Disclaimer: I am not a medical or fitness professional. This post relates my own experience and is not medical/fitness advice; please do not take it as such. Also, don’t take medical advice from an engineer, just as a general rule.
A couple months ago I drove a long way by myself – probably 4,000+ miles by the time I got back home. I’ve also driven from Texas to Nevada (with help) and Nevada to Montana (by myself). Both without cruise control, may I add. (Tip #0: drive a car with cruise control if at all possible.) And those are just the really long road trips. So while I’m not a medical expert, I am a self-proclaimed road trip expert. So, you know that stiff, can-I-even-straighten-my-legs feeling you get after a long day in the car? I’ve got some tips to help minimize the damage.
Stop for a walk.
I know – this will make your long trip even longer. It will also make your legs feel functional again. So next time you have a long drive ahead, find one or two spots where you can stop and perambulate. It’s nice if there’s a National Park
or an interesting monument along the way,
but if not you can always find a city park
or a cute downtown.
Seriously, if you ignore everything else on this list, go for a walk. Your joints will thank you.
Move around in your seat. Move your seat around.
Because you’ll feel a little less like you’ve been sitting in the same position for 12 hours if you haven’t been sitting in the exact same position. Sit up straighter. Slouch. Move the seat a little bit forward or backward. Recline the seat a bit or make it more upright. Stretch one leg at a time to full length. Find something in the car that’s comfortable to sit on top of. As long as it’s safe and makes you more comfortable, you should probably do it.
Clench your butt muscles.
Okay, this one’s a bit weird. Or a lot weird. But whenever my low back starts getting achy, clenching my butt muscles for a minute or so alleviates the pain. Plus you can count it as exercise kinda.
Sleep in a real bed.
I briefly considered camping along the way during my recent road trip. But let’s face it: who wants to set up a tent and sleep on an air mattress (or worse) at the end of a long day of driving? You’ll most likely sleep better in a real bed, which means you’ll feel more awake and less stiff for the next day’s drive. Get the hotel room. (Or crash with a friend.)
Give yourself a massage.
I threw a couple sets of these deep tissue massage balls into my road trip bag at the last minute, and I was so glad I did. (Deep Recovery gifted me their whole body kit to try out, but I’m sharing because I truly found it useful. All opinions are my own.) Using the balls at the end of the day – especially on my upper back – really helped work out the stiffness. And you can do this while lying on your hotel room floor watching TV, which I totally did. Next time I’ll bring the body track along with the balls, as balls like to roll and the track makes it easier to keep them in place.
The whole kit will obviously give you the most options, but I found the firm (green) ball set to be the most versatile if you want to try out a single firmness. They work for most situations – I’ve used them post-run, post-hike, and post-yoga, and of course just at the end of a long day (check out the instructional videos for all the ways you can use these massage balls). They’re also a good firmness level for most muscle groups, although I found them a bit too intense for my upper back (which is very tense – most people would probably be fine). I would have preferred a bit more intensity for some of the lower body muscles, but Deep Recovery recently launched a Kickstarter to remedy that – it’s a larger size massage ball that will work better on large muscle groups like the glutes and hamstrings.
Deep Recovery is also giving away a set of their sport massage balls to two of my readers, so you can try them out for yourself. Enter using the widget below – U.S. addresses only, sorry, international friends! The winner will be selected next Friday, July 28.
What’s the longest road trip you’ve been on? Best tips?
Do you use self massage tools?