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Staying Healthy Over-the-Road

by Holly Plude - Published: 3/29/2017
4.2 20 votes

As trucker job opportunities continue to rise, the need to educate new drivers grows. One aspect of trucking that is not immediately realized is your health. Your health is not just about passing the DOT medical exam; it’s about staying healthy for yourself, for your family, for your kids.

But, as a trucker, you are gone a lot. Joining a gym is completely impractical and eating healthily can be extremely difficult if you are only eating at truck stops and fast food restaurants. Then, add in the fact that sleeping in a truck can take some getting used to, so your sleep may be initially compromised. Add all of this together and you have a recipe for disaster. 

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Healthy Eating

It is by no means impossible to eat healthy on the road. Here are several ways:

Buy a portable grill. With a portable grill you can prepare meat and vegetables without the fat from deep frying. Many drivers have mini refrigerators in their trucks. If you do not have one, see if your employer will purchase and install one. Then, keep some fresh meat in it. Conversely, you can purchase meat from a local grocer wherever you are. Grilling chicken, salmon, steaks, potatoes, corn, green peppers will make delicious, yet healthy meals.

Have a salad. If you have a refrigerator, you can stock it with fresh vegetables and make up a salad for your meal. To make the salad filling, you want to add protein. Try chicken, tuna or salmon. Skip the dressing though. Allow the flavors from the prepared meat to satisfy your desire for flavor.

Drink water, and lots of it! It has been proven that water consumption serves many benefits. First, your body is made up of approximately 70% water. Keeping yourself hydrated is good for your skin and your organs. There is also the fact that drinking water staves off hunger-mimicking feelings. If you don’t care for the taste of plain water you can add water enhancers. Coffee and Tea are not poor choices for driving on the road, but both can dehydrate a driver, so they ought to be balanced out with some water.

Fruit is a handy snack that is good for you. Apples, grapes, pears, peaches, etc., are easy to eat and require no peeling (just washing!)

Vegetables. Go to your local grocer and pick up a vegetable tray. Many food outlets in larger states like California will have multiple options for some sort of produce. Pre-cut vegetables are great to snack on and the fiber from them will help keep you fuller longer. Consider having pre-cut/baby carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and salad cucumbers. And skip the dressing. You don’t need to drown your vegetables in ranch dressing for them to taste great. Take pride in maintaining a healthy diet in order to stave off diseases and afflictions such as diabetes.

Foods to avoid overindulging in:

Deep fried (fried chicken, donuts)

High fat content (hamburgers, salami, frozen burritos)

High sodium content (French fries, ketchup)

While it may be tempting to try traditional deep fried cuisine in the heart of Texas, opting for the healthier meal will help a driver in the long run.

Exercise

No, you can’t easily join a gym, although it would not be impossible with the advent of chain gyms where your membership is universally accepted. However, that is not the only way to get in exercise each day.

Walking: Walking is the easiest and least expensive means of exercise. If you are waiting for your truck to be loaded/unloaded, see if it is permitted for you to walk around the premises. It’s not always possible, as some trucking companies, such as Nestle, do not allow you to leave your truck while you are waiting.

You will also often find trails at rest areas that you could walk, making it possible to get in a short hike on your break. 

Try incorporating high intensity interval training into your walking.

Start your walk out at an easy pace. Then, for two minutes, increase your speed to a moderate pace. Now you are ready to start the interval portion. For one minute start at a speed interval where you walk as fast as possible, pushing yourself (without harming yourself). Then, start a recovery interval of moderate walking for four minutes. Each week decrease the recovery interval until you are walking one minute at high interval and one minute at recovery interval.

Weights: You cannot carry around a full set of dumbbells with you, but there are other weights you can carry. Perhaps just one set of dumbbells. You can use them while you are off-duty. You can lift the weights outside of your truck where you can have the proper stance. Conversely, you can purchase ankle or wrist weights and use the when walking.

Be sure to pick the correct weights. You want to challenge yourself, not hurt yourself. A sprained arm or pulled muscle is no good in a job that may require shifting gears or other physically demanding work.

A driver should always be mindful of their surroundings when exercising. Just as every area is not safe to park in, not every area is safe to walk in.

A Driver's Mind

Drivers know that a truck driving job can lead to boredom. You travel hundreds upon hundreds of miles, watching the landscape pass you by. Keep your mind active by utilizing the following techniques:

Audio books/Podcasts: Purchase or rent audio books (you can often get audio books from your local library) and listen to your favorite authors while you drive. Use the opportunity to learn about topics that intrigue you.

There are some great free audio books available, many of which can be found through iTunes. Podcasts are free 99% of the time as well, with access to countless hours of conversation and entertainment through iTunes and other online libraries as well.

Language tapes: You do not have to become fluent in another language, but you can learn some basic phrases on the road to pass the time. This is useful if you deal with customers on your route who speak a different language. Learn a few of things to say in their language. The amount of respect you will earn will be insurmountable.

This suggestion is not offered to incite strong feelings, I have simply found through personal experience, that being able to say, “Hello” or “Thank you” in someone’s mother tongue can be an enormous ice breaker. As a truck driver, you encounter so many people in so many different moods – it can’t hurt to have something up your sleeve to brighten one’s day.

Consider this: you are at a delivery in a melting pot city state such as Florida. The dock manager speaks English, yet from his accent you ascertain he likely speaks Chinese as his native language. If he’s having a bad day and seems to be taking it out on all of the drivers, imagine how you could change his mood in just a second’s time by saying hello or thank you in his language.

Music: Branch out in your taste of music. Do you listen to country music? Try listening to Bach or Tchaikovsky. Is rap your taste? Try listening to world music. Your options are numerous. Many drivers prefer a satellite radio option, wherein they can choose from a wide variety of genres and eras of songs. Some stations even play the classic trucker outlaw country music from the era of Willie and Waylon.

Family & Relationships

A trucking job can put a strain on a driver’s family life. However, you can take steps to lessen the toll driving takes on interpersonal relationships. When you come home after being gone for three weeks, connect with your family. Share stories of your travels. Do you know in advance where you will be traveling to? If so, tell your children those locations. Ask them to look up interesting facts about those cities. Then, while you are on the road, take pictures, if possible, to share. Spend time with your spouse and children, parents, siblings, or whoever makes up your family. It’s easy to go home and become a couch potato. Try and resist the urge to kick back entirely and make time to do some activities with them. Undoubtedly, there will also be household matters to attend to while you are home, but try and find a way to incorporate your family into these tasks you so you can proverbially kill two birds with one stone.

Take your wife on a date and plan well in advance so you both have something to look forward to. Make it a special occasion and dress up - buy her some roses.

Take your kids to the park and play with them.

Dedicate home time as quality time. The most precious gift you can give to your loved ones is time together. Simply spend time with them.

Get an audio book for yourself and the same book in any format for your spouse. When you talk together on the phone or on Skype during some time off in the cab, you can share what you liked most about the book. You might find you have even more in common than you thought.

Other Health Tips

It is essential to have a good night’s sleep in order to stay healthy. It’s true that it can be difficult to sleep in a truck. However, driving without the proper amount of sleep or knowingly driving drowsy is it a wise idea. No driver should be out on the road under any circumstances wherein one is not alert enough to operate their truck.
Another important health tip that many drivers do not think about is the health of their skin. Driving for weeks on end as the sunlight beats down on a trucker can take its toll on one’s skin and make them susceptible for health problems in the future. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen when trucking through areas that will be exposing your arms and face to the sun. Rather than combating skin disease later on, be proactive about the situation.

Bottom Line

Being a truck driver does not automatically mean you have to be unhealthy. If you take some time and are proactive, you have the potential to lead a very healthy lifestyle.

You have an extremely important job! You are the reason that consumers only have to drive a mile to their local grocery store, or shopping mall to purchase the goods and items they want. Never short change yourself by thinking your health doesn’t matter. Or worse yet, that you’ll start taking care of yourself tomorrow. Tomorrow may have worked for Scarlett O’Hara in Atlanta, but for the rest of us, today is the key!


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