The last several weeks have felt like non-stop driving to me. I drove from Florida to Arkansas, then from Arkansas to Kansas, then back from Kansas all the way to Florida. A couple of weeks later I was making the 18 hour drive from Tampa to upstate New York, and now I’m on my way back. A few weeks from now I’ll be making this 18 hour trip up to New York again, and then back a few days later. Oh, and I’ll be flying to and from Thailand in the weeks between.

My car, old and beat up but relatively clean, is now littered with road-trip trash. From gum wrappers to various energy drink cans, my designated trash bag has been filled up, thrown away, and I have failed to replace it. Of course, every time I stop for gas I give it a quick clean-up, but you know how road trips go — the cleaning comes later, right now I just have to get there.

Like my car, my body begins to feel the toll. When I’m just out and about and I get the hankering for fast food, I generally regret it immediately after satiating my cravings — and that’s after a single meal. On road trips, there isn’t much of a choice. The only available meals without cutting into your schedule tend to be fast food. They add up, and by the time you get to where you’re going, you often forget exactly what normal healthy food even tastes like.

I don’t pack a large cooler and plan my daily meals and snacks, perfectly mitigating the inevitable streak of feeling like I just ate a barrel of cement and grease, but I do several things to help myself along.

These aren’t tips for the nutrition gurus that already have it all figured out, they’re tips for the shmucks like me who don’t have the time to spend developing a ten page OPORD beforehand, won’t take the time out of the journey during, and so must find ways to mitigate

First of all, I try to bring my dog if at all possible (though I won’t be one of those people who makes him a service dog just to have him around). Of course, if you follow me much on social media or just know me, you know that I try to bring my dog everywhere I go, but it actually helps me on these trips. I force myself to give the little guy a respectable amount of exercise, taking him out and running around with him — thereby giving myself the same amount of exercise. I’m not working out, I’m not building muscle, but I’m getting my body active and going which not only makes me feel better and more awake during the drive, but I feel generally better after the drive as well.

While I don’t meticulously meal plan, I have started packing at least a little for the journey ahead. Departing from my last destination, I had a healthy sandwich, carrots, nuts and cheese, and a fruit juice. My fast food for the entire day of driving was limited to one stop at Chick-fil-A.

I also have figured out which restaurants are acceptable compromises when it comes to fast food, and I generally try to stick with them. Subway is high on this list, as eating Subway doesn’t have the same negative effect on me that a couple of popular burger joints might. Chipotle also makes the cut, but honestly my favorite is probably those high-end gas stations that have prepackaged salads along with a wide variety of healthier drinks. The salad wraps are great because I can grab them and eat them on the road if I’ve got a co-pilot that can take over (regular fork and knife dining isn’t my first choice on the road, even as a passenger).

I drink caffeinated beverages quite un-judiciously on these trips, but past that I now struggle to retain at least a sliver of the normalcy that I left with when it comes to my body and how I feel. These are just a couple of things that have helped me achieve that, so that when I get back, I feel good about working out or going on a run the next morning.

 

Images provided by the author.