I’ve been in the trucking industry since 1997. In that time I have been behind the wheel for 16 of those years while the others were working on them, insuring them or in safety & training. One thing is sure, it’s a challenge to stay healthy and in shape on the road. For this reason I used three pictures of myself from the previous six years. I’ll share with you my vitals just to show that I do practice what I say. I’m 43, 5’10 & 171 LBS with a BP of 116/78, pulse pressure of 38 and a pulse rate of 68 at last check.
There is nothing worse than an advice article from someone who doesn’t live it or doesn’t work in the industry and does not understand what drivers face. Given what I’ve told you so far I’m very comfortable sharing what I know works.
The eating healthy tip holds true, but we know it is pretty difficult with the selections offered in the truck stops, the growing number of Wal-Mart stores & grocery stores that will not allow you to park and the ELD Mandate that makes it difficult to find the time to stop. In a perfect world your company will allow time for you to stop and stock up on groceries. They will provide the inverters or refrigerators in the trucks to keep perishables from spoiling. They would provide you with access to gyms like Planet Fitness where you could get the truck cloose to. The truth is we don’t live in a perfect world and despite lip service most companies just don’t care.
For this reason I take the approach of everything in moderation. This is also due to my personal faith and finding this in scripture. If you want to drink a soda, drink one, but keep it in moderation. Nobody is denying that soda is bad for your health, but one here and there won’t kill you nor make you fat. The same with chips, candy bars, coffee, buffets, etc., keep it in moderation. Don’t over do it. Your body only needs a certain number of calories a day and it’s extremely easy for a driver to blow past that number before lunch.
Although eating healthy is difficult at times, it’s not impossible. Most chain truck stops sell fruit and salads. Most fast food restaurants have healthy choices. You can stock up on food when you leave home and if your lucky enough to find a place that you can park while on the road you can restock your supply. It’s as much to do with moderation as it is about choice. Choices like instead of eating out of boredom you squeeze a stress ball. Instead of refilling your cup with Mt. Dew, add drink mix to a bottle of water. The dietary choices are really and truly a mental thing. Once you determine to do it, do it long enough to make it a habit and your desires and tastes will change.
The next aspect is physical fitness. This is seriously overlooked amongst drivers. When we stop for our ten-hour break, sitting at the dock or doing a reset at the truck stop we tend to hang out inside or sit in the truck scrolling through social media, watching T.V., reading or napping. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but if you have time to do these you have time to do a 30 minute work out. Again, it’s all mental. Once you determine to do it, do it long enough to make it a habit and your body will actually become addicted to it. This addiction is much cheaper than a soda or cigarette addiction and will do more to relieve stress than the nicotine will.
For myself I do the work out before I start my day. If I find myself waiting at a dock I’ll throw in some extra sets. I do this with no weights on the truck and without a gym membership. It’s a matter of routine and breaking up the routine. I do keep push up bars or handles, that you can find at Wal-Mart for $20 and are easy to store in the truck. This way if the weather is such that I don’t want to be outside doing the push ups I can do them on the bunk. If the weather is favorable I can use them instead of putting my hands on the nasty parking lot. You all have smelled that on a hot day, I’m not putting my hands on it!
I usually start with push ups. as follows:
- At least 3 sets of 20 with each set having my hands in different positions. One set will be normal with hands shoulder width apart. The next set will be with my hands turned from the 12 o’clock – 6 o’clock position to the 3 o’clock – 9 o’clock position. The third will be with my hands close together almost like you’re doing pyramid push ups.
- Two or more sets up 20 leaning forward against the edge of the bunk and feet by the gear shift, hands shoulder width apart then less than 12 inches apart.
- Dips – put your hands on the edge of the bunk, the hard part – not the mattress – and lower until your butt almost touches the floor then back up for a minimum of 3 sets of 25.
- Arm twirls a minimum of 20 circles forward and the same number backwards for a minimum of three sets.
- Squats – feet shoulder width apart. Squat until your thighs are at 90 degrees to your shins with back as straight as possible. I do a minimum of 3 sets of 20.
- Toe raises – feet shoulder width apart and raise up on the tip of your toes like you’re trying to see over something. I do at least 3 sets of 20.
- Lunges – Stand straight and step forward with one foot and bend the rear leg until the knee almost touches the ground, stand back up and bring the forward leg back alongside the rear leg. I do at least 3 sets of 20.
- Toe raises – same as above but feet together for the same count. This works a different muscle group in the calves.
- Planks – I do 2 sets of 30 seconds ( minimum ) in the front leaning rest position with forearms on the bunk ( or towel if outside ). Then the same count each on the left side and right side.
- Flutter kicks at 3 sets of 30, hello dollies at 3 sets of 30 and crunches at 3 sets of 50.
- Mix up the rotation. Don’t train your muscles to a set routine everyday. Mix it up so you aren’t always relying on the same muscle groups to do the same things at the same time.
If you don’t want to body weight only exercises you can buy work out bands at Wal-Mart, Dick’s, Dunham’s, on – line, Academy Sports and a multitude of other stores. You can carry weights on the truck and even a bicycle if you want. I don’t want to take up limited storage space with these things so I chose not to. I also keep in mind that if I quite, move trucks or the company goes out of business I want to be able to move all my stuff in no more than 4 bags, what I can carry.
I don’t run or walk laps around the parking lot. I do the above exercises close enough together to keep my heart rate elevated. I park towards the back of the lot and walk fast everywhere and often take the long way to get inside & back to the truck, unless it’s raining. Before you say that’s easy for a freight hauler or door swinger, I do pull flats and have to sling straps, chains and pull tarps. This routine makes this easier.
For those that are overweight and haven’t exercised, don’t lose heart or think you can’t based on what I posted here. You can start anywhere. Even if starting is 1 set of 3 and build your way up. Even before joining the Marines I was keen on staying fit and exercising. Life on the road has not diminished that, it just changed the way I do it.
If you have not exercised in a while I do encourage you to ask your doctor if and how much exercise you can do to start. Truckers have a stressful enough job as it is. A job that takes its toll on the body to a degree beyond most other professions. It’s known that drivers tend to have a shorter life span than others, but it does not have to be that way. You can change the trend and be an anomaly in the statistic. You can do something to improve the chances of seeing your kids have kids and see those grand kids marry and have kids. If you do nothing the chances are great that they will not know you.