Staying Calm in the Car

You're stuck in the car in traffic. Your stress is building. Your time is wasting. Obviously, your main job is driving safely, protecting yourself and fellow motorists, not figuring out how to get a workout. But even when your concentration is on the road, your foot on the pedal, and your hands on the steering wheel, many muscles are just going along for the ride without having to participate. Even with limited motion, that leaves some opportunity for activity. And you'll find you become more alert mentally and physically when you manage to strengthen, release, and stretch a few muscles as you drive (or, even better, stop driving). Rather than feeling cramped, tired, and stressed, your trip can leave you feeling stronger and more rested. Work these exercises into your driving routine when they feel appropriate and safe - but do not let your mind or eyes wander from the road!

Isometric Contractions Unlimited
How many body parts can you exercise and still drive safely? Try isometric exercises, which means contracting the muscles without taking them through a range of motion. You can tighten your thighs without moving your leg, for example, isometrically contracting the quadriceps (front of the thighs), holding the contraction for a few seconds, then releasing it. Other areas that respond well to isometric contractions in the car are the buttocks, upper arms, shoulders and abdominals.

Ab Alert
You can give yourself an abdominal workout and strengthen your postural muscles throughout your drive. Sit up tall, pull your abs in and lift your chest and rib cage. Ah, perfect posture. As a constant reminder and to make this a habit, adjust your rear view mirror so you can see out of it only in this position. Keep your abs alert by pulling them in and lifting the ribcage as you exhale, then releasing slowly as you inhale.

Tension Terminator
Most of us have areas we tend to tense when we're driving, such as the neck, jaw or shoulders. Identify your tension-holding area, and consciously relax it every few minutes. If you can reach it while you're driving, massage the area frequently. Click here to find out more!

Shoulder Shrugs
When our shoulders get tense, they tend to creep up towards our ears, stressing shoulders and neck even more. To counter this, intensify the tension, then release it this way: Hunch your shoulders up towards your ears, making your neck disappear like a turtle's, then push the shoulders way down, lengthening your neck. Brace your hands against the steering wheel for more intensity. Do this 3 times, then leave the shoulders in the "down" position. Your shoulders and neck should feel greatly relieved.

Arm and Hand Stretch
Do you find you're white-knuckling your commute by gripping the steering wheel? This doesn't get you to your job any faster, but it does tense your hands, wrists and arms - just what you don't want before a day of work, especially if you work at a computer. Reach towards the windshield with one arm (the other arm is continuing to steer), then circle the wrist in both directions. Relax the hand on the steering wheel and open the fingers, then close them into a fist, then open them again. Change arms. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed throughout these exercises.

We discuss stress relief in more detail in The Program for Heart Health. Download it now and take a nice, relaxed look at Chapter 8 today.

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