Long haul trucking can be the perfect career choice for those who love the freedom of the open road, and the opportunity to make our own hours.
There are some things that don’t get discussed as often but are still important for any truck driver to know. A position as a long haul truck driver may be glorious in some ways, but challenging in others. Much of the position is sedentary and long, strenuous hours on the road can wreak havoc on sleeping patterns as well as mental and physical health.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel — by incorporating a few simple but beneficial health tips, you can enjoy both the perks of the job, and the perks of an improved lifestyle.
You Are What You Eat!
Arguably the biggest and most important section of this list. Just like your truck requires the best quality fuel and maintenance to run properly, so does your body. Fueling your body with healthy and unprocessed foods is step one to improving your overall health.
This doesn’t mean truckers should adopt a plant-based diet all at once, instead, making small changes to your diet out of the gate is a good way to ease into a major diet transition. Review your eating habits and consider replacing soft drinks, salty and sugary snacks, and fast food with healthy alternatives such as water, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and veggies are key to a balanced diet. As a trucker, this means having access to fresh, portable organic snacks like apples, bananas, even cut up peppers and cucumber. If you’re not a huge fan of munching away on the ruffage of veggies all day, blending a plethora of fruits into a smoothie is a fantastic way to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals provided by plant-based foods.
Cook for Yourself!
Snacking is a part of long haul trucking, especially when there’s a tight deadline that means skipping the odd meal. The key to healthy snacking is selecting foods that support a nutritional outlook on diet. Homemade trail mix and other nut mixes, dry whole-grain cereals, and dried fruits like apricots and raisins, are perfect for on-the-go moments that require sustenance. Take some time prior to kicking off the work week by putting together a few days’ worth of lunch and snack foods that you can feel good about. They’re inexpensive, healthy, and will contribute to a feeling of dietary success.
Leftovers are another great way to ensure that you eat what you know you’ve cooked for yourself to uphold a healthy lifestyle. When you’re cooking dinner, make sure to make a bit extra so you can take the leftovers for lunch the following day. It will not only save you time in the morning, and money on the road, but it will also contribute to putting more great fuel into your body.
Finally, refrain from eating out as much as possible. Everything is alright in moderation, but restaurant or truck stop grub is routinely salty, sugary, or fried. If you do have to eat out during a haul, or as part of a company outing, head for the salad bar, or inquire about baked options that skip the deep-fryer.
Let’s Get Physical!
Physical activity is paramount to staying healthy in this career. Without it, drivers may pack on the pounds, especially in the mid-section, thanks in part to the posture of sitting for many hours per day.
While your job as a long haul truck driver isn’t a desk job in the slightest - the two share one common aspect - both require sitting for long periods of time with little chance for physical activity. Long haul truck drivers are not privy to the standing desk solution that many office workers have these days, so the sedentary nature of trucking can become a health concern for company drivers and owner/operators.
Alarmingly, a recent 2014 National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety study found that 69% of survey respondents who identified as long-haul truck drivers were classified as obese. That’s up 50% compared to rates among other industries. Obesity is directly linked directly to diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea.
If you’re an independent owner/operator, you’ll need to take some time out of your schedule to ensure that you’re getting up and active to keep your body limber and lean. This means always taking the time to thoroughly stretch once in the morning, once midday, and once when your daily run is complete to encourage flexibility and muscle use, and with any luck - trying to get to the gym to do some cardio to help get your heart rate up and your metabolism firing on all cylinders.
If you’re a company driver, ask your employer about company healthy lifestyle programs, gym membership discounts, or exercise and/or physical therapy benefits or programs you can enroll in. Aside from helping your body stay close to tip-top shape, it’s a great way to help encourage your colleagues and have support to keep at it.
Yoga is another incredible alternative to common place exercise, and for sedentary positions like long haul trucking, it’s the perfect compromise for gym time and stretch time, helping to target specific areas of the body, embracing breathing techniques and core exercises to keep your core tight and engaged throughout the day. Core engagement not only keeps your spine in-line, but also helps to alleviate lower back pain, and improve posture. Yoga is also great for combating common trucker musculoskeletal problems including back and shoulder pain, as well as arthritis.
Since truck drivers can be pressed for space, there are some exercise options available that make the most of your storage space. Consider resistance bands or a folding bike that can stow away in the cab of your truck when not in use, but will allow you to explore on a break in between loads.
To Be Healthy as a Whole, Mental Wellness Plays a Role!
Being away from your family and friends for sometimes weeks at a time can be taxing and can have a big effect on your mental health. Good news is, many trucking companies these days offer their drivers access to support programs that help drivers deal with some of the hardships of solitary life on the road.
Make phone calls home. Talk to your friends. Embrace video conference technologies that allow you to physically see your spouse on a nightly call. These things can contribute to helping truck drivers stay level-headed, positive, happy, and grounded.
Further, take your hobby on the road with you. Maybe you love reading magazines, building model cars, playing solitaire or online poker. Even taking a tablet with you so you can stay up to date with your favourite sports team or Netflix series is a great way to relax and enjoy some good quality personal time after a long day.
Healthy Life Hacks
- Start by adjusting the driver seat and make an investment in an ergonomic support cushion to assist in alleviating your body from the intense vibrations, shaking, and bumps that can happen on the road.
- When you stop for a break during your drive, incorporate a small workout that follows a whole-body regiment geared at getting your blood moving and your metabolism rocking. This can be done roadside, at a truck stop, or even at a scale!
- 30 seconds of deep squats
- 30 seconds of burpees
- 30 seconds of push ups
30 seconds of jumping jacks
- That’s one set. Do 4.
- You don’t have to drink pop or coffee to get a surge of caffeinated energy - there are studies that show eating a single apple can have the same effect on the body as a cup of coffee. Take advantage of food seasonality and consume as many local fruits and veggies as you can while driving your route. Stop in at farmers markets and roadside produce stands to stock up on fresh produce that will help you stay full, alert, and focused.
- If you’re going to be cutting back on the sugary drinks, you will need to make sure you increase your water intake! Dehydration can easily occur while you are focused on the road but can take its’ toll. Don’t worry about trying to hit a certain number of litres per day but be sure to drink when you’re thirsty. And, always have clean water on hand for when stores or reliable water sources are scarce.
- Don’t forget to recharge! Sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle and many adults are not getting enough sleep when they are working a regular 9 to 5, let alone being out on the road. A good night’s sleep will keep you alert and aware while driving and will also help stave off headaches or sickness. Don’t be afraid to pull over some where safe and take a quick snooze during the day if fatigue catches up with you!
To drive professionally, there are big commitments and responsibilities involved. Taking the time to eat well, exercise, and connect with loved loves, plays a powerful role in our physical health and mental well-being. Making positive changes to stay healthy as a long haul truck drivers will contribute to a successful career and healthy lifestyle. The greatest wealth is health