Taking a 20-hour road trip can have ups and downs, you can hit traffic, loose cell phone service or even have car problems! These are all fears that anyone that has traveled such great distances has had at one point or another, but we never seem to worry about the effects that these road trips have on our health. Being in the seated position for that long, pushing up and down on the gas pedal, for that amount of time takes its toll on your body. In this post, I am going to discuss some strategies to have your healthiest road trip yet, following my first had experiencing traveling from New York all the way to southern Florida. If you want to learn more about exercise and staying active on vacation, check out my past post for more information.
Before I do that, I wanted to share with you a fantastic book that goes in depth on not only this topic, but the seated position in general. Deskbound: Standing up to a Sitting World is my primary research toll when it comes to this topic. Author Kelly Starrett does a fantastic job of breaking down this topic into actionable steps and shows you, in detail, how and why this position is harmful to our health. It is a must read for anyone that spends a significant amount of time in the seated positon. I would never recommend a product that I have not personally used or read myself so rest assured, if my content resonates with you, it is something you must add to your collection!
This is one aspect that I struggle with the most. I am the type of person that while on a road trip, wants to make as few stops as possible. The main reason to stop for me would be to either get gas or use the restroom. I try my best to stop for both of these at the same time and this will make it difficult to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Drinking water and staying hydrated is a very underrated aspect when it comes to mobility and exercise. If you are willing to (or have smaller children) drinking more water and stopping every 1-2 hours would be ideal. Otherwise, drinking 2-3 water bottles worth of water when you stop for the night will help rehydrate your body from the long trip.
Another aspect that I struggle with personally is taking enough breaks throughout your trip. As discussed above, stopping just to walk around is the hardest thing to wrap my brain around. In terms of mobility and the health of your body, taking many small breaks where you can leave the seated position is the best way to combat the effects of it.
There are different ways that you are able to take a break and keep moving on your trip. The one that I tend to use the most (within reason) is when I am able to set cruise control. I will place a formal disclaimer here that you should always be safe while driving and keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times. Now that I have said that, for me, cruise control is a time for me to get some movement in my ankles, hips and knees. I will perform a few ankle circles with my right foot and I will take this opportunity to extend my knees and hips. I use my left foot planted on the floor and extend my hip to make sure my glutes stay active and engaged. This is mostly isometric exercises, but it is better than nothing.
The other way to take advantage of breaks would be to have a co piolet drive for you. While you are in the passenger seat, try and refrain from sitting in the same position that you are required to while driving. Recline the seat, sit cross legged, work more isometric exercise or anything else that you are unable to do while driving.
Posture is something small that can make a huge difference in the long run. These are things that we should think about whenever we are put in the seated position. Kelly’s book does a masterful job of explaining this and I encourage you to read it, but I will attempt to condense it in this post. You should start from your feet up when thinking about posture. Have your seat positioned so you are in an upright position. Feet flat on the floor (when sitting not driving) with your knees at a 90-degree angle. You should keep your core in a brace position (just pretend like someone is going to punch you in the stomach) and keep the natural curve of your spine in place. A rolled up towel placed at your low back can help this. Your shoulder blades should feel pinched and tucked back, sitting with a proud chest and lastly, I like to position my head against the headrest so I can perform isometric neck extension exercises during the trip.
This may seem like a lot to focus on, but it will keep you is the best position possible to succeed when you are done with your long trip to warmer weather.
Post Drive Care
Even if you are not able to use any of the tips that have been presented in this article, the drive will end at some point and what you do after the drive is just as important as during the drive. Being active and standing is one of the best things that you can do for your body after sitting for hours at a time. Unload the car, give out hugs and then stand in the kitchen and have a glass of water. Enjoy the reason for your visit, but try and not just continue to sit. After you have settled in, take a walk. There is no need to walk for hours, but just walk around for 10-15 minutes. You can easily do this and not feel rude. Next, stretching or performing soft tissue work (or both) will help you feel better that day and for the next few days to come. Again, 10-15 minutes max, but you should focus on some specific areas such as your glutes, hip flexors and quads. Any area that is feeling tight or sore will benefit from a few minutes of mobility work.
Hopefully these tips help you enjoy your road trip a little bit more and keep you on track to meet your health and fitness goals. Interact with me on Instagram @moneyandimage to learn more.