I love everything about traveling in a motorhome except for the long hours sitting while we drive from point A to point B. Even when I am passing the time looking at enchanting scenery and listening to engrossing audiobooks, it is still too much sitting for me.
An article in Men’s Health called sitting “the most dangerous thing you’ll do all day.” Researchers found that people who sit more than 23 hours a week are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. They are also more likely to suffer lower back pain.
That may explain why my lower back hurts like the dickens when we travel. Well, maybe the four 2-inch screws and two rods that connected my L3 to L4 during a spinal fusion 18 months ago have something to do with it, too. Usually, I am active enough to keep discomfort at bay. When the motor-home is stationary, I am seldom sedentary.
To compound the problem, the foods we eat while driving aren’t as healthy as what we normally eat. Before we bought our first motorhome in 2002, I’d never eaten a lunch consisting solely of puffed corn snacks and diet cola. I’m embarrassed to admit that combo is now our semi-standard fare of “traveling food.”
This all boils down to a predictable weight gain of several pounds when we travel. Enough already!
I’m not the only one who has had this problem. Jodie Ginter logged more than 250,000 miles during the six years she explored North America as a full-time RVer. Along the way she gained 20 pounds. An interest in fitness led her to become a certified personal trainer. To help other people stay fit while on the road, she created a DVD titled “Jodie Ginter’s RV Fitness,” a 20-minute total body workout.
I met Ginter during a recent visit to Tucson, Ariz. She showed my husband, Jim, and me a workout that requires no special equipment and very little space. The exercises can be done in a chair, standing or on the floor. Many of the chair exercises can be done while riding in the passenger’s seat. Start with two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions and work up to three sets of 15 reps.
If you haven’t exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you’ll want to talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
Sit up straight on the edge of a chair with knees at a 90-degree angle. Keep abs tight to maintain good posture. Straighten your right leg, keeping your toes pointed upward. Bend knee and touch your foot to the floor. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides. This exercise works the quadriceps.
Sit upright at the edge of a chair with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Lift your bent knee straight up and down. Maintain a straight, strong posture and flex your foot. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, and then switch sides. This exercise works the quadriceps.
Reverse Chair Crunches
Sit tall in a chair with your arms down at the side for support. Keep your abs tight. Bring your knees up toward your chest, then push them out without touching the floor. This exercise works the abdominal muscles.
Put your arms out in front of you at shoulder height, as if you are hugging a tree. Keep your elbows up. If you want to use some light weights, hold 15-ounce cans. Bring arms out and back, then bring them together with palms facing each other. This exercise works pectoral muscles.
Hold small weights in one or both hands. Improvise with whatever you have available. Put a soup can in each hand or a bottle of syrup in one, supporting your elbow with the other. Raise arms overhead, keeping elbows close to ears. Slowly lower the weights behind you, then raise them to the starting position.
Seated Knee-to-Chest Stretch
With a hand behind your knee, pull knee into chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. This exercise stretches the lower back.
From a seated position, drop your head to your knees and let your hands fall to your feet or the floor. This position stretches the lower back.
Stand a few feet back from a wall or flat surface like a refrigerator. With arms at shoulder height, place your hands on the wall. Lean forward with your whole body, coming up on the balls of your fees and keeping your abs tight. The farther your feet are from the wall, the better workout you’ll get. This exercise works the chest, triceps and upper back.
Do this exercise while standing at a sink or using a chair back for balance. With your feet slightly apart, rise up on the balls of your feet. Squeeze your abs, glutes and calves. Raise and lower 12 to 15 times. On the last rise, hold for 10 seconds or so. When you finish, stretch your calves by putting one foot forward, flex foot with toes up and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the other calf.
Stand with feet slightly apart, using a counter or chair for support. Keep abs tight. Raise one leg behind you, until your foot is 3 to 4 inches off the floor. Don’t arch your back. Repeat for the other leg. You should feel this in your glutes.
Stand with your abs tight. Raise your knee so that your thigh is at a 90-degree angle to your body, and your thigh is at a 90-degree angle to your calf. Next, extend your leg with your toes pointed. This exercise works your quads. Repeat 10 to 15 times before lowering the leg. Repeat with other leg.
With one hand on a table or chair back for support, lift one foot behind you. Grasp your ankle and gently pull your heel up. You will feel a stretch in your quads. Tighten your abs and keep your knees close together. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Lying on your side with your legs straight, stack your feet on top of each other. Your hips and shoulders should be aligned vertically to the floor. Lift the top leg up and slightly back. Slowly return leg to starting position. Do this 10 to 15 times with each leg. A second set could be done with the upper foot in a pigeon-toed position.
Lie on your stomach with arms bent and elbows close to your sides, palms down and fingers facing forward. Lift your torso and thighs off the floor, keeping your body in a straight line as long as possible. You can leave your knees on the floor for a half plank. This exercise strengthens your core.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the floor, keeping stomach tight. Hold for a count of five. Repeat for 10 to 15 times. This exercise strengthens your glutes, back and abs.
Ginter also had some advice for eating sensibly while on the road. It’s important to plan ahead. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll probably end up eating junk food. I can attest to that. Prepare your lunches and snacks in the morning. Pay attention to serving sizes for snacks. A single 160-calorie serving of Cheetos is 21 pieces. Count them before you start eating. Here are some ideas for easy, healthy traveling food:
-Lettuce wraps with turkey and hummus
-Sweet baby bell peppers
-Sugar snap peas
-Peeled baby carrots
-Single serving microwave popcorn
-One handful whole almonds
Not long after our session with Ginter, we had three days to drive 1,000 miles in the motorhome. I challenged myself to exercise and eat right during the road trip. Every hour or so, I did some of the chair exercises. The stretches were especially helpful. When we stopped, I did standing or floor exercises or took a quick walk around outside.
I also planned for healthier eating on the road. I stocked the refrigerator with bite-size raw vegetables and fruit. Before we set out each morning, I prepared an easy-to-eat lunch, such as lettuce wraps with hummus and turkey. To my delight, I found that a single piece of crystallized ginger would satisfy my sweet tooth, whereas a dozen dark chocolate almonds would just whet my appetite. I drank water
instead of soft drinks.
I’m happy to report that on this trip my back didn’t hurt nearly as much as it did the last time we traveled for three days, and my weight didn’t go up either. Ginter’s advice helped make those long travel days much more pleasurable. Now I’m enjoying the journey and the destination, and loving all parts of the motorhome lifestyle.