I recently wrote about my (mis-)adventures driving home from a massage training in Arizona. (See Slow down, you move too fast.) Little did you know, dear reader, that I made a concerted effort on my way TO Arizona to drive in an exemplary fashion so that I could share with you some driving tips here. How rude of my car to break down, casting a shadow over such a great topic! Well, here’s what you didn’t know you were waiting for!
Break up the drive – I know we all like to get there as soon as possible, but my best advice for not feeling terrible physically and mood-ily, is to break up a long drive. I suggest taking at least a quick break every 2 hours or so. Our bodies are amazing AND they are built to move, not be stationary. So, especially if you have kids, stop and stretch. Plan it into your travel time. As someone with twitchy legs, I really appreciate the breaks when I can stretch, hop around and find some chocolate or coffee. Breaking up the drive, generally, can keep you more alert too, which translates into safety.
Modify your seat – Mary Bond’s book The New Rules of Posture (Healing Arts Press 2007) has a great treatment on car seat comfort. She purports that car seats are designed for the average person, not for you in all your uniqueness. They have certainly become quite fancy over the years. Ironically the designers’ attempt at comfort can translate into poor posture with a tilt-back angle which makes you jut your head forward, straining your neck and upper back muscles.
As far as comfort for your spine, try some of Ms. Bond’s suggestions:
- keep the seat back as upright as you can tolerate;
- press your tailbone as far back into the seat as possible (where the seat bottom meets the back rest);
- experiment with placing a small bolster behind your back – some people feel supported with the bolster just below the shoulder blades, others like it in the lumbar area (low back). Play around and see what works well for you. You can use a small, flat pillow for a bolster or a rolled-up hand towel. Or you can buy a fancy, expensive one at a store – wink.
Turn off the phone – Please do not call or text while driving. I know in the years to come there will be some very sad stories of completely preventable deaths due to calling and texting while driving. When you have a long drive ahead of you, gather some books on CD and music to enjoy, but leave the cell phone for the fabulous breaks you’ll be taking. Revive the art of conversation, 20 questions and the travel alphabet hunt. There are times to multitask; driving is not one of those times.
Daily commuting: I have to admit that I have never had an arduous daily commute (and I hope to avoid this all my life!). So, take my advice with a grain of salt. But, here goes:
- Arm yourself with de-stress strategies – daily commutes are stressful, so outsmart the stress with a variety of strategies to keep your stress level low. For some that might be relaxing music, deep breathing or liberally blessing all the other drivers on the road (not with your finger – I mean actually blessing them).
- Listen to NPR: my favorite non-family companions in the car.
- Vary your route if possible so that, on occasion, you have a more pleasant looking commute. This might be an interesting side street route that takes more time, but reminds you that there is a world in between work and home that’s worth appreciating.
- End your commute with a de-stress ritual. Pause 10 seconds for gratitude that you made it safely and your car worked well. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts for what’s ahead whether that’s work, home life, or your next activity. Pull the rear view mirror into view and give yourself a big smile. You deserve a smile.
Here’s my plug for Mary Bond’s book, The New Rules of Posture. It’s an excellent resource for all sorts of posture-related topics. She weaves together common sense, detailed anatomy and medical research with short exercises you can do to gain awareness of your posture and it’s positive or negative effect on your body. I highly recommend her book to anyone nerdy enough (or in pain enough) to read a book about posture!
Share some of your favorite driving tips. Or funny stories…I know you have some!