What are top five tips for staying healthy on long distance drives?
No matter whether you are driver or navigator, you need to be in top condition with;
- Good vision and eye protection
- No back, neck or shoulder pain
- Alertness and quick reflexes
- Nutrition and hydration
- A spirit of enjoyment
Vision and eye protection
Good vision is paramount for long distance driving during day, night and inclement weather conditions. Have your eyes checked and if necessary invest in prescription glasses. Do have a spare pair tucked away in your car. Sunglasses are also necessary to prevent glare and future sun damage to your eyes. Check that sunglasses are not too tight and cause headaches. Again have a spare pair or two. If driving in an open tourer car, investigate clear goggles to keep out insects and debris and prevent wind damage. At the end of a long hard day, you may need eye drops or lubricant to freshen eyes especially if they become bloodshot. And don’t forget the sun hat for added sun protection for your eyes when outside the car.
Back, neck and shoulder pain
A comfortable, moulded car seat with good lumbar support is worth its weight in gold. Both the driver and navigator need to have individual seat positions to maximize comfort appropriate to their own posture and body size. You will be sitting for many hours and the body can complain. Invest in a portable lumbar support if necessary and maybe sheepskin seat covers. Check the angle of your seat with the steering wheel to minimize neck and shoulder pain.
Have a few quick exercises to keep back, neck and shoulders supple. Take breaks from driving and sitting and do your favourite bends and stretches. Whether sitting down in a car or at an office desk, the same principles apply about keeping blood circulating and muscles relaxed. As in an aircraft seat, jiggle your leg and buttock muscles to minimize deep vein thrombosis and prevent muscle stiffness.
Alertness and quick reflexes
Taking catnaps is a wonderful skill to have on long distance road trips. A good night’s sleep is not always achieved when on the road with strange beds and noisy conditions. To start the day feeling tired is not a safe option but will often be unavoidable. So taking catnaps at any opportunity is most valuable. If tired, stop, move around then have a short rest. Close your eyes and use whatever relaxation or calming techniques you know. Try and nod off.
Staying alert is non-negotiable for the driver. It only takes a second’s poor reflex reaction to cause an accident. If you cannot stop, wind down the windows and breathe in more oxygen. Take deep breaths and refresh yourself. Keep meals light so reducing post prandial sleepiness. Work as a team with your navigator and take turns at the wheel. In Australia, countryside road signs say ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’.
Nutrition and hydration
Hunger causes irritability and reduced alertness as blood sugar levels fall. Have snacks in the car for when meals are missed or delayed. Dehydration is often overlooked and can be dangerous causing headaches and lethargy. Always have bottles of drinking water available. If driving in very hot conditions, wet a towel and place on top of your head, or around your neck or tucked in the front of your shirt to keep cool. Of course, those of you lucky enough to have air conditioning will be more comfortable.
The main aim is to enjoy yourself. Time is precious on your motoring holiday and you don’t wish to waste your hard earned money on this venture. Preparation and planning are the keys and previous posts on this website as well as hints from the Experts pages provide extra information on how best to reduce stress in the car cabin. You don’t want to end up exclaiming, ‘I’m supposed to be enjoying myself!’ ‘I wish I never came!’ There are many wondrous places to explore and people with different customs and cultures to delight. Start looking at maps and holiday diaries, prepare your car and luggage and get on the road and have fun. As the saying goes,’Changing the environment changes the attitude which changes behaviour.’
Until next month, safe long distance driving.