Here goes! My first post will address the dicey matter of long car rides – when back health can be challenging at best, and vacation-ruining at worst. I returned Sunday from a 1,000+ mile road trip from Salt Lake City to Missoula Montana (Go Griz!) We went for the homecoming football game and spent WAY too much time at the best bar ever – Charlie B’s! (think row after row of haunting photo portraits of regulars on the walls and a cajun cafe in the back!)
I will list some favorite back health survival tips below, but what I really want to address is the most important thing you can do to stay pain-free on the road – pre-emptive exercise.
Before I left last week, I put in three core exercise routines at the gym, two lifting sessions (light weights, high reps), two miles of brisk walking and about 24 miles of bike riding (mostly commuting ). The last core routine was accomplished on the day I left, Thursday, so my back was thoroughly primed to handle the abuse of stuffing my 6-5 frame into the surprisingly small cab of a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.
This attention to exercise before the trip allowed me to survive one night in a sagging bed in Butte (we only made it that far Thursday), then two nights on a hotel floor in Missoula sleeping on two Thermorest inflatable mattresses (two keeps your hips from aching and it’s firmer than most hotel beds), more than 1,000 miles of driving and a ridiculous amount of dehydrating beer drinking (did I mention, Go Griz?!)
Here’s some other tips to save your back on long drives:
1. Get your buddies to drive – the stress of concentrating at high speed for a long time will stress out your back, big time – not to mention all of the footwork with the pedals while sitting in an awkward position.
2. Drink a TON of water – particularly if you had a ton of beer on said trip. In fact, hydrate like crazy – it will give you an excuse to get out and stretch your legs at rest areas. I often use a supplement electrolyte replacement called nuun (pronounced “noon”) as well.
3. Stretch on the way, as much as possible. Touch your toes, put your heels on curbs and lean to get the hamstrings and don’t forget the calves and ankles (just find a handy wall).
4. When you get to your destination – do some walking! I hiked up to the “M” above the stadium on game day and got a great view for my trouble. Spend ten minutes walking every time you stop for gas/food or bathroom breaks, as well.
5. Ice. Get yourself a trusty belt ice back (I’ll have a separate post on this later) and use it – you can keep it cold in a cooler while on the road.