On a recent road trip to California to hold my precious grandson, I could feel myself getting terribly antsy by the time we crossed the Arizona state line. Right around Barstow, Calif., I was ready to crawl out of my skin, set my hair on fire or, worse, go stark raving mad in that miserable waste land.
To save myself (and therefore Tom), I devised some stretches to spell relief and to reduce the drowning stress of immobility. Next go-around to see baby Mason in California, I will consider riding my bicycle, instead. Is it better to pass out from physical exhaustion or go crazy with stress brought on by prolonged immobility? To bike or to drive?
In a car, on a long trip, you can’t go on sitting. You need to loosen up. Try your hand (and chest and legs and neck) at these in-car exercises and you’ll quickly become less tense, more alert, and even more enjoyable of a traveling companion. It’s as easy as 1-2-3, but for safety’s sake, be certain to obey the rules of the road. In other words, make sure your seat belt is buckled, be in full control of the vehicle (this is when it’s perfectly ok to be a control freak), and stay in your lane.
If you have a one-track mind, cannot multi-task, confine your exercising to stops at traffic lights, rest areas and long desolate stretches of no-man’s land. For the six exercises below, begin by firmly holding the steering wheel with your right hand at the three o’clock position and your left hand at nine o’clock.
To relieve back tension, pull shoulder blades together, pressing your back into the seat. Hold for six seconds. Then round your shoulders up and forward, pulling your shoulder blades apart, and hold for six seconds more.
To tone pectoral and arm muscles, squeeze the steering wheel as hard as you can for six seconds.
To improve circulation, while sitting back in your seat, raise your right buttock up slightly for six seconds. Then lower it as you do the same with your left buttock.
To tone and firm stomach muscles, suck in your abdominal muscles, pulling in your stomach, and hold for six seconds. Take this a step further … tighten the pelvic floor the same time you suck in your abdominal muscles.
To relieve neck tension, with your elbows at your sides, slowly lift your shoulders as high as possible and hold for six seconds.
To relieve facial tension, raise your eyebrows while opening your eyes as wide as you can. Simultaneously open your mouth and stick your tongue out straight (hold for six seconds). This exercise is definitely not one to do when stopped at traffic lights. I don’t even do this if Tom, my husband, is not asleep in the passenger seat.
As a passenger, you may add on these other exercises. To relax shoulders, roll your right shoulder forward in a circle four times, then reverse direction. Repeat with left shoulder.
To stretch arms and legs, with both hands clasped around your right leg just below the knee, gently pull your knee toward the left side of your chest. Hold for 20 seconds, and then repeat with left leg. Be sure to keep your back erect.
To improve circulation, lean forward slightly with your hands resting on your knees, feet flat on the floor. Lift both heels for six seconds as you contract your calf muscles. Then lower your heels and lift your toes for six seconds.
To tone legs and feet, sit toward the front of the seat with your shoulder blades touching the seat back. Bend your right knee and draw it as close to your chest as possible. Alternate legs, doing the exercise five times with each leg.
To stretch back and spine, gently twist your upper body to the right and grab your seat at shoulder level with your left hand. Hold this position for six seconds. Repeat, twisting to the left.
Some of the driver exercises mentioned are moves that I’ve adapted from exercises I do while on my bike. Speaking of bikes, even if it might appear that biking season is almost over, on the contrary, some of the best biking is in the fall when temperatures are cooler, roads and trails quieter and the fall colors provide a splashy display.
Interested in group rides, wishing to know more like-minded folks or hoping to get more biking in? You might want to join the Wolf Creek Wheel Club. Information about the club and an application form can be found on their website (www.wolfcreekwheelclub.com).