Taking up an occupation as a truck driver can result in working long, arduous hours, and unfortunately, those grueling driving days correlate directly with a rather unhealthy lifestyle. It is difficult enough for those of us in the trucking industry to regularly hit the gym or to swap a burger bun for lettuce, so for a truck driver who is constantly on the road, prioritizing health and wellness may tend to take a back seat. Many truck drivers will admit to succumbing to a life of fast food, and a lack of sleep and exercise.
There are ways to maintain a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle even while zooming down those highways on long hauls. You just need to know the tips and tricks, and with a little bit of planning and self-discipline, you will be on your way to a healthier you in no time!
Typically, as a truck driver, you do not have access to a full kitchen or even fresh groceries while you’re on the road. It’s easy to get into the habit of stopping at diners, hitting up a drive thru or grabbing snacks at truck stops. We all love a good Big Mac, but frequently eating greasy or fried food does not a healthy person make. Plus, eating out is expensive! To avoid dealing with inevitable health issues and to save yourself a dollar or two, plan out what you are going to eat in advance and resist those pesky junk food temptations. Invest in a portable cooler and a slow cooker as well-these appliances will be the key to executing your effortless truck-made meals.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – this is no different for a truck driver. Eating a well-balanced meal in the morning will jump start your system and keep your energy up throughout the day which is imperative when you are driving for long periods of time.
The best kind of breakfast is one that has a hunk of protein, some complex carbohydrates, and a sprinkling of calcium and healthy fats. Avoid processed sugar and consider reaching for foods like oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, or whole grain toast with a slab of peanut butter.
Your mid-day meal is a fantastic opportunity to refuel. Spring for a tomato and avocado sandwich, a turkey wrap, or a grilled chicken salad. Your cooler will successfully store those fresh ingredients and if you assemble your meal ahead of time, you can grab your grub and enjoy on the go!
Here is where that slow cooker comes into play. With it, you can make yourself meals like BBQ chicken or beef stew. Throw in a side of canned green beans and dinner is served.
If you have a freezer available in your cab, satisfy your sweet tooth with options like frozen yogurt or fat free ice cream/sorbet. If not, you can also munch on treats like dark chocolate, dried mango, or apple chips.
You want to be sure that what you are snacking on is in fact nutritious. Excellent snack options to chomp away on include fruits & vegetables, popcorn, beef jerky, or unsalted mixed nuts.
Ultimately, you have the power to decide what you put into your body. Make smart choices and remember that you don’t have to be a master chef to put together something yummy and nourishing for your body.
Find Time to Exercise
According to a study by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 69% of truckers were obese on the body mass index scale. Exercise is one of the key ways that truck drivers can avoid health issues. By exercising for at least 15 minutes per day, you will be able to successfully prevent becoming a statistic.
Squeeze in a cardio work out and get your blood flowing. Go on a walk or a run when you can or download a fitness app and set aside a few minutes out of your day to complete a cardio routine. It will give you a chance to stretch your legs and it will also breathe strength into your heart and lungs over time.
You can also try planks, sit-ups, and tricep dips, or pack with you a set of adjustable dumbbells and get some reps in at the rest stop. These workouts require minimal space and when they are done regularly, they are incredibly effective for reducing back and muscle pain.
Most importantly, do not forget to stretch. Stretching is crucial for reducing stress, managing high blood pressure and avoiding injury.
Get Rest When You Can
To sustain high mileage and a high paycheck every week, you may find yourself having to make yourself available at a variety of times which can mean driving overnight. The lack of a regular sleep schedule can cause severe fatigue, so it’s a good idea to keep these dos and don’ts in mind when you do finally come across an opportunity to get some shut eye.
- Do not eat heavy/spicy meals before sleeping (do so at least 2-3 hours before)
- Do not drink liquids before going to sleep, especially alcohol
- Avoid caffeine consumption
- Do not consume any form of nicotine
- Do not expose yourself to light from TV or other electronics
- Make sure family, friends, and dispatchers are aware of the importance of your sleep and ask not to be disturbed
- Create a relaxing routine to complete about an hour before bedtime – wash your face, brush your teeth and have a comfortable pair of pajama’s to prepare your body for sleep
- Park somewhere quiet and safe
- Block out all light with window shades or an eye mask
- Block out all noise with a pair of earplugs or a white noise machine
- Cool down the temperature in your cab/bedroom
Getting a good night’s sleep is just as important as exercise and a balanced diet. While your sleeping patterns may be hard to predict, do your best to establish a comfortable environment for yourself so that you can make those sleeping hours count.
Hydration is vital for truck driver health and safety. In fact, a study that was published in 2015 showed that driving while even mildly dehydrated posed the same amount of risk as driving drunk. Dehydration can even cause issues like mental fatigue, muscle cramps, heat stroke, and kidney stones so drinking water is essential!
Do not deprive yourself of the hydration that your body needs. Instead, drink at least 16-24 ounces of water about a half hour before hitting all of your major stopping points – this will limit any additional restroom breaks that you may need to take throughout the day.
Dropping some fruits or veggies into your water will give it flavor and provide you with a boost of antioxidants along with other health benefits. You can also snack on water rich foods like cucumbers, celery, watermelon, strawberries, and citrus.
Health experts have determined that adult males need an average of 2.5-3 liters of water per day while adult females need about 2-2.5 liters of water per day, so don’t skimp on your liquids and get to chugging.
Allowing yourself to change gears at the end of the day is crucial for your overall well-being. There is nothing like finishing a hard day’s work with some much-needed R&R.
Relaxing looks different for everybody.
Maybe it puts you at ease to stay connected with your friends and family. Reach out to them at the end of the day. Thanks to the abundance of virtual video tools out there, it’s easy to see your loved one’s smiling faces and have a chat even if you can’t be with them in person.
If you value mindfulness practices like meditation, download apps like Headspace or Insight timer. Meditation is a brilliant way to reduce stress, control anxiety, and promote overall emotional health.
Take your hobbies with you on the road. Do you love to draw or write? Bring your notebook with you when you travel! Or maybe you like to play the guitar or kick around a soccer ball (bonus points for incorporating exercise!) – make sure to pack your fun-time items into your cab.
Giving yourself a chance to decompress at the end of a long shift is sure to improve your on the job performance as well as your mental health, so take a deep breath and unwind.
Being a truck driver is a demanding occupation and it is so important to prioritize your physical and mental health. A healthy lifestyle is attainable as long as you are willing to commit to creating new healthy habits. You can do it! And prepare to thank yourself down the road for the better choices that you make today.