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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fitness on the Road: Gaining Speed

Hank Barton is a second generation trucker-philosopher with a penchant for the written word. He enjoys blogging about long haul trucking, safe driving practices and life on the open road. He writes for E-Gears, an online CDL Test</a> authority that specializes in a variety of study guides.

As truckers, we all know that good health doesn't come easy. We drive all day and many of us drive at least 6 days a week. It’s much more convenient for us to eat gas station fare, fast food or greasy (but often delicious) truck stop meals. There are bloggers and health advocates like James DeLonge who do more than their share to help truckers stay healthy, but we face some real obstacles.
It’s heartening to see that mainstream news outlets are now looking into the problems that truckers face. We have to keep healthy because of regular physicals and company regulations, but there are very few people that want to help us out. Even if there are people who want to help, they usually don’t have the resources to set up facilities or programs. Blogs with fitness tips and healthy recipes go a long way for those of us who actually read them—but what about all of the drivers who aren’t connected?
The Problem
Even those of us who are connected to trucker health blogs and are worried about exercise and eating right face some pretty ugly numbers. According to National Institute of Health statistics, more than 50 percent of truckers are obese and are 50 percent more likely to have diabetes than the average person. That combined with the behind-the-wheel lifestyle and those regular physical exams means that, without support, the picture is pretty bleak.
The key here is raising awareness among truckers and their families. If drivers know that there’s a support system and there’s something they can do, then the problem is already halfway solved. Feeling hopeless and being trapped in old habits are bigger obstacles than diet and exercise themselves, so truckers need someone to look to for answers and guidance.
The Heroes
Fortunately, there are people for us to look to-- high profile people that are gaining media attention. Gary Findley of Snap Fitness is one of the people leading the charge. At least 60 Snap Fitness centers around the country have parking for big rigs, and they offer discounts for truckers. In an interview with ABC News Findley said, "Truckers have huge unmet needs because of their lifestyle. Hopefully, the fitness centers help fill the void.”
More importantly, though, there’s Bob Perry. Perry is a former trucker and the founder of Rolling Strong, which aims to help truckers with all of their fitness needs. He pushed a giant tire 63 miles to prove that he’s not just some guy out to make a quick buck—and it’s worked pretty well for him. Not only has he worked with Snap Fitness to open up gyms at truck stops, but he’s also found some mainstream media attention.  
Swimming in the Mainstream
In the same ABC News piece, Perry goes on to say, “Truckers are the ones who carry the country… They deserve access to fitness centers and good food and health care like the rest of us."
In those few words, Perry proved both that he’s a trucker at heart and that he knows how to talk to the media. If Snap and Rolling Strong were able to open up a thousand square foot facility on Interstate 20 in Dallas, the door is wide open. Real gyms, real news outlets and real people are starting to care about truckers—it’s no longer just the realm of the driver and his physician.
There’s also the Truckload Carriers Association. They worked with eleven of the biggest trucking companies in the country on a contest. It wasn't just any contest, though—it was a weight loss showdown with real prizes and real incentives to get healthy. US Xpress is also offering incentives, and Flying J itself plans to add nutrition facts and health info to its smartphone app so truckers can make more informed diet decisions.
Better Late than Never
None of this, in itself, is a revolution. It does show that people are trying and that the big guys are starting to care, which is a huge step in the right direction. Even if a trucker can’t access a Snap Fitness facility and passes very few Flying J stations, it still makes a difference. The big reason this matters is because it’s starting a conversation that more people will participate in. It might get those formerly apathetic and unconnected drivers to access CDLDiet or take some healthier food on the road. It might encourage someone to take a foldable military bike with them in their sleeper. What this means is that we’ll soon have healthier drivers with longer careers ahead of them. It’s good for truckers, their families and the industry.

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