I went to my beautiful cousin’s wedding recently (congratulations Beth & Peter!) and had a chance to catch up with my other cousins. One of them is a professional truck driver. He asked me about what types of healthy foods he should eat for energy. I had never thought about how important it is for someone who sits all day, maneuvering a huge and powerful freight hauler, to stay alert and not eat foods that will make him sluggish or sleepy. Not to mention that some of these drivers have to secure their own loads. That means they’re often climbing up on and jumping down from six foot platforms and lifting and pulling heavy chains both over and underneath the truck bed. How’s that for some CrossFit training? Then, they sit for endless hours. So, I did what all good Nutritionists and Fitness Pros would do, I dove in, did my research and came up with some solutions and resources.
I was amazed by the wealth of information on the internet about nutrition and exercise for these professional drivers. For example, Roadmaster’s has helpful blog posts about OTR drivers and eating on the road and so does the Commonwealth of Virginia. Other sites include healthytrucker.com and Pilot, who features quality, homestyle foods at their truck stops, stretching and exercise tips and a member rewards program that includes free wifi, restrooms, showers and laundry facilities, YAY!
As far as nutrition, planning ahead and stocking up on healthy options to keep in your rig is primo! A case of water, a jar of peanut butter, whole grain crackers (like Triscuits) or brown rice crackers (like Mary’s Gone Crackers), apples, baby carrots, unsalted and roasted nuts and dried fruits are just a few “pantry” items to keep on hand. Stick to lean proteins (canned tuna or low salt turkey), fresh vegetables, if possible, (or canned veggies with no salt added), fresh fruits (or canned with no sugar added) and whole grains like oat meal, brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread (first ingredient should be whole wheat).
If you have a converter, hooking up a crockpot and/or a microwave to prepare simple yet healthy meals while you’re on the road is a great option. Having those two pieces of cooking equipment on your rig will help keep the processed food intake and fast food consumption to a minimum. Here are some great crockpot recipes from the Fiteeza Blog. You can shop for the ingredients prior to departure and by the time you reach your destination, your meal is ready.
Ok, now for the exercise part, my cousin suffers from a lot of neck pain and stiffness. Most of this is due to an old football injury, but his profession aggravates it so I put together a few exercises he can do while he is taking on fuel. The exercises are designed to strengthen the upper body and back. As far as equipment, for him, I recommend a Theraband which are compact and can help strengthen weakened muscles without overloading the muscle too much and causing more pain. But, you can also go for other, more intense types of compact resistance equipment like Suspension Straps or Heavy Resistance Bands. I have highlighted those products and respective Blog posts about each for easy reference.
Driving the Big Rigs Workout:
Perform each exercise for 10 to 15 repititions working up to 3 or 4 sets. For added intensity, shorten the bands by wrapping them around your hands.
Bow & Arrows - Begin by standing with feet apart, left leg in front, grab each end of the band and with left arm extended. Start with right hand by the by the left shoulder and pull back like you’re getting ready to shoot an arrow from a bow. Switch lead leg and repeat on the opposite side.
Shoulder Shrugs - Begin standing on the band, one end in each hand, arms by sides, shrug shoulders up and down engaging your core (suck it in!!)
Full Can/Empty Can - Again, begin standing on the band and one end in each hand, arms by your sides, raise arms up to shoulder height with thumbs pointing up, repeat 10-15 times. Then, perform the same exercise but this time, point thumbs down, repeat 10-15 times HINT: This one might be harder!
Bent Over Rows - Again, standing on the band, an end of the band in each hand, bend at the hips keeping core engaged. With wrists facing, pull elbows to ribs, squeezing shoulder blades together.
Overhead Press - Begin by standing on the band, an end in each hand, raise the band to shoulder height, elbows at 90 degrees. Press hands overhead, wrists pointing forward.
Squats - standing on the band, an end in each hand, squat hips back and bend knees keeping chest lifted. Engage your glutes as you raise up (squeeeeez)!
Afterwards, I recommend stretching so again, I have highlighted some basic ones from the Fiteeza Blog. If you need more instruction, consider hiring one of the Pros listed in the Fiteeza Directory. A few consultations with a Fitness Pro and a custom-designed workout will help you stay strong and energized for the long hauls. It's a worthwhile investment in yourself and your health. Keep on Truckin'!