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Drivers take many roads to better health

By on January 17, 2014

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but any driver will tell you that most trips don’t work like that. Construction, bad weather, accidents and more conspire to create twists and turns in the journey.

Staying healthy on the road is a lot like that. It’s easy to plan to eat more fruits and vegetables, for example, but that late-night buffet whispers seductively. And sure, there’s a walking trail and exercise room at the next stop, but getting some shut-eye is much more tempting.

Fitness takes work, and so does a healthy diet. Drivers have it worse than a lot of people because the job entails sitting for long periods of time, making snacking easy and getting regular exercise hard. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, however, as seen in these stories from drivers who are making healthy living a part of their journey.

Jayson Baker

Routes-to-Fitness-5Some people need a structured approach to lifestyle changes. That’s why the Truckload Carriers Association got involved with Lean for Life On-the-Road, which incorporates the Lindora weight-loss program and offers weekly coaching calls and online support, including daily emails and various other tools, for 10 weeks. The idea was to instill healthy habits over that period of time so that participants would not only get some weight off, they’d keep it off.

When Jayson Baker heard about the program, he was interested … a little.

“I was up to about 265 pounds and had been heavy for a while even before I’d quit smoking,” Baker says. “I got tired of being out of breath, and not being able to do fun things like riding around on our four-wheelers. I saw that we were having a weight-loss competition at work and thought I’d give it a shot.”

After losing a fourth of his starting body weight and 10 inches from his waistline, Baker became a fitness evangelist.

“I did the program, which involved eating a lot of protein and very few carbs, and as I got more into what I was supposed to be eating, I realized that I could do this,” he says. “All the truckstops have the food you should eat. Walk up to the buffet and get the hard-boiled eggs and the vegetables. Buy almonds instead of chips. All the stops have healthy food. You just have to make the right choice.”

After finishing up the challenge last April, Baker did fine until a weeklong vacation in September. After that, he hopped on the scale, saw that he’d put some weight on, and wasted no time getting back on the bandwagon.

“I said, ‘No, I won’t have this,’ and so I started watching my diet more closely again,” he says. “I also have made sure that I have kept up my exercise. That’s the best thing about the Lindora program — the exercise is walking. Anybody can do that for 45 minutes a day. Now, when I am home on the weekends I even take my dog and go for runs. You just have to get started and stick with it.”

Dale Davenport

Routes-to-Fitness-1A contest was the entrée to healthier living for Dale Davenport as well. Just as his doctor informed him that he had high blood pressure and was prediabetic, Con-way Truckload launched its own version of the “Biggest Loser” contest.

“I would have gone on a diet no matter what, but I’m really competitive so this came along at the right time,” Davenport says. “I hate losing at anything, so this was a great way to get headed in the right direction.”

The contest featured individual and team competitions, with those losing the largest percentage of body weight taking home the crown. Overall, the drivers, non-drivers and teams lost more than 2,000 pounds, and Davenport took first place after shedding 40 pounds, or 15.8 percent, of his total body weight. And in the eight months since, he’s kept the bulk of the weight off.

Routes-to-Fitness“My wife and I drive as a team, so I’ve had great support,” he explains. “But I also took it off slowly, which helped. I do all my own cooking, and don’t touch fast food. I eat 500 calories three times a day, and I have a food plan so I know when and what I am going to eat. That way I don’t ever get too hungry.”

He also exercises six times a week, getting in workouts for three days, resting for one day, and then back at it. Like his diet, he says scheduling is everything.

“It does seem to mean everything to me; I have to exercise before noon or my brain just doesn’t feel right,” he says. “Even when I was big I exercised, but it was much harder. Eating was always the thing I couldn’t stop doing, so not letting myself get hungry is the thing. Exercising, eating and sleeping at the same times, which can be difficult as a team driver, has been the way to go for me.”

Even with that, Davenport put 12 pounds back on, but has already dropped three of those. “It’s a day-by-day thing,” he allows. “If you stop or slow down, you will lose some ground. But you can always make that back up.”

Kelly Cunningham

Routes-to-Fitness-2Even for the healthiest person out there, driving a truck can present some issues. The sedentary lifestyle takes some getting used to, and during that time it’s easy to pack on a few pounds. At least that was the case for Kelly Cunningham, who drives for Schneider and didn’t like what she saw in the mirror after a lifetime of being active and keeping fit.

“I was always playing sports growing up, and throughout my time in the military I was running a lot,” Cunningham says. “I always had to watch my weight, but I could keep it down. But when I began trucking in 2004, I stopped being as active and gradually started gaining weight.”

The former Russian linguist for the U.S. Army just bought bigger clothes, eventually shifting her wardrobe to “mostly sweats” as a coping mechanism. A trip to the doctor showed her tipping the scale at around 200 pounds, with the accompanying high cholesterol and other issues. That showed her the light.

“I was prediabetic and had all those other problems, and I just didn’t like the way I looked,” she says. “I saw some pictures that were startling. That was in about 2007, and so I got down to business.”

She changed her diet, following the advice most nutritionists provide, such as eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. She also dialed back her portion sizes, and with the support of her co-driver began to get out of the truck as much as possible.

“We put a Wii Fit, which has a running program, in the truck but I started walking whenever I could,” she says. “I will do pushups and sit-ups in the shower rooms, and I got some weights so I could use those outside the truck.”

She also uses fitness rooms at Schneider and at truckstops that offer them, and now her dogs travel with her and provide another good excuse to go for a walk. Even so, it took a while to get the pounds off, which makes her extremely vigilant about their potential return.

“If you go slow, it’s easier to maintain,” Cunningham says. “But you have to stick with your program. It’s easy for me to gain weight, especially as I get older, so I do some basic things like count my calories and try to get 10,000 steps in every day. I don’t always do that, but I try to. I know I have to watch myself, because even though the food is a lot better than it used to be at the truckstops, that pizza always looks good.”

Glenn Keller is Back on Track

The hardest thing about a diet is not achieving a goal, but staying there. Popular thinking is that slacking off on healthy foods leads to packing back on the pounds, but for Glenn Keller, it was about letting his exercise habit lapse.

In between driving and serving as pastor to his Making A Difference Ministries, Keller didn’t have a lot of time for exercise. His weight soared over 300 pounds (he’s 5’5”), and health problems mounted. When Keller was chosen for CNN’s 2012 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge team, fans from around the country cheered him on. More than 50 pounds fell off. The triathlon was successfully completed. Then the cameras and blogs went away, and the weight began to creep back.

“In our industry we have to take a physical every two years, so I knew I was in bad shape,” Keller says. “But I kept putting my weight and health on the back burner. Fit Nation changed that. The eyes of the world were on me, and it was quite a challenge.

But when that all stopped, it was back to business as usual.”

He didn’t go completely overboard. He stuck to a healthy diet, but wasn’t making the time for exercise. With his weight climbing, he had trouble looking at the triathlon medal hanging on his office wall.

“I have learned the hard way that diet and fitness go hand in hand,” Keller says. “I built myself up for a triathlon, then just stopped. I would get on the scale and it would be a huge disappointment to me, and I just let those feelings pile up. Now I am working on getting back into those fitness rooms, starting slow, so I can end this slide. Before, I was doing it just so I could be an inspiration to all those people who stayed in touch with me. That was nice, but this time I need to make it be about me. CNN’s not around any more, so now it’s about me and what I need to do to get and stay healthy.”

Successful weight loss tips

1 Be patient. It took time to gain the weight. It will take time to lose it. One to two pounds lost a week is a healthy target.

2 Keep track. Just as you log your hours and miles, log your food and exercise. A running tally of calories in and calories out will keep you honest.

3 Set realistic goals. Don’t plan to lose 50 pounds in six months. Aim to lose one pound this week. Don’t train for a marathon, walk a mile. Once reached, set the next goal. Eventually you’ll be 50 pounds lighter and running marathons.

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