Long drive days are an inevitable part of an overland trip, and are just as much a part of the adventure as the incredible activities and sights that await at the end of the drive. For many years now we have been advised about the dangers of immobility on long haul flights and the need to get up and move around, but what about on long drive days?
The World Health Organisation warns that “prolonged immobility, whether by car, bus, train or air, can lead to pooling of the blood in the legs, which in turn may cause swelling, stiffness and discomfort”
But despair not! There are plenty of things we can do to help avoid any discomfort on an overland trip, such as the simple exercises below, ensuring you have a healthy happy journey.
The health benefits of Yoga are becoming increasingly recognised for improving strength, flexibility and blood flow, but don’t worry, you don’t need to be able to place your foot behind your head to experience these benefits. These easy exercises, which can be done from the comfort of your truck seat, will help to keep the blood flowing and muscles loose, keeping you fit and strong ready for the next days’ sight-seeing.
For each exercise try and make your inhales and exhales last for 4 counts each.
Sit up straight in your seat and look forward, chin tucked. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale drop your right ear towards you right shoulder. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths. You may wish to place your right hand lightly on the top of your head for a little extra stretch but don’t pull hard. Repeat to the left. Tuck the chin and bend the head gently forward for 3-5 breaths (again, you may use your hands for a little extra weight but don’t pull down). Lift the head up and look towards the ceiling, keeping the shoulders down and away from the ears (do not use the hands in this instance and do not do this if you have neck problems).
Sit up straight, feet flat on the floor, interlace hands behind back and lower towards the seat, rolling the shoulders away from the ears and down the back, lift the chest to the ceiling and look up if comfortable on the neck (if not, look forward and keep chin tucked in) x 5 breaths.
Lift your arms overhead, clasp hands together and invert palms. Inhale and stretch up, exhale and lean to the left, hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat to the right side.
Take the left hand to the right knee and the right hand on the seat behind you. Roll the shoulders away from the ears and down the back. Inhale and lift the head and chest up, on the exhale twist gently towards the right side, looking over the right shoulder if comfortable on your neck. Hold for 3-5 breaths, lifting up on the in breath, and twisting on the out breath. Repeat to the other side.
Seated Forward Bend
(ONLY when the truck is not moving!) Sit back in your seat with the feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale bend forward, leading with your chest and keeping your spine straight, aiming your chest to your thighs. Stretch your arms down beside your legs and try to touch the floor with your hands, keeping the head and neck in line. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
Knee to Chest
Sit up straight on seat, feet flat on the ground. Interlace your hands over the right knee and use your arm strength to lift the knee up towards the chest, feel the stretch in the hips and hip flexors. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Lower the right leg gently and repeat on the left.
Sit on the edge of the seat, press hands down into the seat either side of you, lifting your legs & bum off the seat. Engage the deep abdominal muscles & keep your shoulders down. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat x 2.
Seated Eagle Pose
Cross your right thigh over your left thigh. If you can, wrap the right foot all the way around the left calf. Cross your left arm over the right arm at the elbow and, if you can, bend the elbows and bring the palms to touch. Lift the elbows and drop the shoulders away from the ears. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Seated Pigeon Pose - Ankle to Knee
Sit up straight, lift your right ankle and bring it to rest on your left thigh, keeping the knee in a straight line with your ankle as much as possible and the keeping the foot flexed. If your hips are very tight your knee might be raised quite high, sit up straight and feel the stretch here, or work towards gently pushing the knee down to be in line with your ankle. If your hips are very flexible and the knee is in-line with the ankle, you may wish to lean forward slightly to deepen the stretch. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the left side.
Comfort Breaks & Lunch Stops
Whenever the truck stops for a break always take the opportunity to stand up and stretch your legs. If there is time get off the truck, take a little walk around for a few minutes and do the following exercises.
Stand straight with the feet hip width apart, a slight micro-bend in the knees. On an inhale place the hand on the hips and on the exhale bend forward over the legs. Reach the chest forward rather than the head, try to keep the head in-line with the neck and the spine straight. Place the hands on your knees, shins, ankles or the floor, depending on your flexibility.
Forward bend with arms
As above but this time interlace your hands behind the back, lift your arms up and away from the body, keeping the shoulders down away from the ears. Bend forward slowly lifting your arms over head, hold for 3-5 breaths then rise slowly.
Stand straight with the feet hip width apart, micro-bend the knees. Reach the arms overhead, interlace the hands and invert the palms towards the sky. On an inhale reach up and on an exhale stretch over to the right. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring and Calf Stretch
Place one foot on the truck tyre, straight out in front of you. Facing forward and keeping the hips straight, bend forward aiming the chest towards the thigh, keeping the head and neck in line and the spine straight. Feel the stretch down the back of the legs, in the hips and lower back. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Swap legs.
If you have time, and want to get your heart rate going, try doing a few squats, knee raises and jogging on the spot.
- Walk whenever possible. In cities, if it safe to do so, walk around rather than taking taxis and take opportunities to do Walking Tours or Optional activities such as day hikes or cycling.
- Play games –. Your trip may include a lot of time camping in wide open spaces. Take the opportunity to get your truck mates (and some locals?!) into some team games such as football, volleyball, bat & ball or frisbee. Take the opportunity to enjoy being in the outdoors, relax and just ‘play’. How often do we have the chance to do that in our ‘ordinary lives’?!
- Sleeping in different hotel beds every night or on the ground in tents can also take its toll on the body. Try and make time for a quick stretch every morning too, your body will thank you!
- Mindfulness – it’s a bit of a buzz word at the moment as we are beginning to realise the importance of looking after our mental health as well as the physical. What better opportunity to take a step back from our busy lives…. stop…. feel the breath in our lungs and clear our busy minds. With so many incredible sights on our journeys no doubt there will be many “wow!” moments. Take a minute to breath deep, absorb your incredible surroundings and be grateful for the present moment.