Okay confession time:
James and I are both absolutely TERRIBLE with time-management.
I can hear our friends reading this now, nodding emphatically while saying “oh heck yes they are.” It’s weird because in most other ways James and I complement each other quite nicely. His weaknesses are my strengths and vice versa.
For the most part we’ve got a good yin and yang thing going…
But when it comes to time, and pretty much only this area, we both seem to be simultaneously missing the gene. Since we both lack it, no one’s checking and balancing the other, and we end up doing those things time-challenged people do: underestimating how much time things will take, last minute rushing, losing track of time, those sorts of things.
It’s especially obvious when we plan trips. We tend to get, well let’s call it “enthusiastic”.
We are most attracted to epic trips… things far away, the more complicated the better! So, we squeeze too much into our window of travel time, and that leaves us doing marathon driving days.
I’m certainly not proud of it, especially how it goes against the FitRV message of staying fit-focused. So I guess that makes us hypocrites as well as flawed humans. Welcome aboard!!!
In our defense it’s not JUST our time-challenged ways to blame for our crappy driving habits, it’s also James’ PDJ (pesky day job). Since we’re scheduling trips around his PDJ, it means we have less flexibility in taking our time to get anywhere.
Physiologically speaking, we simply aren’t a sedentary species. Our bodies can handle sitting only temporarily, and then they start experiencing a negative cascade of effects such as:
- Poor Circulation: Our bodies depend on us being active to keep our circulation up. When we’re idle for long stretches, fluids pool, fatty acids accumulate, nutrients aren’t getting delivered as efficiently as they should, and the efficient exhaust of cells is prevented. Think of it like not taking the trash out for many days. It accumulates and leaves behind a pretty toxic environment. And let’s not forget about the potential for life-threatening blood clots like deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Slowed Metabolism: When you sit, the production of enzymes used to process fat drop by about 90%, thereby triggering fat storage instead of using fat for fuel as it does when we’re moving. Too much sitting also reduces your ability to use blood sugar and can lead to insulin resistance and ultimately Type 2 diabetes.
- Weakened Muscles and Bones: Our musculoskeletal systems work under the rule of “use it or lose it,” so when we sit for long durations, in a sense it goes into “shut-down” mode. Bones are living, just like the rest of our systems, and are constantly undergoing a “remodeling” process similar to muscles, breaking down and building back up again. When we’re sitting all day on a road trip, however, they aren’t triggered to rebuild appropriately, and the remodeling process goes idle along with you. Long drives can cause nerve compression between muscles and bones, resulting in inflammation, pain, and it ultimately makes us more prone to injury.
- Foggy Brain: Physical activity makes you smarter, we all know this. The way it does that is by triggering the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is responsible for the growth of neurons. BDNF also fights the effects of the stress hormone cortisol. When sitting, our bodies hold on to harmful hormones like cortisol while thwarting the production of helpful hormones and neurotransmitters like BDNF. Your brain requires vital oxygen and nutrients to keep you sharp and in a good mood, however the lowered circulation from long periods of sitting keeps that from happening effectively.
To lead a health-focused life, we really should avoid being on the road longer than an 8 hour day… that’s just way too much sitting and our bodies aren’t designed for that. So to combat those ill effects, we’ve set down some ground rules for healthing-up long drives. Here’s our #1 Fit RVers Rule of the Road:
The FitRV’s Rest Stop Recharge Rule:
Whenever roadtripping, stop after a maximum of 2 hours of driving. During the stop, get 15 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity before getting back on the road.
Now, the 2-hours thing, I need to point out that’s a MAX. If you are roadtripping solo or not switching drivers each time you stop, you should stop more frequently than that. The most ideal situation is stopping every hour with 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, but I realize that’s not always realistic.
Plan Your Recharge Stops Ahead of Time:
To make the stops fun, here’s what we do:
- Being old-school book lovers, we head to our book shelf and peruse books like “50 States, 5,000 ideas” by National Geographic, or “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” to see if we can find anything interesting near our route. And by the way, books like these make excellent gifts for RVers!
- We also turn to websites like Roadside America or Roadtrippers.
We use both the books and the websites to find unique roadside attractions every 90 minutes to 2 hours along our route. Having an itinerary of fun & frequent stops already planned out before you go completely changes the dynamic of the long drive and gives you things to look forward to. 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 activity right there.
What This Looks Like:
An 8-hour driving day means you’d have 3 rest-stop recharges during the drive which totals 45 minutes of exercise. You should also do another 15 minutes of exercise once you land, so that gives you a full hour of moderate-intensity physical activity. You’ve effectively amped up your circulation 4 different times throughout your day, combating any ill effects of marathon stretches of sitting… that’s more exercise than most people get in a day!
I do want to point this out:
Long drives really should be avoided. There is research that shows that the more we sit, the more health-compromised we are. So, as you plan trips DON’T be like James and me and instead keep your drive time to a minimum. No one should be sitting for long stretches in a day if it can be helped. BUT! When it’s unavoidable, give our rest stop recharge strategy a try. It’s a good balance… you get your drive done, you get your exercise in, AND you see a cool roadside attraction.
Always love hearing your suggestions, too. Leave comments below and happy FitRVing, friends!