Road trips are fun. Spontaneous adventures, ever-changing scenery, good tunes and good times—but they aren’t the healthiest of travel options.
Road trips typically involve long periods of stagnancy and way too much greasy food. But they don’t have to be unhealthy. With a little foresight, you can incorporate good habits into your car ride to make it a little less rough on your body.
Packing your own meals is the ideal food option, since you know exactly how you should eat and can cater to your tastes. Think sandwiches, fruit, veggies, nuts, granola, etc. Be sure to use a cooler with some ice packs (frozen water bottles are a good option, too, and when it melts down you’re left with nice, cold water).
Look Beyond the Golden Arches
You’re likely to come across many service stations with fast food along your route, but consider taking a little detour for some better options. Do a little research into some of the stops along your route ahead of time. There might be some small towns along the way that have some killer health-food restaurants. Not only will you get a better meal, but you’ll also get to explore some new places and meet some locals.
Another option is to hit up a grocery store. Many grocery stores offer easy to-go options, which can be healthier and cheaper than fast food (depending on your choice). Some grocery stores, like Whole Foods and Wegmans, offer pretty extensive salad bar and ready-to-eat options that have more variety and nutrients than your standard fast food stop.
Make Smart Choices
Sometimes, fast food is simply the only feasible option. Luckily, fast food chains are starting to smarten up and offer healthy (or at least healthier) meals. It’s up to you to make those choices, though. Go for a salad (and be smart about the dressing), a smoothie (if there isn’t too much added sugar), oatmeal, chilli, soup, etc. A grilled chicken sandwich is better than a Double Down burger. You can also try to stop at a rest station with a Subway or another sandwich restaurant, where you can load up on veggies (though skip the processed cheese and heavy condiments).
Take Mandatory Exercise Breaks
Schedule mandatory get-outside breaks at least every two hours. Find somewhere you can pull over and move around for ten or fifteen minutes. Try walking through a park or along a trail, running a few laps in a large field, or jumping jacks in a parking lot if you don’t have much space. Moving your body will make you feel better physically and will increase your mental alertness, which is always good when you’re driving long distances.
Stretch It Out
Nothing feels better than a good stretch after sitting in one position for a long time. Stretch your neck by tilting it left and right and looking up and down (hold in each position for 20 seconds before releasing, and repeat a few times). Reach your arms up and stretch down to touch your toes. Roll your shoulders and do a few spine twists. Be sure to take the time to stretch out at regular intervals to prevent extra soreness later.
Once you’ve finished driving for the day, bust out a few yoga poses for an extra deep stretch. Cobra or upward dog will feel incredible.
Exercise To Go
Exercise can be incorporated throughout your road trip, even when you’re behind the wheel. Work your core by contracting your abs, squeeze a towel or pillow between your knees, or squeeze your glutes. Hold these poses for a few seconds before releasing and repeating.
Work Out at Layovers
When do you stop driving, incorporate physical activity into your plans. Go for a run to explore the local neighborhoods, go on a bike tour, or find some gardens to meander. If you’re staying at a hotel, find one with a pool or a fitness center.
Ergonomics are Your Friend
Minimize discomfort by maximizing correct posture. Small adjustments in the way you drive can have big effects on your body. For instance:
- Position your seat forward or backward so that you can push down on the foot pedals without coming away from the seat back.
- At the correct seat height, your hips should be at the same height as your knees (if you are too low, try sitting on a cushion or wedge).
- Sit upright and lean your head back against the head rest.
- Your steering wheel should be adjusted so that you don’t need to reach forward to hold it (which can cause strain on your upper back and neck).
And here’s a smart tip: make sure your back pockets are empty: something like a bulky wallet can cause your pelvis to twist slightly, which you’ll really feel after a few hours.