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RVing and driving go hand in hand. You can’t really take an RV trip without driving, right? It’s pretty much the point… getting away, exploring, wandering, all that good stuff.
We’ve got loads of RV friends who hate driving days. Many people tend to see that step in the journey as a chore, but not me. James and I both love long drives. That zone you get in as you watch the miles roll by—it’s a happy place. I especially enjoy the peaceful feeling of knowing that there’s nothing else I need to be doing in that moment, besides just sitting there, soaking it all in.
Problem is, long drives aren’t really good for us. Driving means sitting, and it’s not news to anyone that sitting for long stretches isn’t healthy. Our bodies are happiest when they’re upright and moving about, which is also when our heart and cardiovascular systems function more efficiently.
When you put in long hours behind the wheel, a bunch of physiological changes happen—slowed metabolism, circulation, and digestion, as well as inflammation, joint pain, raised blood sugar, fluid pooling in the legs, risk of blood clots, and on it goes.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to protect yourself from any ill-effects caused by too much time sitting. Here are our 4 FitRVing Rules of the Road. James & I adhere to these whenever we head off on long roadtrips, and we hope you’ll try them, too.
RULE #1: Rest Stop Recharges
This is our biggest rule of the road. No matter how much we’re in a hurry, we have a rule to stop after a maximum of 2 hours driving. During the stop, we get 15 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity before going back on the road.
Now, the 2-hours thing, I need to point out that’s a MAX. Anyone traveling solo or not switching drivers like we do should be stopping more frequently. The most ideal situation is stopping every hour with 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, but I realize that’s not always realistic.
As for the physical activity we get, we keep that pretty simple. Jogging, power-walking, or even some exercises like lunges and jumping jacks right outside the RV door tend to be our go-to’s. Any of the bodyweight exercises in THIS WORKOUT PLAN would be great, too.
RULE #2: Make the drive be part of the adventure.
It seems to be human nature to view the drive as something separate from ‘the vacation’. It puts on pressure that we need to hurry up and get there so the fun can officially begin. Is this sounding a little too familiar to any of you?
Instead of the fun starting when you arrive, try something different. Make the drive itself also be part of the vacation fun! The secret to doing this? Planning the places you’ll stop ahead of time.
There are many resources that make this easy: Roadside America (our fave!), Roadtrippers, RV Trip Wizard, etc. Use them to search for fun points of interest, and then create a whole driving itinerary based on attractions along your route.
James and I are total suckers for cheesy roadside attractions, the weirder the better. It makes the drive feel more like part of the vacation and gets you out of that MUST-HURRY-AND-GET-THERE mindset. So you stop at your pre-planned attraction, see something cool, and then do your 15 minutes of physical activity from the Rest Stop Recharge Rule. Fun AND healthy!
The best part for me is finishing up at one (usually silly) attraction, and then excitedly checking the itinerary for ‘what’s next?!’… and knowing we’ve got less than two hours until we land at the next amusing roadside attraction. You’ve constantly got things to look forward to, all day long—and it’s all already planned out for you, so there’s no stress about figuring out where to stop on the fly. It completely changes the dynamic of a long driving day. Try it! You’ll love it!
RULE #3: Drink up, Buttercup.
Yes. I’m talking to you, fellow RVer who tends to drink less on driving days to avoid pit stops. Water helps energize your muscles, and, well… YOU. Your muscles get fatigued when cells don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes. Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling drained and less sharp, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re driving. Besides, drinking more water will motivate you to stop more. The more stops you’re making, the happier your body will be. So next long drive, drink up– and don’t feel guilty about stopping more!
RULE #4: Don’t Eat and Drive.
There comes a time during long drives where you’re craving something to do, anything, just to switch things up. So you reach down for your bag-o-chips and start munching away. And you keep eating. And KEEP EATING. Long driving days make RVers vulnerable to boredom bingeing, or thoughtlessly overeating without realizing it. You can combat boredom bingeing by laying down a simple Rule of the Rig: Don’t eat while the RV is in motion. Drinks, sure. But eating, take that off the table. Besides eliminating the risk of overeating, the Don’t Eat and Drive rule will also encourage more frequent Rest Stop Recharges, rule #1. The more frequent your stops, the healthier it is for your body.
And finally, I do want to point this out:
Extremely long driving days really should be avoided. There is research that shows that the more we sit, the more health-compromised we are, not to mention the very serious risk of travel-induced blood clots. According to the CDC: Anyone traveling more than 4 hours can be at risk of developing blood clots, also called deep vein thrombosis (DVT)— older adults in particular. Blood clots can form in the deep veins of your legs because you’re sitting still for long periods, and if you’re also intentionally dehydrating yourself (ahem, rule #3) you’re making yourself even more vulnerable.
So, as you plan trips, try your best to keep your driving hours each day down to a reasonable amount. No one should be sitting for long stretches in a day if it can be helped. BUT! When it’s unavoidable, give our FitRVing Rules of the Road a try. It’s a good balance… you get your drive done, you get your exercise in, you protect yourself from any ill-effects of sitting, AND you visit some fun roadside attractions along the way!