Long Distance Drivers – Exercise While Driving
Even modest stretching exercises can help fight fatigue by increasing the blood flow to tired muscles, preventing the onset of aches. But when you stop, don’t leap out of the car and start running around because that is a sure way of pulling muscles and tendons. Gentle stretching is a much better idea and can even be done while driving or stopped in traffic. If any exercise or stretching hurts, stop doing it because it’s the body’s danger sign of saying ‘no’.
In the car, try the following exercises (you don’t have to do them all every time, but vary them):
– Shoulder rolls to free shoulder and neck muscles: Sit or stand with your shoulders in a relaxed position then slowly rotate them up towards your ears and round. Do this several times in each direction.
– Neck stretches to relax neck muscles: Looking straight ahead, tilt your head to one side until you feel mild tension in the muscle running down towards your shoulder and hold this for ten seconds. Then do it the neck stretch other way. Do this three times for each side.
– Shoulder pulls to stretch muscles running over the shoulder joint: Bend your right forearm across your chest in the old cowboy film ‘big chief style. Bring the left arm up with the forearm vertical and place the right wrist behind the left forearm: now use the left arm to pull on the right and create mild tension in the right shoulder. Hold this for five seconds, then swap arms. Repeat this shoulder pull once more for each arm.
– Hand stretches to relax hands and wrists: Straighten your arm down towards your knees (both arms if you are parked) and stretch your fingers until you feel mild tension. Hold that for ten seconds then relax the fingers at the knuckles for ten seconds, then repeat both.
– Ankle rolls to ease ankles held in pedal positions: Only when stopped and the handbrake is on, take your foot off the pedal and rotate the foot at the ankle in both directions for ten seconds each, then do it with the other foot (in most cars there isn’t room to do both ankle roll feet at once).
When you stop for a break, warm up with the shoulder rolls and neck stretches in the car, then step out and try these:
– Shoulder stretch to flex muscles that have been holding arms to the wheel: Stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Gently raise your outstretched arms to the same angle as the natural slope of your shoulder (it helps if you can see your reflection) and hold it for five seconds before slowly lowering it. Do five of these with your palms down and five with your palms up.
– Leg stretch to flex and straighten leg muscles: Stand up straight then slowly raise one foot off the ground in front of you (keep your supporting knee slightly bent because it is harder to keep your balance if you lock it). Slowly stretch your leg out to point the toe forwards and hold it for five seconds, then slowly swing the leg out to the side and hold it, then behind and hold it. If you lose your balance, touch the foot to the floor. Repeat this with the other leg.
– Back bends to ease back and shoulder muscles: Stand up straight and imagine you are standing with your back against a wall. Peel your backbone away from the wall starting by tilting your head and then letting the movement roll down your back, allowing your head and arms to dangle, until you at least look as if you are trying to touch your toes (don’t force it if you can’t). Hold it for five seconds and slowly build the back up again to return to the upright position. Do this twice more. The idea is to gently stretch the back, not violently touch your toes.
If you feel too self-conscious doing this, just go for a walk and gently stretch your arms and back out.
When you are in the car try to make yourself aware of tensions creeping in. Consciously sit up straight, unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders, lower your chin and ease your grip on the wheel.