Back in TD120: Truckers and Exercise, I ran out of time before I could talk about some good workouts for truckers. That’s where we pick up today.
First off, let me say that most of the truckers I see every day should start by simply taking a freakin’ walk. And I don’t mean lumbering into the truck stop to breathlessly order a mega-gargantuan value meal at King Hardee Jack in the McCarls, Jr. Sorry man. That doesn’t count. But if you’re ready to move up, or you just think walking is as monotonous as a Ben Stein lecture on VooDoo Economics, read on.
What makes a good workout for truckers?
First and foremost, it needs to be able to be accomplished with either minimal equipment or no equipment at all. I’ve seen a couple of truckers who brought along a weight bench and an entire set of free weights, but you could clearly see that these massive guys took it waaaaay more seriously than you or I ever will.
Secondly, we truckers are often in a hurry, so the workout needs to be something that doesn’t take too long. With these guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at some of the exercise programs I’ve enjoyed. Okay, perhaps enjoyed is a bit of an exaggeration.
Gorilla Workout App
The Gorilla Workout is a free app on both Android and iOS. It comes with one workout program that should keep the average trucker busy for quite a while. If you’re a real go-getter, there are 40 additional exercise programs that can be purchased for $.99 each or you can buy the whole shebang for an in-app purchase of $9.99. That’s cheaper than one month of a gym membership!
These additional workouts have appropriate names such as, Cardio Builder; which focuses on aerobic exercises, or the awesomely-named Quad Crusher; which will make your thighs scream like Fred Figglehorn. I’m still using the free app at this point, so that may be enough for you too.
All of these exercises are body-weight only, which is perfect for the trucker who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on exercise equipment. The app apparently has a sense of humor because it will eventually throw pull-ups into the mix (yeah right!).
Since we truckers really have no place to mount a pull-up bar, it says you can simulate them with a resistance strap hooked over the top of a door. I’ve also improvised by getting under the trailer and doing modified pull-ups by sticking my legs out in front of me, grabbing onto whatever I could find, and lifting my chest toward the trailer.
As you can see from this screenshot (right), you choose your starting level based on how many push-ups you can do. As an example, if you can’t do 10 push-ups, the first workout for level 1 consists of 4 sets of 8 squats, 4 lunges, and 10 modified push-ups (on knees).
There are text and video demonstrations of over 40 exercises, which I definitely needed having never heard of bird dogs or dead bugs. Oh wait… yes I have. A Golden Retriever and any cockroach that dares to approach me.
The Gorilla Workout app is great for beginners because you can do the exercises at your own pace and rest as long as needed between exercises and sets. However, it’s probably best if you set a timer for a specific amount of time and gradually reduce the rest periods as you get more fit.
This was the first workout app I used. If memory serves, I started on level 2 with one minute of rest between exercises and two minutes between sets, but choose whatever level and however much time you need. Just try to keep your heart rate up as much as possible without having to dial 911.
Each workout will take between 15-30 minutes, largely depending on how much time you rest. The next day’s workout focuses more on core exercises for your abs. That way you aren’t working the same set of muscles two days in a row. These alternate every other day.
There are 20 workouts in Level 1 and when you’re finished you can move up to Level 2 and eventually advance all the way up to Level 4 if you’re the macho type. The Gorilla Workout app progresses nicely for the most part.
I do remember one instance when it suddenly jumped me to some ungodly amount of squats and lunges compared to the workout before. I remember thinking it must be a software bug, but I just did what I could and went on to the next level. By and large a really good app for beginners.
Quick Fit – 7 Minute Workout, Abs, And Yoga
Quick Fit by Tiny Hearts Limited is an iOS and watchOS app I’ve been testing lately. It is free and includes three other workouts, Quick Yoga, Quick Abs, and Quick 4 (4-minute version).
There isn’t an Android version, but there are about a million of these 7-minute workout apps, so just search the Google Play store and try a few of them out. I can’t imagine there’s much difference considering what these apps do.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “A 7-minute workout is stupid! No way it works!” I admit I went in with skepticism too. After my first workout, I used the in-app share button to tweet my success, which prompted this reply:
@ToddMcCann I did that and was left in a heap on the floor
— Clive Hammett (@Clive_Hammett) January 4, 2017
Honestly this came as a surprise to me because while I had found the workout to be challenging, I was able to recover my breath faster afterward than the previous workout I had been doing (discussed next). Clive went on to explain that he was really out of shape.
Well that makes perfect sense. Most truckers are. Shame on me for not putting on the shoes of the average trucker. Not that I would actually wear another trucker’s stinky footwear! Yuck! Little did I know that I would soon feel what Clive felt. But not before I had one more wave of smugness set in. Settle in kids; it’s story time.
I have a confession to make; I have only recently started working out again.
Like I mentioned in TD120: Truckers and Exercise, I’m not nearly as consistent as I’d like to be. But I vowed to do better this year and so I started out with a bang. I use an app called Today (iOS only) to track my workouts. Successful days are marked in green (trust me, this is a great month for this slacker). As you can see, I was ripping along until I got home on February 3.
I hadn’t done a workout for a few days so I was pleased when my 18-year old nephew Jake came home from school and started to do some push-ups (story of him living with us in the feedback section of the podcast version).
Thinking this would be a great opportunity to boost his oft-wavering confidence level, I asked if he wanted to join me in my 7-minute workout. Sensing fresh meat, he gave me an evil grin and said he thought it sounded too easy; so I explained to him how it worked just like I will for you. Trust me, there’s a point to this story.
The 7-minute workout is structured for you to do 12 different body weight exercises with only 10 seconds of rest in-between. For example, the first exercise is jumping jacks. The app speaks to you as you go along so you know what exercise to prepare for next. And there is a video onscreen to show you what the exercise should look like.
A countdown starts and you go as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then the voice tells you to rest for 10 seconds, which is just about enough time to set up for the next exercise. You repeat this for 11 more exercises, such as squats, push-ups, crunches, planks, etc. It takes exactly 7 minutes normally, but you can always tap the pause button if you need to catch your breath.
Now believe me when I say that I was expecting Jake to wipe the floor with me. He had been exercising more lately and I’ve got about 30 years on him; 20 of those sitting on my sunken arse in the driver’s seat. So you can imagine how shocked I was when he dropped out on the ninth exercise! Who knew I had more stamina than a 18-year-old punk?
Granted, now that he’s living with us he doesn’t do much of anything except make the social media rounds and play video games on the PS4 I bought and never get to use (I’m not bitter, really). Now hang tight if you want to see my swelling head shrink like a guy’s junk after jumping into a cold lake. So cheer up Clive! You’re as fit as at least one 18 year old!
The cocky old man
It’s now February 5 and all three nephews and I have decided to walk to the park near our house and shoot some hoops. We played a couple games of HORSE before Jared suggested we play 2-on-2. Feeling overconfident, I suggesting we go full court. My defense was excellent, but I couldn’t have made a basket if the goal were the size of a friggin’ hula hoop. All of us gasping for air after a short game, Jared challenged me to some half court 1-on-1.
I was losing horribly when it happened. I put on a quick burst of speed to go for a layup and something hit me in the back of my left calf. Limping, I turned to the other two dorks and said, “Alright, what’d you throw at me?” They looked at me dumbfounded. Since they share blood with The Evil Overlord, naturally I didn’t believe them. But after looking at my calf, it appeared they were uncharacteristically telling the truth.
I whipped out my trusty iPhone and guess what the Internet said? That having a torn or sprained calf muscle usually feels like someone has hit you with a baseball bat. So I didn’t feel too guilty about accusing the brats of throwing rocks at me. To add insult to injury (pun intended), the website even said that torn calf muscles are most commonly found in athletes and 40-something men who think they’re more fit than they are. I may be one of those things.
The Evil Overlord was none too happy to drive over and pick us up, especially since she had felt guilty earlier about asking me not to skate at youngest nephew Joel’s skating party for fear I would get injured; despite my constant assurance that I wouldn’t. For the record, I’d rather not skate than listen to her say “I told you so” for a month. Surprisingly, she didn’t rub it in as much as I anticipated. She must be dying of a brain tumor or something.
Now to the point of this War and Peace-sized story. It took about six weeks for my calf to fully heal. I didn’t need crutches, but I had a wicked limp because I couldn’t let my left heel touch the ground without whimpering like a lost puppy.
My first workout back was at the end of March. Being sedentary for so long, I now understood where Clive was coming from. I got to the end of it, but there were a few times when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. And it took far longer to recover my breath this time.
Please don’t let this scare you off the 7-minute workout. You can take it at your own pace by judicious use of the pause button. The only thing you need for this workout is a chair for the tricep dips and step-ups (the bench in the shower room or the truck running board works great). You can use an exercise mat or rug if you’re gross enough to do this workout in the truck stop parking lot or ask for an extra towel if you’re doing it in a shower room.
The Tabata Workout
Tabata is another one of these HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts that are so popular these days. This is the workout I spoke of earlier. The one that I find much more challenging than the 7-minute workout.
The basic Tabata method is very similar to the 7-minute workout except that you go hard for 20 seconds instead of 30 and then rest for 10 seconds, Another difference is there are only 8 exercise sessions of the same exercise instead of 12 sets of varying exercises. That means you finish in 4 minutes. Well that’s easier, right? Officially yes. One round of tabata is four minutes. Problem is, usually they call for you to do four of these rounds (called cycles).
So a typical workout looks like this. I pick four exercises; usually push-ups, squats, crunches, and mountain climbers (can’t managed burpees yet). That works my upper body, lower body, abs, and aerobic. I use an app called Tabata Timer Pro on iOS, but they’re pretty much all the same. Just find one that has a lot of settings because you will need to adjust the times unless you’re more fit than me (not hard to be).
I would be dead on a floor somewhere if I tried to do four cycles with 8 sets consisting of the standard 20 seconds exercise and 10 seconds of rest. Trust me, I’ve tried it. I totally pulled a Jacob about five minutes in. This is why I like the tabata method. You can adjust the times to your fitness level. It’s been a while since I’ve done this workout, but I recall having it set completely upside-down. So I would do push-ups for 20 seconds and rest for 30 seconds.
At first it feels easy. I can whip out 15-20 push-ups the first couple of rounds, but by the eighth round I can only manage 5 or 6. But it’s not over. I now rest for a couple of minutes (keep that heart rate up!) and repeat the process doing squats and then again for crunches.
I save the mountain climbers for last because cardio is my weakest area. If I did them first, I’d never be able to finish the other exercises. But that means that I’m already breathing hard when I start them and by the fourth or fifth round I’m gasping for air like a fish out of water. I can usually complete all 8 rounds, but my heart is beating out my chest like a cartoon character.
Sounds miserable, doesn’t it? It is, but that’s the beauty of the timer. Set it to exercise for 20 seconds and rest for one minute… or two minutes for that matter. Granted, it will take you much longer to finish so don’t be attempting a tabata workout in the shower room if there are other drivers waiting for your shower! If you stick close to my times, you should be able to finish a workout in 25 minutes.
The Dumbbell Workout
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because I’ve already done so when I produced the two workout videos for TD81: How To Do A Full-Body Workout Inside The Cab Of A Semi. I haven’t done this workout in ages, but it is by far the most thorough workout I’ve ever done. It’s also the only one I’ve done that actually built visible muscle. And I’m not being delusional here; The Evil Overlord noticed the difference as well.
So why don’t I do it anymore? For two reasons; first because it takes longer than the other three. When you’re first starting out with low reps and lighter weights, it can be done in 30-35 minutes, but once you start doing more reps, it can easily stretch into an hour when you’re following both videos. And secondly, because I know that my heart is my weakest muscle (other than my brain obviously) and ultimately it’s the one that is going to help keep me alive. Both HIIT workouts make me breathe way harder than my dumbbell workout.
So you might ask; why is the dumbbell workout on your list if it doesn’t meet the criteria of taking less time and buying less equipment? Well, because I worked hard and long on those videos and I want people to see them. Duhhhhhhh.
So which workout am I currently doing?
Like I said, I’m just getting back into the swing of things. I’ve been fully recovered since mid-March but I’ve only done 7 lousy workouts in all of March and April. Chock it up to laziness and lack of motivation, something I’m guessing you’re all too familiar with. But I’m kicking it back in now. Please feel free to hold me to that.
So for now I’ve been doing the shorter 7-minute workout. It’s already starting to get easier for me so ultimately I’m going to transition back into the torture of the tabata workout, where I’m sure I will be extremely generous with the use of the timer settings.
Hopefully I can be consistent enough to eventually bring it back down to the recommended 20 seconds of hellish exercise and 10 seconds of the slightly more pleasant, albeit short rest periods known as purgatory.
Having said that, I’m going to keep the 7-minute workout app in my repertoire for those times when there is a wait for showers. Yes, I realize in TD120 that I emphatically stated you should always skip your workout if you will be holding up other drivers. I’m altering that stance because we truckers don’t need more excuses to be unhealthy.
So I’m going to save my 7-minute workout for those occasions when there is a shower wait and just try to hurry through the rest of my shower routine. I figure if other drivers can stay in the shower for an hour doing God knows what, I can take 7 minutes to better myself.
Here’s the dealio, Emilio. I hate working out. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I had a workout partner. Maybe it would still suck. I’m guessing it would.
There are two things I do know for certain:
- The only person who can make me healthier is me. And the only one that can help you, is you.
- I always feel better after a workout.
Granted, it’s not an immediate good feeling. When I step straight into the shower after a hard workout, I often feel like my arms are too tired to wash the stank off of my sexy bod. There have even been times when I’ve decided to skip shaving because I didn’t want to hold my arms up that long. Yes, seriously. How pathetic is that? And when I’m walking back to my truck, my legs often feel like I’m walking on a couple of Twizzlers.
But not too far down the road I always start to notice that I’m more alert. I’m sitting up straighter instead of slumping down in the seat. I just feel better. And I think a big part of that is knowing I’ve forced myself to do what so few truckers manage to do; take a shower. What? What did you think I was going to say? 😉
So what do you say? Are you with me? What say we all get off our chunky trucker butts and do something to improve your health. Do it today. I promise I’ll help you stay motivated if you’ll help me.
Please leave your thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below.
Podcast Show Notes:
I read about two separate road rage incidents recently on TheTruckersReport.com, prompting me to promote a podcast I did called TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing.
I warn drivers about Uber Freight by pointing to a Business Insider article that shows a timeline of Uber’s many scandals.
Short YouTube clip of Ben Stein’s VooDoo economics lecture in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Great movie!
Short YouTube video of Fred Figglehorn screaming.
QuickFit by Tiny Hearts Limited
The Today app is a habit-tracking app that can help you track your workout success (or failure in my case). It’s iOS only, but I’m sure there’s a similar app on Android.
Tabata Timer Pro on iOS or search for any Tabata app. They’re pretty much all the same.
TD81: How To Do A Full-Body Workout Inside The Cab Of A Semi shows two workout videos I produced a while back. No need to wear eye protection. I’m wearing a shirt.
In the feedback section:
Mike and Chris talk about truck driving simulators.
Kyle writes in to share his thoughts on why Walmart drivers might be getting all this extra pay that other OTR drivers aren’t.
Greg gives us a link to the Zodi Outback Gear Extreme Shower, which his wife uses at her Renaissance fairs.
Brian the Aussie sent an audio comment that covers a variety of topics, including the US DOT physical rules and Personal Conveyance time, which prompts me to talk about go on a mini rant. He also shows some appreciation for the podcast having a “Clean” tag, which lets him listen with his daughter around. Cool! He also wonders about my situation with my nephews since I talk about them so much. I happily explain. Lastly, he asks me to elaborate as to why I ask listeners who are submitting audio comments to keep them under three minutes. I’m happy to do so.
You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com
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