Many of you entering the truck driving industry may or may not have a focus on your health. Many young people, particularly young men, tend to look upon staying healthy as an annoyance, or something to be ignored until they are older.
But when you’re in the trucking profession, where more time on your keister likely means more money in your wallet, it’s easy to ignore this vital part of your life until it is too late to do anything about it. That’s why it is so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle as you establish your driving, working, and eating habits.
What if, for example, you made it part of your morning driving routine to, without looking, cut the wheel sharply to the left every time you got on the highway? Before too long you would find yourself involved in an accident. While it may seem like a silly comparison, ignoring your health can be as dangerous as ignoring oncoming traffic.
Truck drivers have a high incidence of problems such as back pain, diabetes, and obesity. These problems of course are a gateway to other problems and can lead to heart disease and other chronic, debilitating, and potentially fatal outcomes.
The largely inactive lifestyle of a trucker is of the nature that drivers still expend energy and feel tired at the end of a day, but may not have burned many calories. This is a recipe for poor health and is one that a diligent driver should always be aware of.
Much like a driver does a daily inspection of his or her rig, so too should he or she do a daily tune-up of the body. It doesn’t take as much time from the day as you might think, and can extend your career and your life in immeasurable ways.
Of course, you’re thinking “do you have any idea how difficult it is to stay healthy on the road?” Of course. Truck drivers don’t have the time to just roll their semi up to the nearest YMCA and have a jog, and truck stops are generally located off the side of a highway, so fitness isn’t exactly what they are going for. So how do you stay healthy when your exercise options are so limited?
Do your health homework
First, do a little research. There are websites devoted to maintaining the health of truck drivers that can offer excellent tips on staying healthy on the road. These sites are often developed by truck drivers and can provide you guidance on all aspects of staying healthy on the road.
Next, get some exercise. Even if you can’t go 30 minutes a day on the treadmill, you can still squeeze in some stretches and a little cardio if you know what you’re doing. If you’re in a place where you can’t just go for a jog, run in place for a few minutes, or jog laps around the truck stop. Do some jumping jacks or buy a jump rope. Do stretches.
If you want to get a little more serious (and you should), invest in a set of dumbbells to keep in the truck. The Healthy Trucker offers suggestions on a full-body, in-semi dumbbell workout. Start slow, doing only what you can do, then work up. Set goals and push yourself a little more each day as you get stronger.
Don’t forget to take advantage of that home time. Join a gym or invest in a piece of workout equipment (a hint for the budget-conscious: look for used exercise equipment). By the way, when you do have access to a gym, I personally recommend an elliptical machine, especially if you are a big guy. They are low-impact, don’t tire you out as much, and there is little soreness afterward.
And don’t forget that exercise isn’t the only way to stay healthy. Start by what you drink, which is a hidden wealth of added calories added to your day. Instead of sugary sodas, teas, and other drinks, drink water or unsweetened tea. Alternatively, you could make your own tea at home and sweeten it yourself—just be sure to go easy on the sugar. 3-4 bottles of sodas daily can add hundreds of calories to your daily intake.
Many people find they lose 5-10 lbs. in a month or so just by eliminating soda from their diets. Go cold turkey for a month sometime and see for yourself. And by the way—don’t just switch to diet. Studies have shown that while there are fewer calories, the artificial sweeteners in diet soda often inhibits weight loss.
Next, take caution as to the foods you eat. Reduce portions and eat more chicken and fish, and don’t just think ordering a salad means you are cutting calories. Dressings and toppings can turn that bed of lettuce into a high-fat, high-calorie weight-gaining machine. Make sure you’re losing weight right!
Of course, there is the standard cutting out burgers and fried foods, which is a good idea, but cutting them out entirely can lead to psychological consequences that cause you to dump the diet entirely. Cutting down is a good place to start. Eat smaller meals and choose healthy snacks for the road—fresh fruit and vegetables that you can keep in the truck for just a couple of days at a time are a great idea.
The Life As a Trucker blog offers a good trucking-friendly diet plan. As noted above, do some research!
Finally, one often overlooked aspect of a healthy truck driver is getting plenty of sleep. Weight gain often leads to trouble sleeping that can lead to problems like sleep apnea that can be dangerous for a trucker. Fatigue is a huge factor that drivers are instructed to look out for, and if you aren’t getting a good night’s rest, especially out on the road, you are playing with fire. Lack of sleep can also contribute to a variety of other problems as well.
For most people, their health is their own business. But when you are a truck driver, staying healthy can also be a public service. Being healthy can be the difference between a bad accident and a safe trip home, or it can mean extra years that your body is in good shape to run on the highways, providing for your family and serving your industry. Take care of yourself out there and enjoy a long, fruitful career.