Post Long-Drive Stretches and Tips to "Get Right"

James and I just got back from a month-long road trip. It even had a theme ... "VOLCANO."

James and Stef standing with backs towards camera in front of a volcano

Running with our volcano theme made choosing stops SO much easier, we plan to set themes more often. I suppose it's sort of like being a vegetarian perusing a menu at a restaurant. The vegetarian thing limits your choices, and the trip-theme thing does, too.

For me, less choices is a very good thing.

Stef wearing a headlamp looking down tunnel

It did, however, put us in a position where we had some very long driving days.

We don't particularly LIKE long drives, but it seems no matter how we try to avoid them, they're inevitable. While my work as a wellness coach and upkeeping the FitRV website keeps me more flexible, James still holds a PDJ (my term of unendearment for his "pesky day job"). His PDJ makes our travels less flexible, hence, the reason for most of our long drives.

James in a work meeting sitting on the side of a volcano

The picture above is James in a PDJ work meeting on the side of a volcano (so, don't feel too sorry for him).

The trouble is, long drives are in direct conflict with the entire FitRV message. There's just nothing healthy about them. Being sedentary for long stretches wreaks havoc on the body in a million different ways. I get into that often over on the FitRV website, so I'll spare you the depressing details, and instead let's focus on what we can do once the drive is over.

The FitRV's Post Long-Drive Game Plan

See if this sounds familiar: You've been driving for what felt like your whole life, and you've finally landed at your destination ... sweet relief! First thing you notice? How TIRED you are.

That's totally normal and an actual physiological response to being idle for so long. Your body's systems have all slowed, your brain has fogged over, and all you probably feel like doing is absolutely nothing. Those feelings, however, are a terrible ruse! Resist! I'm a big fan of "listening to your body," but a big exception to this is after a long drive. In that case, your body's messages are not to be trusted.

Step OneMove

Even though it may feel like the last thing in the world you want to do, lace up your athletic shoes and force yourself out for a 10 minute (or more!) power-walk. You've got to get your engine back up to its optimal running capacity and the only way to do that is movement. I'm not talking comfortable lolly-gagging movement, I mean the sort of movement where you're breathing heavy and you're mildly uncomfortable.

Step Two: Stretch

After your walk, spend another 10 minutes stretching. Stretching will continue to wake up your body and get your musculoskeletal system back on track. Any sort of stretches will work, or use these:

Gentle Camel Stretch:

Stef on yoga mat doing gentle camel stretch

Camel pose is a favorite of mine, especially after sitting or driving a long time. It opens up the hips nicely, and also counteracts the rounded and closed posture from sitting. If you have poor posture, camel pose will help that, too. Kneel with your knees directly under your hips and the tops of your feet down on the ground (can do this on a pillow or on your bed, too). Place the heels of your hands on the top of your glutes, with your fingertips pointed up. Drive your elbows together to open your chest more. Gently arch your back while trying to keep your hips forward. It should feel like you're sticking out your stomach. Keep your neck long and aligned with your spine (don't hyperextend it). Hold for around a minute if you can, breathing mindfully and slowly.

Bharadvaja's Twist Variation:

Stef sitting on mat doing Bharadvaja's twist variation

This stretch rejuvenates the spine and is gentle for all levels. The trunk rotation massages and stimulates the organs in your torso, which will get your digestion and metabolic systems functioning again while also aiding the organs in detoxification. It also helps to relieve lower back pain, neck pain, and sciatica ... all of which can flare up after sitting too long. To perform, side-sit with both feet to your right. Try to pull your right heel in as close as you can. Take your right hand and place it outside your left knee. Reach your left arm behind you and place it on the ground, opening your chest as you twist your shoulders gently to the left. Try to keep your spine straight up or arched slightly ... anything but rounded. Look over your right shoulder with a slight tilt to the back, as shown. Hold the pose for around a minute, breathing mindfully and controlled. Repeat on the other side. NOTE: If sitting on the floor is too hard, you can modify and do this from a chair or on a floor cushion.

Thread the Needle:

Stef on blue yoga mat doing needle twist

This yoga posture will give you a nice stretch through the chest, shoulders, and back. It requires a gentle twisting motion through the spine to help with spinal mobility ... which gets less efficient with age. If you are dealing with shoulder or back pain after your drive, this stretch may relieve tension. To perform, get on all fours. Reach your left arm through the space between your right arm and leg; keep the arm straight and turn your palm up. Place your left ear on the floor. Reach your right arm forward in front of you until it is straight. Hold for a minute and then repeat on the other side.

Locust Lifts:

Stef laying on stomach on mat doing locust lifts

This move opens up your entire anterior chain, which had been closed all day as you sat. It's also a great way to strengthen your posterior chain muscles. So, it's a double bonus: effective stretch AND challenging strengthening exercise. To do it, lie on your stomach. As you inhale, lift your opposite arm and leg off the floor, keeping them straight. Palms face inward. Don't hyperextend your neck, try to keep it long and look slightly up. As you exhale, slowly lower your forehead, arm and leg back down to rest. Continue to lift on the inhale, and lower on the exhale for about eight breaths. Repeat on the other side.

AND THAT'S IT!

A quick power-walk and some stretching are all it takes to get your groove back. Your brain will be clearer, your energy restored, and just like that you'll be ready to let the adventures begin!

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