With the advent of self-driving cars creeping closer and closer, we “drivers” are having to do less and less behind the wheel. While this sounds like a brilliant thing in theory, you may be neglecting the maintenance of your base musculature. We underestimate what a morning spent in gridlock can achieve for our calves and what a bit or roadside drama can do for our rubber necks. A few simple in-car exercises can stymie the onset of the couch-/car potato devolution!
Now don’t get excited. We’re not planning to instruct you on how to beef up behind the wheel. You won’t leave for work as Danny DeVito and arrive for your meeting as Arnold Schwarzenegger. These exercises were designed to prevent garden variety atrophy and to keep abused and overworked muscles trim and flexible.
It goes without saying (but our lawyers insist we say it anyway) that you should only attempt these exercises when it is safe do so so and will not detract from your ability to safely operate your Hyundai.
To begin, turn your head aside to the point where you feel some (meaning slight) strain. Hold this pose for five seconds and repeat to the other side. Release. Now, tuck your chin toward your chest. Do it slowly until you feel strain at the base of your neck. Hold that pose for five seconds. Release. Lastly, tilt your head as if you want to rest your ear on your shoulder (don’t raise your shoulder). Don’t strain yourself on this one. Hold it for five seconds. Repeat this cycle up to five times.
Importantly, don’t force yourself just because you know how far your neck can go. Muscles and their supporting structures are like engines: they need to warm up and lubricate before they can function at peak efficiency and that peak is determined by external factors (such as temperature and how well you’ve slept) and won’t always be uniform.
Starting with your back flat against the seat, scooch your bottom forward, up and away from the seat. Ever see a cat arch its back? Good! Hold that for five seconds … and release. Remember to move slowly so you don’t hurt yourself. Repeat up to five times.
Shifting all your weight to one side, lift one cheek off the seat. Hold for five seconds and switch sides. (Best to do this one when you’re alone in the car, in case force of habit takes the wheel.) Repeat up to five times.
Traditionally, calves only flex one way during driving. To maintain equilibrium, place your feet flat on the floor and raise your heels as far as they will go. Repeat up to twenty times. (Resist the urge to take off your shoes as obstructions among your pedals are a hazard.)
The Chest and Shoulders
Get a tennis ball. (In a pinch, you can use an empty water bottle with the top screwed on.) Hold it in both hands, at chest level, with your fingers laced over it. Raise your elbows in line with your dashboard. Try to bring your palms together. Repeat as many times as you like. (Tip: changing the direction of your hands – inward, upward, forward – shifts the focus between muscle groups.)
Hopefully you don’t become so fond of these you start doing them in meetings and waiting rooms. While they are excellent for your health and posture, they will probably be bad for your social media profile if someone snaps a pick. And if you’ve gotten completely excited about these only to realize you have no car to do them in, book a test drive today!