How to unstiffen on a long drive (& a giveaway!)

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.

How to unstiffen when you're on a long drive

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What’s the longest road trip you’ve been on? Best tips?

Do you use self massage tools?


Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday & Thinking Out Loud & Friday Five 

18 Comment

  1. I tried commenting, but I do n’t think it went through…here’s attempt #2. Anyways, I’m a tall gal (5’9) and my long legs do NOT enjoy long car trips. I always have to stop every couple of hours and get out and walk a bit.

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I’m short enough to stretch my legs out in the car, but it’s no substitute for actually walking around!

  2. Karen says: Reply

    I thought I commented also. Here is second attempt- longest trip was probably Texas to Glacier National Park via the Grand Canyon with 3 children ages 6 and under. I didn’t do all the driving, but that still counts, right? It’s always good to pack snacks and most meals so you can stop at parks to eat and stretch. It helps, especially when traveling with children. Gotta get the wiggles out.

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I definitely remember that as 2 separate trips, so I guess it seemed extra long to a 6 yr old.

  3. Awesome tips! I took an 8 hour trip less than a week after having surgery at the beginning of the month and moving around and getting out for a walk was essential! I also brought some tools with me to massage my muscles!
    Annmarie recently posted…How to Train for Reebok Ragnar Relay AdirondacksMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Ouch, that sounds extra rough!

  4. I do not do well at all on long car rides! I get so stiff and I have to literally beg my hubs to stop so I can walk around for a bit. Great tips
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…How To Build A Post Race First Aid KitMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      The best part of doing long drives alone is that I can stop whenever I want…of course the worst part is that no one else is there to drive!

  5. This post was made for me. I am not a fan of long road trips because of two reasons:
    1. I get way too antsy after sitting that long
    2. I hate how sore and stiff I am after sitting that long
    I would definitely use those sports massage balls on long road trips back home and after sitting for a while at work.

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      The post-work massage does sound nice!
      Hannah recently posted…How to unstiffen on a long drive (& a giveaway!)My Profile

  6. Kim G says: Reply

    I definitely agree about getting out for a walk. It’s never good to sit for hours on end!
    Kim G recently posted…5 Reasons to Try Nuzest Protein PowderMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Walking makes such a big difference!

  7. Those massage balls are a great idea!
    Thanks for linking up!

    1. Hannah says: Reply


  8. I don’t know that I ever do myofascial release. I have tried rolling in the past but I never stuck with it consistently. The massage balls are a great idea for travel. I spent a couple days with back pain after my last long drive.

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I’ve never been good about rolling either!

  9. Farrah says: Reply

    hahaha, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does these things! I hateeee long car rides and those are some great tips on how to cope with em’! Thanks for the giveaway! :]
    Farrah recently posted…Refresh Your Summer Skin with Ausome Hydrating Double MistMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I actually like driving by myself (weird, I know), so I have to remind myself how awful I’ll feel if I don’t stop.

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