Summer Road Trips: A guide to keeping limber

With the summer sun finally making her appearance here in Portland, you may be dreaming of hitting the open road. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But it could be a real pain.

Ever wonder why, after hours on the road, when you reach your final destination you feel so icky? Your neck and shoulders may be stiff and sore, you’re tired, you may even have pain or numbness in your low back or legs. To top it all off your mouth and eyes have gone dry.

Driver or passenger, a road trip means sitting, practically immobile, for hours on end. Just like when you’re perched over your laptop for hours at a time, being hunched over the steering wheel or crammed in the passenger seat can have some of the same effects.

Here are some tips on how to make your time on the road almost as fun as reaching your destination. Helping you to stay limber, alert, hydrated and hopefully, pain-free.

As always, safety comes first, so while some of these exercises are perfect for the passenger, do not attempt them as a driver.

Try the suggestions listed below and experiment to see what fits your style and most importantly what interests you — this will be key in helping you to continue to do them.

  • Alternate drivers, this can make a long drive more bearable, giving you much needed breaks as well as a different perspective.
  • Dance — Play music and and “dance” in place while sitting in the car. Squeezing your glutes one cheek at a time and shifting back and forth from one cheek to the other, while moving your shoulders, pulling in your stomach, dance until you are tired.This exercise not only works the glutes, it also gets the circulation going once again, relieving numbness, soreness and even low back pain, too.
  • Isometric (resistance) Exercises to work your arms. Start with your hands at nine and three on the steering wheel and press inward with your arms. Hold for five counts, but keep the tension out of your neck. Repeat four times, and then move your hands to 10 and two and repeat. Changing positions of your hands will work different muscle groups, hold and repeat an equal number of times.
  • Shoulder shrugs, lift your shoulders up toward your ears, hold for 8 to 10 seconds, and lower. Repeat.
  • Toe raises help work the muscles on the front of your shins (this works whether you are driving or a passenger). Lift toes, hold 10 seconds, relax and repeat, alternate feet (but only if you drive an automatic equipped with cruise control!)
  • Squeeze your abdominals as though you’re trying to touch your spine to your stomach, hold for a few seconds, then release and sit-up tall. This works and strengthens your belly muscles and can be done while stuck in traffic.
  • Tighten or draw back your shoulder blades, holding for a count of 5 then releasing.

The following are Passenger ONLY exercises (too dangerous as the driver!):

  • Strengthen your inner thighs. Place a small pillow (or rolled up hoodie or blanket) between your feet. Try to lift the item off the ground and squeeze your legs together at the same time.
  • Knees Squeeze — Using that same “pillow” place it between your knees and squeeze, Hold and release, repeat.
  • Heel Raises — Place a bag or stack of magazines on your lap to perform heel raises. Lift heels, hold for 8-10 seconds. Relax then repeat.

Remember, like with anything related to your body, the most important thing you can do to stay limber is to move.

Make sure you stop regularly, even if it’s only on the side of the road. Getting out of your car, walking around it and getting back in you allows your body to become more centered and brings awareness to the areas that are tensing up.

Remember, just like tips we gave regarding computer strain and muscle tension–  you don’t have to go far, just allow your body to change positions completely so you can take stock of how you feel and make adjustments.

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