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How To Stay Healthy When You Practically Live In Your Minivan

By on 26/01/2015
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It’s quite normal for mothers to find themselves driving for hours a day to their kids’ ballet, karate, piano, and basketball practices. Recent medical research has exposed the health risks of professionals who sit behind a desk all day. However, stay-at-home moms who ‘live in their minivans’ are equally at risk. Not only do our spines and muscles pay the high price of sitting for long stretches, our waistlines and muscle-tone suffer, as well. Often, we find ourselves tired and hungry, with a sleeping child in the backseat, surrounded by coffee/donut drive-thrus at every stoplight. Our posture worsens, leaving us vulnerable to neck and back injuries that thwart our regular exercise regimens. As a stay-at-home mom for eight kids, here are some strategies I’ve embraced for navigating my life ‘on the road’:

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1. Bring Your “BFF”.

I keep a box of fast food in my minivan to ward off cravings and satisfy my hunger before the next drive-thru appears. My BFF is full of nuts, pumpkin seeds, herbal tea bags, healthy snack bars, dark chocolate (weather permitting), goji berries, spiced dried chickpeas, and whole grain crackers.

2. Keep An Extra Pair Of Socks & Sneakers In Your Van.

How many times do we find ourselves in a ballet school parking lot, with too little time to run errands and too much time to stay sedentary? This is a perfect opportunity to get our heart rates up, move our bodies, and stretch our legs. A quick walk, even around a parking lot, wakes us up and allows us to breathe fresh air in the middle of our afternoon itinerary.

3. Practice Your Kegels.

Ladies, while we’re driving is the perfect time to put things back where they belong. We’ve all heard the phrase location, location, location. This is especially true for those deeper core muscles that have loosened from childbirth.

To practice a proper Kegel at the wheel:

· Sit up straight.
· Exhale fully.
· Imagine you are stopping the flow of urine. Locate, engage and activate (squeeze) those lower muscles.
· Make sure you are engaging all the lower muscles.
· Don’t forget to breathe.
· Hold the kegel for a count of ten, and then release.
· Repeat ten times.

4. Take The ‘Rear-View Mirror Test’.

If you practice Pilates, you might be familiar with this posture check. Usually, as the day goes on, we find ourselves adjusting our rear-view mirror downward. This is because our posture worsens with every minute behind the wheel, and we begin to slouch. Our heads tilt forward, putting an enormous amount of stress on our spines. The next time you find yourself adjusting your mirror, try a posture tweak instead.

· Pull your shoulders down from your ears (they creep up with stress!).
· Relax your arms and hands (loosen those white knuckles!).
· Engage your abdominal muscles so they are holding up your ribcage, rather than becoming compressed beneath your ribcage.

5. Hydrate.

Keep a refillable water bottle in your cup holder. I use a water bottle that already has the ounces labeled. Ideally, we should drink half of our body weight in ounces, daily. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, try to drink 70 ounces of water a day. Dedicate this water bottle to your travels, and have it handy for trekking through your long to-do list. To keep my water from getting boring, I usually dunk an herbal tea bag right into the cold, filtered water. The fragrance alone has a calming effect on my senses, and I drink more fluids because of the subtle natural flavor.

6. Rethink Your Logistics.

If you live in rural or suburban areas, it can be downright impossible to walk to the post office, or to schools, especially at this time of year. However, by grouping errands by location, we can avoid zigzagging through town. Try parking in a central location and walking, instead of ‘parking lot-hopping’ around a small town-center radius. To further reduce ‘toosh-time’, consider teaming up with other mothers and creating a carpool schedule for games and practices.

With a little creativity and attention, our time behind the wheel can be filled with unexpected moments of health and wellness! Share some ways you stay healthy in your minivan!

Tara Sareen
Tara is a Certified Health Coach for mothers in the Greater Boston Area. She lives with her husband and eight children. As the founder of iCrave Coaching, Tara coordinates her clients' wellness goals around nutrition, weight loss, appropriate physical activity and stress management. Find her at http://www.iCraveCoaching.com and on Facebook at iCrave Coaching.
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