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5 Ways to Make Your Daily Commute Healthier

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A long commute can wreak havoc on your body and mind. The stress of dealing with traffic combined with being hunched over a steering wheel can spell trouble even for those dedicated to maintaining the proper mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. Unless you work from home, walk or bike to work, or have a short drive to the office, there’s no way of getting around the daily grind of commuting, but there are plenty of ways to keep the commute from driving you into the ground. Start here:

1. Change shoes.

There’s a reason Mister Rogers would change his shoes and switch from a suit coat to a sweater when he arrived “home” at the start of his television show. He wanted to be more comfortable, but it also signaled a shift in mindset. Many city commuters wear one pair of shoes in the office and change for the walk home or to catch a subway or bus. So why should drivers be any different? “People tend to get home tense and stressed from work, and one reason is that they’re still in their work clothes,” says Anthony Slater, Core Performance's director of performance. “Something as simple as changing into more comfortable shoes for the drive home can give you that mental transition.” (To stress less the rest of the day, read how obsessive texting, tweeting, and talking on the phone can stress your body.)

2. Adjust your seat.

New parents typically visit a car dealer to have a professional fitting for a child’s car seat, but when was the last time you considered your own fit? Use your armrests to take the tension out of your upper body, especially the trapezius muscles. Don’t view your car seat like a lounge chair; aim for the same posture you’d have at the desk. Having a hard time not slouching? Consider the rear view mirror. “Adjust your mirror to where it should be when you have perfect posture,” says Sue Falsone, vice president of performance physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance. “That way you’ll have to maintain good posture to be able to see out of it. It’s an effective reminder.”

3. Switch to stick?

Granted, few of us are going to return the driving mentality of just a generation ago, when more people engaged their left leg by driving manual transmission. These days, the left leg generally is bent and still during long drives and only the right foot is extended. That makes for easier driving, but it’s not as good for the body. “You’re tilting your hips to one side, and that creates imbalances," Slater says. "You see a lot of people with their right leg externally rotated because of this.” There are plenty of exercises to counteract this (some examples below), but one easy fix, especially for men, is to take that fat wallet you’ve been working so hard for out of your back pocket before getting into the car. Sitting on your wallet tends to exacerbate muscle imbalances.

4. Take five.

On long rides, Falsone recommends stopping at least once every two hours to stretch and walk around—every hour if you have back problems. (See also: “How to Reduce Back Pain”) “Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it’s better than arriving at your destination and not feeling good,” she says. “A five-minute break can make a big difference.”

5. Warm up first.

If you live in a cooler climate, you know the importance of letting a car warm up in the winter before pulling out. So why should your body be any different? After a long day hunched over a computer, stretch it out before stepping behind the wheel. Core Performance moves such as a Backward Lunge with a Twist, Inverted Hamstring, or Standing Ts will help you prepare for the drive home. So, too, will stocking your car with a bottle of water, your favorite tunes, and healthy snacks—especially if you missed out on a late-afternoon feeding and might not have dinner until late. All of which will make commuting less stressful. “The more we can create the right environment and have the right mindset, the less stress you’ll feel at the end of each day and the end of the week,” Slater says. “If you take two minutes before every drive to do a couple of Movement Prep exercises and set your car up the right way, that’s an investment that will pay huge dividends down the road.”

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Stress, Travel, Work, Posture, Reduce Pain, Back Pain

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