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Originally published Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 10:12 AM

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How to exercise on a long road trip

Stretching and isometric exercises can keep your blood pumping and muscles working, even in the car.


Special to The Seattle Times

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On Fitness

Staying active on vacation? That’s easy. Nowadays, most hotels have more state-of-the-art equipment than your local gym. The hard part about working out on vacation is finding the will to make the time when you are surrounded by new foods, alcohol and late nights.

Road trips, while also vacations, are almost the opposite. After spending hours on end in the same position, crammed into a car with no wiggle room, you’ll want to move; you just physically can’t.

Extended car rides, while allowing little to no movement, can be surprisingly rough on your body. Common complaints include cramped legs, a stiff back and neck, headaches and fatigue. It’s amazing how exhausted you can feel after sitting still all day.

The best way to ward these off is to take some time to get your blood pumping and your muscles working.

With the following moves, you won’t even need to pull over (unless you’re road-tripping solo, of course). Don’t do this behind the wheel!

Isometric holds are a great way to activate muscles without actually moving your body. Try these:

While sitting up tall, pull your belly button into your spine. Hold for 2 breaths and slowly release. Repeat 5 times to get the core activated and abs working.

Place your hands under the dashboard, palms up. Keeping your elbows tight by your sides, press against the dash for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat.

To give your lower body some love, simply squeeze your glutes together as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds and release. For a little extra work, place something soft between your legs, like a travel pillow to really activate the inner thighs.

Simulate a wall sit by placing your feet shoulder width apart on the floor. Pull back your toes and dig your heels in to loft your butt a half inch or inch off the seat. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Stretching is important, too, to keep muscles loose and avoid cramping.

Place both palms on the roof of the car above your head (elbows may bend depending on your height) right above your shoulders. Keeping your hands shoulder- width apart, slowly walk your hands toward the back seat as far as your range of motion will let you until you feel a stretch in the chest and shoulders. Slowly walk back to start.

Sitting up tall, tilt your right ear down toward your right shoulder. Relax your shoulders down to your sides and breathe into the left side of your neck, stretching the left side of your neck down through your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Nothing takes the place of a good, sweaty workout, so bring a pair of tennis shoes along for the ride. Anytime you have to stop for gas, food or a pit stop, take 10 minutes to get your heart rate up: do jumping jacks, run sprints, do step-ups on a bench or bring a jump rope along, too. In three short stops, you’ll have a full workout under your belt.

And remember: Road trips are about soaking in the sights, and one of the best ways to explore is on foot. Plan plenty of walks and hikes to get the lay of the land instead of speeding through them.

Be sure to pack plenty of water. Keeping dehydration at bay will keep up your energy levels, and plus the more bathroom breaks you take, the more opportunities you have to sneak in some exercise.

kellyturnerfitness@gmail.com; Turner is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer and fitness writer. www.KellyTurnerFitness.com; on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit



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