Go To Movements on the Road

You’re 4 hours in to a 9-hour road trip. Your back is starting to ache, the front of your hips are tight, and your shoulders are locking up. A signs notifies you there is a rest stop in 5 miles. “Great, I’ll use this chance to get out and _______.”

How do you fill in the blank? Go for a walk? Stretch? Hope it goes away while I stand in the line at Dunkin’ Donuts? Most people probably recognize the need to get themselves moving somehow, but don’t necessarily know what way is best. Truth is, there is no one thing to do that is “best.” However, we can lay out some principles that we should aim to achieve with whatever you choose to do.

  1. Get your blood flowing: This doesn’t have to be anything intense. Just getting your heart rate slightly elevated and increasing the circulation throughout your body will help get your looser, keep your energy levels up, be healthier for your heart, and prevent clotting.
  2. Activate your core and glutes: When you’re sitting for a long time, the muscles that keep your hips, and trunk stable don’t need to do anything, so they get a little dormant. Problem is, this can be detrimental to your posture, but extra stress on your spine, and make them less active when you need to use them after your trip is done. To fix something underactive, activate it.
  3. Extend your spine: When you are sitting, especially in the chairs that vehicles have, your back has a tendency to flex, or round out. This rounding puts pressure on the discs in your spine in a way that can change their shape over time and lead to back pain. To help reverse this effect, you’ll want to move your spine in the opposite direction into extension, or arching back.
  4. Stretch your hip flexors: When your are sitting, your hips are bent to 90 or so degrees. This puts the muscles that lift your thighs, the hip flexors, in a position where they are shortened. When they are shortened for a long time, they start to adapt that way and stay shorter, which can create bad postural changes and back pain. To prevent them shortening, you’ll want to stretch them every now and then.

Ideally I encourage people not to go more than 2 hours without getting out of the car to move for a little bit. I get it, you want to get to your destination ASAP. Maybe 3.5 hours is more realistic for you. But you can also ask yourself, is it more important to shave 5 minutes off your drive, or to not squirm around in discomfort the whole time? Combine this with good hydration, good snacking, good company/music/eBooks/podcasts and you’re set. If you’re looking for some ideas of movements to achieve those above concepts, check out the post below. If those don’t seem for you, then check with your physical therapist, or look up some other options.

  • February 2, 2018