Have you ever been questioned if you were “fit for driving”?
Has it ever come to mind that someone, anyone, you, could be unfit to drive?
This is a reality not just for truck drivers, but America. Driving may be a sport for some, and leisure for others. But for a truck driver it is there life line, their job and for many their passion.
So what does it mean to be fit for driving?
How can someone increase their overall health to become more fit for driving?
Taking into consideration like functional mechanics- how you move or should move, quick reactivity, mobility, whole-body coordination all while driving. The question becomes: “do you know what the signs are? And are you up to speed?”
It use to be more of an aging conversation, when you get to X age then you will have to stop doing this. Or you will no longer be able to do that. But more and and more research is indicating, and heck, just look around you, it is obvious that we all need to get up to speed with our health and it may serve us all to check in with our ability to drive. For not only our own safety but the safety of others.
Similar to the freedom of walking, the thought of not being able to drive is daunting. Yet I have worked with tens of thousands of individuals and many still aren’t motivated to make even the smallest changes until it is almost too late.
Why wait until you can’t walk to see it as important.
Why wait until you get your license revoked, or you get into an accident to decide it is a necessary privilege.
The AMA in 2010 stated that lack of mobility is something that doctors take into consideration with older adults when assessing weather driving privileges should be taken away.
But here is the reality check: How many of you reading this honestly feel you move like a senior (75+) but most definitely are not one?
So many of us consciously refuse to take care of our bodies like they are made of steel. That they will just keep taking the beating. That they will jump up upon request no matter what situation, what age, what variable.
Mobility Concerns to Consider While Driving:
Grip strength for simple things like opening the door and pulling it closed
Looking back while backing up (although review cameras are great, this is a basic function we must not lose sight of) requires neck and torso rotation. And good eye tracking.
Varying degrees of hand, elbow and shoulder coordination while handing the steering wheel. And good hand eye coordination.
Gas and pedal breaking which uses ankle mobility and control.
For my truck drivers multiple hand-eye-foot coordination functions combine with fine motor skills while shifting, breaking, and turning.
It is easy to say these things are not a big deal. Until we can no longer do them. And it then becomes hard to say as to when it is those fine motor skills were lost. Technology has rob many of us of basic movement patterns. Where now we have to work twice as hard to keep to it or we will surely lose it.
But as a truck driver, driving a big rig takes a lot of handing, not to mention the loading and unloading that comes with the territory but can wear on the body overtime.
Now you may be shaking your head saying this is all nuts and you move just fine. But the thing is, basic mobility patterns like the above are often what are first to go and can often go un-noticed. But it is often the overlooked issues that can cause the greatest concerns later on in life when they slowly begin to take the things we love most away from us in a blink of an eye.
Take the Fit for Driving Test:
The Ankle Mobility Test:
Get into a lunge with the front foot’s big toe roughly 4 inches (3 inches if 5’2″ or less) and without allowing the heel to pick up. Try to lunge the front knee into the wall.
You may want to tune into the notion that this mobility has everything to do with you coming off the gas or break easily accident free.
Exercise: Two Part Calf Stretch
(LEFT) From a standing position place one foot up on a half dome (or something firm and rolled up). Anchor the heel down and do not let it lift. Align the outer edge of the foot with something parallel with it. Keeping tall, and not allowing your pelvis to tip forward. Begin to walk the free foot forward. You should begin to feel a stretch. Hold that stretch for minimum 30 seconds.
(RIGHT) Standing tall take a casual step back with one foot. Not allowing the pelvis to tip forward, bend the front knee. Now work to bend the back knee without lifting the back heel. Hold that stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.
On both stretches notice if the inner ankle collapses or the knee bends inward. Try to keep the knee forward and he ankle in neutral.
Hand Mobility Test:
Get down on all fours (oh, there is more to this test than just your hands). Spread your fingers out wide with the middle finger pointing forward and the thumbs pointing at each other (feel free to help your thumbs). Is is tender or difficult to flex the wrist in a 90 degree angle?
Is there space under the palms or are your fingers curled up (flexion) off floor? These are warning signs that gripping tension which is a common occurrence and needs to be counter acted. This is a road that will lead to immobility in the joints of the wrists, fingers and thumbs.
Exercise: Flexion and Extension
Shoulder Mobility Test:
Get down on all fours and plant your hands as done in the Hand Mobility Test.
Work to draw the thumbs out as close to 90 degrees from the middle finger as possible. Can you do this without the folds of the elbows turning inward? This will clue you into excessive tension between the shoulder, elbow and wrist. As a driver this is critical to assess, as one needs all hands on deck and this could be a shoulder issue.
Sitting Twist Test:
Sit in the drivers seat or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor and pelvis evenly planted. Work to rotate like you are reaching for your seat belt (but keep hands on lap) and try to first rotate with your rib cage only. No lifting your hips. Can you see behind you yet?
Next try to rotate your neck? Can you see over your shoulder now? At what point to do you need to cheat and lift your hip? Or maybe you need to use your hand to force the rotate due to tight muscles?
Exercise: Seat Belt Grab Sit and Twist
Sitting in the drivers seat or on a chair practice rotation daily. And don’t forget to incorporate daily stretching in that release tight back muscles and neck muscles like in Mother Trucker Yoga’s online membership site.
Intrinsic Muscle and Nerve Foot Test:
Take off your shoes and socks and try to spread your toes apart. Can you separate each toe?
Can you give yourself a “thumbs up” with your big toe?
Issues like these can be a big indicator of intrinsic foot muscle atrophy, or weakness in the muscles of the foot. This is an issue because this could mean nerve issues in the lower leg (many of which come with lack of use like from long-term sitting).
Exercise: Toe Piano & Dancers Feet
Get your shoes off daily! Yes daily! Move your toes around, stretch your feet. Roll on an acuBall! I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but don’t listen to people who tell you to keep your shoes on when your feet hurt. That is part of the problem! Would you keep a casts on after you injure your arm, or leg, or even foot? Heck no!
Shoes are casts, and the longer you wear your casts, the bigger the issue becomes.
Taking care of your body has less to do with how many push-ups you can do and more to do with asking yourself “can I still do all the things I desire to do every single day?” If not, then something has to change.
And most people swing far left and go off the handle with implementing things that quite possibly aren’t necessary. Now that is not to say that deciding to run a marathon or exercise for 2-hours each day is a bad thing.
But if at the end of the day we all simply want to age gracefully and keep doing the things that are necessary, and love. Then I recon we start there. But keeping the physical body healthy. Your muscles and nerves working optimally is also an internal thing. And as the saying goes “you are what you eat“. So equally ensure you are fueling your body with the same care you are your rig.
Are you fit for driving?
Let us know how you fared out with our test?
Contact Hope via email and she can help you get fit for driving today!