6 Tips for Surviving Long Car Trips

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I like to keep my yoga mat, sneakers and some light weights easily accessible for quick, energy-boosting hotel workouts before embarking on 12-hour drives.

Whether you’re making the 7-hour trek to Joe’s Valley for the weekend or driving coast-to-coast in less than a week, long days in the car are rough. However, YOU have the power to make them less terrible and even productive.

Here’s How:

Tip 1: Listen to Podcasts!

Having driven from New Hampshire to California and back and then from Vermont to Colorado in the past three months, I’ve learned that much of the country’s radio stations consist of Christian pop, Christian talk and country music entertainment. I’m more of an independent radio and NPR fan, which often leaves me with “nothing” to listen to in much of the Midwest and parts of Utah. (I thought National Public Radio was broadcast nationwide, but it turns out there are many “dead zones.”) This is where podcasts come in. I would have gone crazy last week driving solo for 32 hours in three days without them.

Here are my favorites:

The Moth Radio Hour – If you love stories on any and every topic imaginable, then check out The Moth. Each podcast is a collection of stories told live and without notes at Moth story slams and other Moth events around the world.

The Power Company – Interviews with “industry leaders on nutrition, movement, performance, and all aspects of training, both physical and mental.” Wine and other “beverages” are often involved, so you know the hosts are being truthful 😉

The Enormocast – Candid interviews with professional climbers hosted by Chris Kalous.

Training Beta – Interviews with professional and “average” climbers and climbing trainers and physios on their latest workouts, nutrition advice and injury prevention exercises.

Fat Burning Man – Interviews with a variety of nutritionists, trainers and mental health coaches on topics ranging from “The Dude Diet, Cooking for NFL Pros and Terrific Nachos” to “How to Conquer Fear, Overcome Anxiety and Eat Bacon“.

Tip 2: Work Your Fingers

This is best done if you’re the bored passenger, but a few of the below exercises can be performed while driving too–all you need is a rubber band and/or some Power Putty. As “Climbing Injuries Solved” author  Dr. Lisa Erikson explains in the videos below, these are great exercises for overall hand strength and coordination that will help keep you injury free.

Warning: These exercises are not overly interesting. However, they are important for long-term hand and finger health, and, let’s be honest, there’s no better time to master them than while you’re stuck in the car.

Tip 3: Stretch Out With Yoga At the Beginning and/or End of Each Day:

I always feel TERRIBLE after 12-plus (even 6-plus) hours in the car. My behind is sore, legs are stiff, back is tight and my stomach often feels a bit strange too. However, after just 20 minutes of easy yoga I feel 300 percent better. I always keep my yoga mat easily accessible for a few wake-up sun salutations before getting on the road or a vinyasa flow session at the end of a long sedentary day. Most hotel rooms have (sometimes just) enough space to lie out one’s mat, and many rest stops have concrete pavilions or unused sections of sidewalk for yoga and/or stretching sessions if you’re sleeping in your vehicle.

Moving through a quick yoga-inspired core workout or flow sequence also makes me feel like I “did something,” despite sitting for the majority of the day, which is helpful for fidgety, type-A individuals like myself who have a hard time taking too many complete rest days in a row.

Tip 4: EAT!

Just because you’re sitting in the car all day doesn’t mean you don’t need to fuel your body. Being hungry will make only make you tired (dangerous if you’re driving), grumpy, and slow your body’s ability to recover before you reach your next climbing destination. Make sure to keep healthy, easy-to-eat snacks (fruit, carrot sticks, whole grain nut butter sandwiches and hard boiled eggs) in the car, so you can feel good about the nutrients you’re putting in your body (for recovery!) instead of worrying about mindlessly eating an entire bag of gas station Doritos.

Tip 5: Do Quick Hotel Workouts

If you’re on the road for two or more days, it’s helpful to take even 30 minutes to do a short workout to keep your energy up and maintain the fitness you’ve worked hard to achieve–though you won’t actually lose any muscle or fitness sitting in the car for two or three days. Yoga helps to get your blood flowing and loosen tight muscles, but adding in an extra 20 minutes of core to your wake-up routine or some bodyweight or light dumbbell strength training can go a long way (especially mentally) to keep you feeling fit.

My favorite no equipment core workout:

Tip 6: Accept a “Built-In” Rest Day or Two

It’s crucial  to take a day or two off (every week!) to let your body recover. Making your days in the car “count” as your rest days is great for helping you relax and accept automobile imprisonment and ensuring you’ll have energy to climb and train hard when you reach your destination.

Happy Travels!

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