I know you’re thinking, exercise…who has time for exercise! There may not be much time for traditional exercising, but you can find time to stretch throughout the day.
While the average individual may spend 1-2 hours behind the wheel getting to and from work the professional driver spends anywhere from 8-12 hour behind the wheel. With so much time spent driving there is a greater risk for the professional driver to experience a sore or stiff spine, neck, and shoulders.
Stretching keeps your muscles strong and healthy. It is key for helping your muscles remain flexible, which is needed to maintain a range of motion in the joints. When muscles are not stretched out daily, they can shorten and become tight. Then, when you are active, your muscles will be weak and unable to extend, putting you at risk for strains, sprains, joint pain and muscle damage. Sitting for long periods can also lead to other things, such as blood clots which can form due to reduced blood flow from lack of muscle movement. Stiffness and soreness usually indicate a tight muscle or a muscle spasm, and when muscles are in this state, it causes a greater risk of strains and sprains. It also causes us to want to move less when we really need to move more.
After spending time behind the wheel, it is important to take a few moments to stretch before doing anything else. Stretching does several things to keep you limber and to reduce the chance of injury:
- Increases flexibility and your range of motion, allowing you to move better.
- Increases blood flow to your muscles, reducing stiffness or tightness.
- Improves circulation, thereby lowering the chances of blood clots.
- Healthy blood flow also reduces muscle fatigue and fatigue in general.
The next time you stop, take a few minutes to stretch your muscles. Your body will be better prepared to do what you need to do whether you are climbing up or down from the truck, unhooking your trailer, moving freight or reacting to a driving emergency.
When it comes to stretching, it’s important to use proper technique and take it slow. Remember to stretch slowly and avoid bouncy or jerking movements. Go only to the point where you feel mild tension, it should not hurt.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, or you have any concerns.
Try the following basic stretches.
If your wrists feel tight, try using your steering wheel to apply pressure in a backward motion to loosen the tendons on the interior wrist by flexing your hand/fingers up and back. To stretch the posterior wrist, use your opposite hand to pull down on your hand/fingers. Hold each stretch for ten seconds and repeat each hold two to three times.
Reaching over your head, grab the opposite side of you head just above your ear and gently pull it towards the shoulder doing the reaching. This should relieve neck tension and upper shoulder tightness. Repeat with your opposite arm.
Help relieve the stress and tension from your shoulder area by performing shoulder shrugs. Perform this exercise while stopped at a red light or on a lunch or dinner break. To perform the exercise, lift your shoulders up to your ears as if you’re saying “I don’t know.” Hold the position for a few seconds then release. Perform 10 to 15 reps throughout the day whenever you are feeling tensed or stressed.
With one arm straight across your chest, use your other arm to pull the first arm towards your chest. This will stretch your shoulder and triceps. Repeat with your opposite arm.
While standing beside your vehicle place one palm on your vehicle, with your fingers pointing up. With your arm extended and slightly bent, rotate your body away for your vehicle. You will feel the stretch in your arms and chest. Repeat with the opposite arm.
Facing your truck, press the heels of your hands against the truck, step back, and bend at the waist to form a right angle with your body and legs. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and your spine. This stretch is best to do after you warm up by walking around for a few minutes.
With toes pointing in the same direction, take a large step forward with one leg. Bend your front leg at the knee and slowly sink your body down until comfortable, making sure not to let the front knee go beyond the front toes. Repeat, slowly, with the other leg or try a walking lunge. For balance, try keeping your hands on your hips. This stretch is best to do after you warm up by walking around for a few minutes.
Classic Quad Stretch
Standing on one slightly bent leg, reach behind yourself to grab your raised leg—just above your ankle—and pull your heel towards the center of your glutes. Hold and repeat with your opposite leg. This stretch is best to do after you warm up by walking around for a few minutes.