Everyone knows that staying in shape is challenging at the best of times but for truckers it’s doubly hard. Irregular shifts, sitting down for extended periods of time, a lack of healthy eating options and poor sleep habits make getting, and staying, healthy difficult for truck drivers, particularly those in the long haul/OTR sector.
If you’re a truck driver reading this, then most of this isn’t news to you. Is the situation hopeless? Not at all, but it will take a conscious effort and some serious willpower, depending on how ingrained any unhealthy habits are. If you’re an employer, then you can use these three key points to improve your driver fitness program.
Note, we use the words “healthy” and “fit”, or “fitness”, interchangeably – I’m sure you know what we’re getting at.
1 – Finding a reason
Before you do anything, you need to be sufficiently motivated. If you’re trying to make changes for someone else, because other people are pushing you to change or you think you should, then, odds are, you’ll won’t have the stickability to make the change permanent (which is where you’ll get the true benefits of the changes you make).
So, stop and think for a minute, why do you want to be healthier? Fear of dying? That’s a good start, but maybe make it a bit more immediate. Maybe you want to feel better about how you look. Maybe you get sick easily, and you feel it’s related to an unhealthy lifestyle. Maybe you’ve decided you’re tired of being a foregone conclusion – I’m a truck driver and therefore will be overweight and prone to an unhealthy diet (or any number of stereotypes, hopefully it’s not this slightly unnerving statistic from the FBI’s profiling department!).
When you settle on a reason that’s sufficiently motivating and personal enough (one that is 100% yours, and fully within your control) then write it down. Make it permanent. Keep it front and center so you know why you’re putting in the hard yards to achieve your goal.
2 – What’s fueling you?
Some truck drivers pay more attention to what they pump into their big rigs than they do their own bodies. Look around your cab – do you see signs of a trashy diet? Chip packets, candy wrappers or fast food containers? Don’t worry, you don’t have to switch to a strict juice diet and Kale salads – it’s about consciously thinking about what you’re feeding yourself. If you have to, start a food diary. Just start paying attention to what you’re eating and look for alternatives.
One key area to target is snacking – it’s an insidious, almost unconscious, behavior that can seriously derail your health goals. Aside from being more aware, why not stock the cab with healthy alternatives – beef jerky, nuts, fruit and protein shakes (for that post-workout pick-up). You can find plenty of other ideas by googling “healthy snacks for truck drivers”.
For something more substantial, is there an alternative to the traditional fried chicken? Unfortunately, the majority of truck stops seem to serve high-fat food (possibly contributing to the 69% of truckers considered obese, according to a NIOSH study) but you do have a choice. The key is to plan ahead. Some drivers prepare meals when they’re at home to take with them – lean-grilled chicken, rice dishes, fruit salads and other ready-to-eat meals.
Handy tip: Enter healthy eating options along your route using the POI editor in Telogis Navigation so you can plot suitable stops that offer healthier options.
3 – Exercise every day
Once again, nothing new here but this is about not just knowing the basics – it’s about doing them. Road signs don’t do any good if you just mentally acknowledge they’re there! So, the question remains: are you exercising regularly?
Like maintaining a good diet, being prepared is important. Some drivers carry hand weights, jump rope, resistance bands or an exercise mat that can be used at any time. Take advantage of downtime – waiting in the yard or delays getting to a loading dock; they’re all opportunities for a quick workout.
You don’t need a formal gym routine. Google some exercises for truckers. Improvise and be spontaneous. You’ll find that it keeps things interesting and, varying your exercises, helps to achieve a full body workout and keep your muscles growing.
The key is to make sure you exercise regularly. Whatever it is, just get your heart rate up and ignore any strange looks you might get – who knows you might inspire someone else and save them from an untimely health-related illness.
Don’t give up
To really benefit from the changes you make in your diet and exercise, you need to stick at it. It’s the hardest part so be prepared to slog it out. Keep your motivation in front of you – it will keep you going when you feel like giving up.
Every time you say no to that delicious six-pack of donuts or choose a healthy rice salad over a bucket of greasy chicken wings, count it as a point of honor – you’re doing yourself and the trucking industry proud. Same goes when you’d rather curl up in the cab with a movie instead of doing jump rope for 15 minutes. It’s all those little victories that will help you win the war, even if you lose a few battles along the way.
Employers: If you’re looking to attract (and retain) truck drivers then facilitating a healthy lifestyle should be a key part of the package you offer. For other ideas on improving working conditions for truck drivers, check out these suggestions.