Picking up Your Off-Road Physique

Off-Road Fitness

Mar. 01, 2007 By Katrina Ramser
How to sneak in easy exercises when in route to an outdoor adventure. If you are involved in the off-road sports world – be it as a professional competitor, avid outdoors person, or supportive family member – you know about going the distance for your destination. Your muscles do very little to accumulate these miles, unless you count using a foot to put the pedal to the metal. For the most part there is no need to lift any other body part when laying down tire tread from Birmingham to Baja.

Being on the road is no excuse to pass up your daily dose of exercise, but ways to cruise past the government-recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week are as lengthily as the road is long, from tight timeframes to unfamiliar surroundings. Unfortunately, your body keeps on trucking under traveler’s temptations and it’s usually not down the physical and mental road we’d like it to take. Sometimes it’s even one that leads to obesity and other serious diseases such as diabetes.

Fitness habits can get thrown out the window when traveling, but the truth of the matter is on-the-road exercises are easy to create.

Mapping Out Your Moves
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A fitness plan is one of the most important items you can pack for the road. Photo by ORC

It is unlikely you will start a new exercise regime while on the road. “Since there are so many unknowns that can show up when traveling, I will try to prepare for workouts before I even get on the road, “ said Kelly Forrister, Senior Presenter for the David Allen Company, a professional training, coaching, and management consulting organization. Although she travels about 120 days a year, she still finds time to train for sprint triathlons and local running races.

Try starting with what you know and what you enjoy. Professional rock racer and crawler Weston Blackie of Boulder, Colorado, uses a combination of stretches he learned during his high school cross-country years. “If we are going to call rock crawling and rock racing sports, then we might as well train for them,” he said.

Sweeney's book features easy 10-minute solutions to fitting in fitness. Photo courtesy of Joe Sweeney

Joe Sweeney, personal trainer and speaker on fitness and motivation, advised to keep your road workout simple but moving. “Any exercise is better than no exercise,” he advised. Sweeney is the author of the award-winning book, I KNOW I SHOULD EXERCISE, BUT... 7 Steps to Removing Your "But" From Exercise (Pacific Valley Press), available at bookstores and www.joesweeney.com.

Our experts know the key is to not let the travel situation control your attitude and choices. Seizing opportunities to exercise are easy to locate because they occur as frequently as your next gas stop, overnight stay, or even the next mile logged.

Quick Exercises For Quick Stops

You’ll be able to refuel both your vehicle and body if you are willing to expand your stop at the pump or restaurant by just ten to fifteen minutes – and lower your tailgate.

  • Sweeney recommends an exercise that begins by facing away from the tailgate and placing hands on the tailgate, hands wide apart. Step forward 2-3 feet and pull abdominals in as you lift your chest toward the sky, holding for 10-30 seconds. “This improves posture and opens the chest,” said Sweeney.
  • The tailgate can continue to be a prop for several different leg movements from squats to alternating leg stretches. Blackie does a simple calf stretch by holding one ankle from behind.
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By lowering your tailgate between stops, you can perform a variety of exercises. Photo by ORC

Although Blackie and spotter Mike Binney find themselves driving 24-hours straight in a 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 to an off-road venue, the diesel engine must get its fuel, and there is their chance. Repeat, alternate and vary exercises at each stop.

What a Difference a Days Inn Makes

Staying overnight at a location increases your exercise options and timeframes from the minute you step outside your truck.

  • Room Workouts. Take advantage of the workout amenities in your motel room, even if they are limited to a pay-per-view channel featuring an exercise show. Play an MTV video or just turn on the radio and perform jumping jacks, squats, marching in place, or just dance. Five or six songs later and you’ve put in 30 minutes of physical activity.
  • Homemade Stairmaster. At the very least, request a hotel room on the second floor and run up and down the stairs upon arrival or departure, even it is to just grab ice or transfer belongings from the car or room.
  • Walking. Be it a campsite or motel, it is possible to circle the vicinity of where you are staying by walking. Sweeney mentioned walking 5-10 minutes before a meal and even after. “If you plan to walk for 10-20 after eating, you won't eat so much,” he said.

Try and get your exercise over with in the morning. At the end of a long driving day, you might be too exhausted to follow through.

Offset Cab Fever
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Author and personal trainer Joe Sweeney recommends this simple calf muscle stretch. Photo by ORC

Fewer than 46% of Americans surveyed in a 2003 government study said they get the recommended amount of exercise. If you’re willing to do some movement – even if motivation strikes you behind the wheel – you can turn your exercise statistic around.

  • Exercising while seated in the vehicle begins with your posture. Note a badly adjusted rearview mirror can hinder how you sit. Sit up as straight as you can, pulling in your stomach muscles. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Now raise and lower your shoulders a few times. Rotate your shoulders forward and backward, together and alternating.
  • Tilt your head. First gently to the left, and then to the right. Next, turn your head very slowly to both sides. Keep your eyes on the road!
  • Try flexing and rotating your ankles a few times. Try seated leg lifts, where you bend at knee and lift. Crank up the radio and lift to the beat!

You certainly aren’t executing the workout of your life, but again, listen to what an expert like Sweeney is saying: Doing something is far better than doing nothing.

Truck Potato or Road Warrior?

According to government figures, 30% of Americans are classified as obese. If there are as many exercise shortcuts to take when traveling as off-road paths to pave, a portion of this weight gain can easily be happening while on the road. Forrister advised getting down to a meaningful reason of why you want to exercise. “I find I stay more motivated when I have a goal that I can't help but do because I'm so excited by the outcome I think it will produce,” she said.

A fitness plan is one of the most important items you can pack for the road. So start your journey out on the right foot – preferably one that is wearing a sneaker.


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