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14 Simple Steps to Staying Healthy for The Long Haul

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When it comes to planning, logistics, and maximizing the earnings potential of routes, NEXT Trucking has you covered. But what about the other most important thing to your success and happiness -- your personal health?

A sick or run-down driver will struggle to support himself and his family (or herself, and her family). While the pressures to maximize output are both understandable and real, it’s important to put your health first. If you don’t, you run the risk of burning out entirely.

All that being said, we know our partners are a tough, hard-working lot. You’re used to being “on the go.” There’s plenty we can all do, however, to ensure that we’re taking care of our health during the long haul.

Here’s a list of 14 small steps you can take, which, when added together, can really stack up and help drivers optimize their work and stay healthy as the weeks and years of serving businesses and consumers continue.

  1. Plan meals and snacksThe temptation to just “buy it on the road” can be great. It’s also normal to supplement your food plan with a few things here and there that you pick up as you drive. However, the more you plan, generally, the more control you can exert over the healthiness of your food. You might also save money by pre-packing some snacks and meals. Protein bars or powder, bulk-packaged nuts separated into smaller bags, even some carrots or other veggies thrown in a cooler with some dip -- all of it will give you good nutrition for keeping energetic and alert.

  2. Make a grocery tripAgain, it can be easy to pick something up at the gas station and/or from the vending machine. But a planned stop at a grocery store before your route or along the way...can save you money and help ensure you’re eating healthier foods. It doesn’t have to take a long time, and if you already have an idea of what you want and like (fresh bananas?) you’ll be in and out almost as quickly as if you shopped at a convenience store.

  3. “Eat this, not that”We’re borrowing a phrase here, but the method can really work. Sometimes you just need to grab something in a pinch, or maybe you have a craving or want to reward yourself. Life isn’t all carrots and nuts. However, when you’re on the run, there’s always a healthier choice, even among fast food or other less-than-perfect meal options. Ask yourself if you can eat chicken instead of beef, or maybe grab a sandwich or some tacos from the road instead of a burger and fries. When you do this more often over time, you minimize the potential long-term unhealthy effects that meals on the go can sometimes have when we get busy and rush our food selections.

  4. Pack a coolerWe hinted at this above. Who doesn’t want a portable refrigerator with them on a long journey? A small cooler with dedicated ice-packs (or ice grabbed from the nearest gas station) can go a long way towards helping you eat fresh, whole foods packed with nutrition. A cooler also keeps your meals and snacks in better condition for when you’re ready to eat them. Who wants a hot, soggy pack-lunch?

  5. Go high-proteinThere’s a reason protein bars and powders are showing up everywhere. People have started to realize how beneficial a high-protein diet can be to good health. Protein will fill you up, with none the the lethargy that can come from high concentrations of fats and sugars. Nuts are also a great source of protein (and health fats).

  6. Hydrate, and monitor your caffeineWe get it, keeping hydrated means more bathroom breaks, which can be more headaches for you. However, water keeps your body running, and a few more trips to the rest stop are well-worth the long-term benefits of staying healthier, because you’ve had enough water to keep your system at peak efficiency. While we’re at it, be careful of how much caffeine you might be ingesting to help you stay alert. Coffee can be our friend, but too much can leave us jittery, prone to an energy drop later, or (especially if we aren’t hydrated) stuck with a persistent actual headache. Most coffee shops and gas stations also sell black tea and iced tea, which also offer a good amount of caffeine but in lower doses.

  7. StretchOkay, so we’ve talked a lot about food so far. But you’re also sitting a ton, from day-to-day and probably even year-to-year. You may have heard in the news that this can be a dangerous situation. Taking plenty of breaks helps, as do those walks to the restroom. But even a quick stop to get out of the cab and stretch your legs, your neck, and your shoulders -- can go a long way towards keeping you fit and pain-free. All it takes is 3-5 mins, here and there. It can make a big difference.

  8. Splurge on sunglassesDrivers know their sunglasses. That being said, there are a lot of cheap options for eye protection on the road. Spending a little more, for someone who constantly has the sun shining into their face through the windshield, will protect your sight for years to come from harmful solar rays. Try out polarized lenses as well, to reduce glare when you’re driving. Maybe you already know all this. We’re just being thorough!

  9. Put some time into postureThis is another key area that, despite a lot of shared knowledge and experience, can sometimes be overlooked among drivers. Good posture is essential to everyone’s health. When you sit for as long as you do, however, it’s even more important. Take the time to adjust your seat. Don’t be afraid to experiment with support pillows or other specialized items engineered to help you stay comfortable. Finally, take note of when you might be getting too tired, and therefore are slumping -- it might be time to stretch, and/or to grab that iced tea!

  10. Trade fashion for comfortSure, you can have the best of both worlds. We encourage that. But if you have to choose, looser garments will always serve you better during a long drive. Tight clothing can cause chafing or contribute to overheating. Beyond this, if you’re battling occasional aches and pains in the legs or elsewhere, copy your favorite athletes. Compression clothing can help reduce inflammation and keep circulation going.

  11. Don’t forget to feed your brainThe long hours on the road can be meditative, or stressful, or even just-plain-boring. In the moments between these states (maybe also when you’re bored) it can help your mood and your health to keep your mind (somewhat) active. Take some time when you aren’t working to put together a playlist of favorite songs to keep you company, explore popular podcasts, or try out an audiobook. Our first priority should always be safe driving, but for the long straightaways, it can be relaxing or stimulating to feed the mind while the body is busy working.

  12. Avoid stress-eatingOkay, so we aren’t done talking about food. This one is important, though. We know life and work can get stressful. But eating to keep our emotions in check can backfire quickly. Having those planned meals and healthy snacks available helps keep us from doing this. And no one is perfect. Still, it can be helpful to ask, when we’re compelled to eat something that we might know is unhealthy (or to eat when we aren’t hungry) -- if we can do something else instead. Such as...

  13. MeditationThis is important -- do not meditate while driving. It’s too relaxing, and usually starts with closing your eyes. Before and between your routes, however, meditation can be an amazing tool for your managing stress, and improving your physical health and your mood. It’s not quite a popular as protein bars yet, but it’s getting there. Finally, it’s never been easier to try this relaxation technique. Search the app store for your phone and you are sure to find a great (free, at least to start) option. Again, your favorite athletes do it. Why not you?

  14. Don’t text and driveWe know we probably don’t have to tell you this. But it’s so important. Texting and driving is illegal and extremely dangerous. It’s not worth your job, or your life, to read or respond to that message. Catch up with friends and family on your breaks. The same goes for app use. It can wait. If it can’t, pull over.

Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips to add to what we’ve shared here today? Feel free to comment with your feedback, or to share your experiences with any of these methods.

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