Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Ever Present Danger Of Poor Health In Trucking

Trucking will take its toll on your body, mind, and spirit.  There's an uncompensated part of the job which will never be adequately addressed.  Even the most dedicated physical fitness buff can be overtaken by the lack of sleep, poor diet, and lack of time needed to exercise.

There are many fitness experts out there who tout all sorts of remedies, but I have only found one that works.  And here it is:

1st   Keep the calories down
2nd  Eat foods that provide the best energy and body replenishment
3rd   Do at least an hour of exercise every day, be it running, aerobics, or lifting weights
4th   Get proper rest
5th   Make it interesting

What I've found is that being a team operation does make it harder to take regular time off to pursue these daily activities than a solo.  You have to fit it in whenever you can.  There have been numerous recommendations written for solos, but for teams, not so much.  There is a difference.

Teams have more miles to drive continuously and do so while sleeping in a moving truck.  Solos never sleep in a moving truck.  There is a difference in the quality of sleep that you get in a stopped vehicle versus a moving one.  Also since the teams are moving continuously,  their time tables get all screwed up compared to a solo.

Many years ago, I was living in Corpus Christi, TX where I spent my days off windsurfing and exercising.  It was easy because I knew my schedule.  I worked a week and a half and then I had about 3 or 4 days off.  I would pack up my van and spend those days on the beach, honing my windsurfing skills.

I was pretty good at it too, and I was arguably in the best shape of my life.  Fast forward 14 years, of which many of them were spent running a business and supporting all those involved and my health is in a completely different category.  Sure I am older, but regardless of how old you are, fitness is achievable.  This year I have a goal to reclaim those lost fitness standards of which I have spent most of my life in pursuit of.  And although Tucson has miles upon miles of beach, there is no ocean to go with it, so windsurfing is out for the time being.

There are some helpful guides out there as I've said, but they don't take into account the specific needs of teams.  If there are some fitness guides pointed directly at teams, I'd sure be interested to see them.

We do have bicycles which we have been using every chance we get, but that is only one form of exercise and its not exactly easy to do in the winter.  We are able to do things like jumping rope, using resistance stretch bands, running, and doing stretches.

This is a sample diet for truckers that I know for a fact works:

Breakfast:  Fruit (oranges, bananas, apples), nuts, and oatmeal (instant non flavored)
Lunch: Tuna fish, small can of vegetables, crackers, water, and fig newtons
Dinner: Soup, crackers, and water
This diet requires about 1 liter of water a day and the more fresh vegetables the better, but canned will do just fine, just try to limit sodium intake.

This diet is cheap, simple, quick to make, and will help you lose weight.  It is low on calories, high on protein, and maybe even delicious if you like tuna, which I could eat every day.  The other thing about this diet is that it will give you enough energy to recuperate after a workout. 

I can say from direct experience as an OTR solo trucker that this diet plus daily exercise will help you lose weight and build muscle tone.

The workout routine that needs to be adopted is simple as well.  The important thing is variation and working out the different parts of your body.  Of course you should consult with a doctor before doing any of this.   Here is a sample workout strategy:

Monday:      Running 2 miles and doing stretches afterwards
Tuesday:      Lifting weights or using resistance stretch bands on your upper body
Wednesday: Run 1 mile and do 15 minutes of aerobics
Thursday:     Lift weights or use resistance bands on your lower body
Friday:         Run 2 miles and stretch
Saturday:     Do aerobics for 45 minutes, or basic calisthenics such as jumping rope
Sunday:        Rest Day

I would take one rest day a week, but you should take more if you need it.  I highly recommend a heart monitor that straps around your chest for aerobics.  You should find your target heart rate and work towards staying in that heart rate range for as long as possible during your aerobic and anaerobic exercises.  There are many target heart rate calculators online, so go ahead and find your favorite.  

And after you find your favorite, use common sense to determine what your resting heart rate is and what your peak active heart rate is.  You shouldn't be grasping your chest during your routine.  You should be able to maintain a steady rate and keep it there for about 5 to 10 minutes, but usually when you are starting out, over weight, and out of muscular shape, you need to take it easy and work your way up slowly to minimize injuries.  

The end result here is to be able to run a few miles, do some jumping jacks for awhile, and all while lowering your resting heart rate.  Building muscle tone is very important because muscle burns fat even while you aren't working out.  So build that muscle, eat that good food, and lose the weight.  

Don't let trucking defeat your health and well being.  You only have one body and if you don't take care of it, no one else will.  I also recommend starting a blog.  It's good for the brain.


Belledog said...

Terrific post, and the photo of windsurfing is restorative. I like hearing about your youth spent in a van at the beach, when you had the time. Hardly misspent.

Told Salena I now think of a can of tuna and vegetables when I think of you!

Good luck meeting those fitness objectives this year!

Ed said...

Most people think of me when they see tuna and vegetables. That's normal. Ha!
As far as fitness, I'm off to a good start. I've been doing aerobics and running. As soon as the temps warm up, we'll be breaking out the bicycles.

Maybe one day you'll be reading about our time spent at the beach in a semi. Ha!