest stop, and you may even consider yoga, which many truckers credit with helping them to destress and stay focused throughout the day. You can sign-up for access to short, no-mat yoga videos for drivers at MotherTruckerYoga.com.
Whether you do sit-ups, push-ups, cardio, strength training, or stretching, we hope we’ve provided you with an easy beginner guide to the simple exercises available to truckers on the job. And if you’re looking to purchase a truck or van that’s as healthy as you, Commercial Truck Trader can help connect you with the perfect unit. Finally, we want to hear from you – what do you do to stay fit on the road? Let us know in the comments below.