Do you ever get that tired heavy feeling when you are behind the wheel of a car, or while traveling on an airplane? You spend hours in the car each day commuting to work or driving kids from one activity to the next, meanwhile, contemplating the workout you didn’t have time for that morning. How much will this impact your muscle strength and development? What about flexibility? The more you sit in the car the more frustrated and aggravated you get. Sound familiar? If you’re anything like me, multitasking is not a luxury, but more of a necessity. There is a way to sneak at least a portion of a workout in while driving. Even during this busy holiday season, there should be no excuse to miss your workout. Now obviously you’ll need to use some discretion and stay safe behind the wheel, but bringing oxygen to your cells with simple blood flow exercises will actually keep your metabolism burning and your mood in check!
Your first ‘traveling’ workout will start with stretching your facial muscles – raise your eyebrows, give a big smile and then pull up the muscles in your neck. You may not realize how important it is to keep the blood flowing in your facial muscles. I personally am not a huge fan of wrinkles. This is one very easy way to keep those wrinkles from forming into deep lines. And another thing, when you put on that huge smile with teeth showing, say OUT LOUD: “I feel great!” Just do it. No matter how you are actually feeling, you will instantly feel better, guaranteed. Creating this action actually causes your brain to believe it. You can stretch your neck by turning far left then returning to center and then turning far right. Do this several times. You can look from ceiling to floor ending with your chin on your chest. Keep your eyes on the road though! Right after the face and neck, instantly improve your posture by sitting tall. Adjust the rear view mirror so you must sit tall to see and then adjust the seat back as well. Pull in your stomach and lift your chest. Sit proud. Remember, performing the action causes belief, so if you sit proud, you will be and feel proud. Next, Stretch your arms and shoulders by moving your arms to the front and then to the side pulling your shoulder blades together. Now, one arm at a time you can bend your arm at the elbow, raise it above your head and with the opposite hand pull the elbow back stretching the triceps muscle. (If you are the driver, always keep one hand on the wheel). Kegel exercises can be incorporated into a workout in the car or wherever you may be sitting. And the cool part is, no one will know, it’s your little secret! Without using your gluteal muscles (buttocks) draw up the pelvic floor muscles while pulling in your belly button. These are the same muscles you would use to stop your urine mid-stream. Although there are MANY benefits to doing this for us women, guys-this is for you too. You need to keep the blood flowing to that prostate. For me, the easiest way to remember the amazing kegels is to do them at every stop light.
Ankle exercises will keep the blood in your lower extremities flowing and will help to prevent blood clots in the lower legs. Use this especially when you are driving long distances or flying. Make sure that your feet are not near the pedals, and simply circle your feet. If you are at a stoplight you can make this more interesting by drawing out the alphabet with your foot (and even more interesting by doing your kegels at the same time!). Using the alphabet routine will also improve your proprioception/balance.
Next do some toe curls to prevent fluid build-up in your feet. Just wiggle your toes, or curl and hold (don’t hold long enough to cause a cramp).
After all of that, go back to your eyes. Your eyes receive more strain than any other body part while driving. I realize it is a bit odd to think of eye relaxation as part of a workout in the car but here me out. Avoid looking down the road for long periods of time. Instead alternate where you are looking. Try a routine where you look ahead down the road, glance to the rear view mirror, ahead and then down to the instrument panel (check that speed limit!) and then ahead and to the rearview mirrors on the exterior of the car. Repeating this process will also keep your neck from becoming stiff leading to spinal problems or aggravating TMJ.
You can continue to improve the shape and tone of your body by doing these simple exercises in the car or on the plane if you’re consistent. So the next time you are stuck in traffic or spending the day driving from one end of the city to the next, use this time to refresh yourself by moving the blood around your body. You’ll actually feel good and look refreshed when you get where you’re going!