Carma has been truck driving for several years. Before she came to ATS, she was training other female truck drivers. She currently drives in the flatbed specialized division at ATS.
Disclaimer: The following information is personal opinion and should not take the place of medical advice and care. It is not an endorsement of the treatments/items listed below. Always consult a medical professional for advice and treatment and follow the safety regulations your carrier puts in place. This article can contain errors or omissions.
Be honest, drivers: How often do you get out of your truck at the end of the day to get some exercise?
As drivers, we spend our entire day in the truck — night and day — and it can be hard on our bodies and minds. Your hips get stiff, your neck and back get sore. If you just hop into the sleeper berth after driving all day without at least stretching your legs for a bit, you can set yourself up for a world of pain.
To keep yourself limber and healthy enough to keep doing your job, it’s important to move your body.
I’ve been driving for several years now. Before I came to Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) a year ago as a flatbed specialized driver, I was training other female truck drivers. I make it a point to get a few minutes of exercise each day — and not just when I’m throwing chains and tarps while securing freight.
Regular exercise can benefit us truck drivers in many ways, including improved physical health, reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep quality, increased energy and alertness and a reduced risk of injuries.
The good news is you don’t need to spend a ton of money on equipment. With a little creativity, you can use what you already have. And it only takes a few minutes out of your day. In this article, you’ll learn how to start an exercise routine on the road using the tools you have at your disposal.
Tip #1: Start Slow and Steady
If you haven’t exercised before or you’re out of shape, take it slow. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself on the road. Start with basic stretches and walking, or talk to your doctor for recommendations. You can start with just a few minutes per day and work your way up to longer workouts, too.
You don’t have to work out for hours at a time to see benefits. After all, truck drivers only get a 10-hour break. Unless you don’t want to sleep or you want to cut into your drive time, you can’t spend three hours per day exercising.
Fortunately, multiple studies show that just 15 minutes of exercise per day is enough to make a positive difference and increase your life expectancy.
Maybe that means you get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to start your day fresh and energized (which is what I like to do). Or maybe you decide to utilize your 30-minute break during the middle of the day. You can even slip it in after your clock stops for the day.
As long as you start to make exercise a priority, you can build healthy habits. Your body will be happy you did.
Tip #2: Use What You Have in Your Truck
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good workout on the road. Some drivers use the tools in their truck or utilize the truck/trailer as a surface to do exercises on.
Some drivers worry that having free weights in their trucks is an accident waiting to happen. If that concerns you, you may decide to take advantage of the tools you store in your headache rack if you’re a flatbed driver. For instance, I use my slider winches as free weights. I hold them while I do squats and lunges and I swing them like a kettlebell.
You may utilize your trailer to do pushups on or lean against it to do tricep dips. Or you could use the steps going into your truck for step-ups, a great cardio exercise. However, please note the safety risk in doing these exercises. It’s easy to lose your balance. If you’re feeling unbalanced or weark, don’t do these exercises.
If you have resistance bands, loop them around your truck or trailer and pull them for a good strength-building exercise. You can purchase them for about $10.
A jump rope is a cheap item too (under $10), and it’s a great way to get in some good cardio. I like to get fancy with the way I jump to switch it up and jump longer.
If you’re not ready to start jumping rope, simply walking around the truck stop or a nearby park for 15 minutes or more is totally free. No need to worry about finding a gym — though, if I am at a hotel for the night, I will use their facilities.
You can even do exercises in the driver's seat. Contract different muscles for a few seconds at a time and then release. Repeat the motion for a few minutes at a time. This is a form of static strength training and it’s good for strengthening the neck, shoulders and glutes.
When you aren’t doing these exercises, remember to relax your shoulders! Practice good posture to avoid tension in your shoulders. I get massages as often as I can, too, to help with this tension.
Tip #3: Watch Exercise Videos
In today’s world, we have easy access to exercise at the tips of our fingers. Exercises and full workout routines for all levels are offered on multiple platforms — whether you go to YouTube or download an app.
You can get access to a lot of this content for free, too.
Videos are a great place to start if you’re inexperienced and don’t know how to get started. Choose from videos featuring specific workout styles or exercises that target certain areas of the body.
For instance, I do yoga videos regularly in my truck. It might be hard to fully stretch out for some of the poses, but I make do. The breathing exercises are beneficial, too, for stress relief.
Tip #4: Increase Your Intensity
You can bump up your exercise intensity by adding heavy weights or doing interval training. You’ll get more bang for your buck that way and get a more intense workout in a shorter amount of time.
I find this helpful when I want to get in a good workout but I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it. For instance, I feel the burn more when I do squats while holding heavy weights. An intense 15-minute workout gives me the benefits of a 30-minute workout.
If you only have 10 minutes to work out one day, but you really want to feel the exercise in your muscles and burn a lot of calories, increase the intensity of the movement with by adding weight.
Tip #5: Protect Yourself
If you’re feeling a little insecure about exercising out in the open in front of others, you can do what I do, which is to exercise between trailers. Sometimes it can feel embarrassing to be doing the exercises in front of everyone, so I’ll go off by myself where I can exercise in private.
Just remember: You’re putting the work in and the ones teasing you aren’t. Who’s really in the better position?
Make sure you still exercise in well-lit places and avoid exercising late at night when it’s dark out. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t exercise on the side of the road. Ensure you’re parked in a safe location and off-duty before you begin exercising.
Protect your hands from the dirty ground or your trailer by wearing gloves or putting down a mat.
5 Benefits of Exercising on the Road
There are a ton of benefits to exercising as a truck driver. It’s about taking care of your body and feeling good.
Improved Physical Health
Sitting for long periods can cause a range of health problems, such as weight gain, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. Regular exercise can help to reduce these risks and improve overall physical health.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Driving a truck can be a stressful job, and regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce stress.
This is especially why I love doing yoga and getting regular massages, too.
Improved Sleep Quality
Regular exercise can also help to improve sleep quality. Better sleep can lead to better concentration and focus, which is crucial for all of us drivers who need to be alert and focused on the road at all times.
Increased Energy and Alertness
Exercise can help to increase energy levels and improve mental alertness, which, again, is important for us to stay focused on the road.
Reduced Risk of Injuries
Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to get hurt on the road. Whether you lose your balance on a trailer or strain a muscle securing a load, truck drivers aren’t immune to injuries.
Exercise can help to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and balance, reducing the risk of injuries that can occur while loading and unloading cargo or during other physical aspects of our job.
Get in Shape and Improve Your Diet
Even if you get exercise as a flatbed driver while securing your loads like me, it’s still a good idea to work in some additional strength training, cardio and stretching. A little goes a long way. Just 15 minutes of exercise per day will help fight diseases, extend your life and keep your body limber.
Don’t worry about searching for a gym in every town you pass through. You can do simple exercises using the equipment you carry in your headache rack, utilizing your body weight or using the truck for leverage. No purchasing of expensive equipment is required!
Exercise isn’t just great for helping your body feel better and loosening up stiff joints after a long day. It’ll also help you relieve stress and sleep better. And we all know how stressful this job can be.
Another great way to monitor your health on the road is to cook in your truck and to limit trips to fast-food restaurants.