Whether you are preparing for a PCS move or going on vacation, there are things you can do to keep your stress low and your wellness goals on track.
Long drives and cramped cars can be stressful on vacation. Add the logistics of packing your family, pets, valuables, non-packable liquids, and maybe even house plants into one or two vehicles to move who knows how far, and it becomes the all-too-familiar grinding, mind-numbing experience that you’ve probably experienced before. If you’re a military spouse lucky enough to have remote work, you might even have to use up quite a few of your vacation days to execute a PCS.
Just the thought of sitting in a car for hours is enough to drive anyone stir crazy. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy routine, vacation or PCSing can set you back, because it’s impossible to keep fit and find nutritious food options on the road, right?
The good news is that it isn’t unreasonable to stay healthy during a long road trip, and trying some of the tips below will make the journey a lot easier, without compromising your health goals.
Bring Healthy Snacks
One of the most important components of any successful road trip is the fuel (and we’re not talking gas, though it’s probably good to have some in the tank). Too often, we find it easier to fill up on convenience store junk food, and end up falling off the health wagon. With a little bit of pre-planning and keeping the basics of good nutrition in mind, it’s possible to stock up on snacks full of protein, fiber, and balanced ingredients. Items like fresh fruit, veggies, yogurt, and cheese are easy to bring in a cooler, while putting nuts, crackers, and jerky into resealable bags in advance helps limit portions to recommended serving sizes. When you inevitably make stops along the way, bottled water and low-sugar juices are readily available at most travel stops and gas stations, and you can always make smart choices like skipping the deep-fried fast food items and opting for the salad option when stopping for meals.
Fit in Fitness
Before we say “impossible” again, just remember this mantra: your body is your gym. Sure, it would be challenging to find time for any physical activity if you weren’t going to make any stops, but that wouldn’t be much of a road trip. Take advantage of roadside landmarks, bathroom breaks, and food stops, including when you stop and rest for the night. If you’re used to grinding away at a gym using machines and weights, this might not seem effective to you, however incorporating any movement at all is beneficial. Try getting out of the car to stretch your legs at every opportunity, and incorporate a workout in your hotel room. Using a workout app can help you organize quick, structured routines that maximize limited space. You benefit from having a fitness professional plan and guide your workouts, so it’s one less thing you have to think about!
Take it Easy
There are usually two schools of thought when it comes to long car trips — those who prefer to buckle down and drive with the fewest possible stops, and those who take breaks and swap out drivers when possible. (There’s been a call lately for the military to ship one vehicle for continental U.S. moves because not being able to swap out drivers adds to the stress of a PCS.) The latter is always the best option in terms of physical health and maintaining your sanity. Not stopping for frequent rests can aggravate back pain, cramps, and increase overall stress. It may get you there ahead of schedule, but it’s not worth the stress and wear that it can put on your body. Take rests whenever you’re feeling sore or stir crazy, and try to make time to stop for the night to rest, no matter how many eligible drivers are in the car.
Get Adequate Rest
Ensuring that you are getting quality sleep and paying attention to your body’s signals goes hand-in-hand with taking enough breaks. A tired driver is a dangerous driver, and so it’s crucial to get proper sleep on a road trip, especially on an epic multi-state voyage. If you’re beginning to feel tired, immediately pull over and swap drivers if possible, get some fresh air, or even close your eyes for a bit if you’re in a safe space. You should also be mindful of where you are staying, and the conditions in which you are sleeping. Camping along the road can be a fun experience, but constantly sleeping on the ground or in a tent throughout your trip may cause your body to fatigue faster. You might consider camping every other night.
Tips like these may help you stay on track with your wellness during a move or vacation, and ultimately, leave you feeling more refreshed and energized. PCSing is tough and road trips can disrupt a routine, but putting your best foot forward, and keeping your health a priority are some of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.