Road Trip - Avoid Weight Gain on the Road

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Ever taken a 2,500-mile, 6-day trip from California to Illinois with two cats in the car in the hottest part of summer? No? That's what my husband and I did several years ago. When it came to staying fit, this road trip was certainly a challenge. If you're in the same boat, you know that avoiding the weight gain that often accompanies the junk-food laden highways can be tough. I've moved three times in the past 5 years and have come up with a few ideas for staying healthy and sane.

The Food Factor

One of the biggest issues with road trips comes down to food -- namely, junk food. Who hasn't scarfed down too much fat-laden, sugar-infested gunk while on the road to somewhere? It's hard to eat healthy on the road because your choices often range from gas stations and mini-marts to fast food joints. While you might find some healthy choices at gas stations and the like, after you've been forced into a drive-inducing coma, that 800-calorie chocolate chip muffin starts to look pretty darn good.

So how do you avoid those drive-by junk food frenzies? Here are a few ideas my husband and I came up with:

1. Stock up on the healthy stuff. One reason we eat junk on the road is because we're bored. After a long drive of a whole lotta nothing, what's more exciting than injecting a little fat and sugar into old bloodstream? Perhaps what's not so exciting is the size of your rear after several days of that type of behavior.

One way to avoid the crap is to have plenty of healthy items available. Stock a cooler with plenty of water, fruit, yogurt and cut veggies to munch on to help you avoid temptation.

2. No more than one junky purchase per day. Healthy cooler aside, most of us will probably eat junk (whether by necessity or desperation) on the road.

To deal with this, do what we did: Decide you can eat one junk item each day. Make it as unhealthy as you like within limits -- no trans fat, nothing over 400 calories and it should have at least one redeeming quality (like vitamins and minerals).

3. Only salads or grilled items at fast food restaurants. Luckily, most fast food joints have healthy salads, providing you watch the dressing and the toppings. Grilled chicken sandwiches can be a good choice if you watch the sauce. Before your trip, check websites for nutritional information so you know what to order beforehand.

The Bootie Factor

The next thing to think about, which is directly related to what you eat, is the Bootie Factor -- namely, how to keep yours from spreading. You also want to keep the circulation going to avoid the aches and pains that come with sitting for hours at a time. To do that, you might have to make some tough choices:

1. Stop every hour. This may be tough for many of you, but you'll feel much better if you take some time to work out the kinks.

When planning your trip, allow for a little time to stop every hour so you can stretch, walk around and take a break from the car.

2. Move it or lose it. Exercising on road trips can be tough, especially if you tend to stay in the first hotel you come to. Many roadside hotels are not of the 4-star variety, so fitness rooms may be scarce. Plan on running or walking before you get started each morning (providing there's a safe place to go). Even 10 minutes is better than nothing and it will help generate some energy for the long drive ahead. For strength training, take a resistance band with you and squeeze in a few short exercises to keep up your strength and preserve your muscle mass.

3. Car-robics. OK, I just made that up. But, it is possible to move around in a car. Try isometric movements to keep the blood moving -- squeezing and releasing different muscles. While this won't necessarily build strength, it will keep you occupied. Here's the plan:

  • Contract the abs by pulling the belly button toward the spine (don't hold your breath). Hold for 2 seconds, release and repeat 16 times.
  • Place a pillow or towel between the knees and squeeze. Hold for 2 seconds and release slightly, repeating for 16 times.
  • Hold a pillow between hands at chest level (or just press palms together) and squeeze for 2 seconds, release and repeat 16 reps.
  • Place palms on the ceiling of the car, shoulder-width apart. Press into the top for 2 seconds and release for 16 reps.
  • Lean over and wrap arms behind the knees, grabbing onto each elbow. Using legs as an anchor, pull your torso away from your body, rounding the back up towards the sky for a great back stretch.

Whether you're moving across the country, or hitting the road for an adventure, you can make your trip healthy with a little planning and preparation. Work out your own strategies for eating healthy and staying active on the road.

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