Friday, July 11, 2008

Preventive maintenance

I recently had some foot surgery that meant spending several weeks at home, with my foot in the air when I wasn’t hobbling around on crutches. Aside from getting a new handle – “Flat Tire” – from my editor, Jami Jones, and being asked if I had finally learned how to “double crutch,” the experience has given me time to ponder how many limping truckers I have seen. And sympathize with their discomfort and pain as they trek onward, getting the job done.

Why are so many drivers hobbled? Jumping – or falling – off rigs and trailers probably causes a lot of lameness. Over the years, it wears down the ankles and knees, and arthritis sets in. They’ve got torn or shredded tendons, ligaments and cartilage from falls and slips and overuse. Twisted ankles that never healed enough, even fractures that bore weight too soon.

Age and weight contribute their share of misery, as does lack of exercise. Can’t do much about age, but taking off pounds relieves the burden on joints, and even daily stretching can help limber up muscles and joints.

Not that it is ever easy to find a place to limber up, and I am not comfortable preaching to the contrary. Truck parking lots can be sketchy any time of the day, and especially at night and early mornings. Also, it’s hard to feel like you’re doing something healthy standing between two trailers with reefer exhaust blowing around you – and other truckers staring at you.

Still, if there’s room in your sleeper, try a few simple stretches, maybe some leg lifts in the rack. If you have to re-tarp or check a load, do a few leans and quarter-squats before you start to unkink muscles that have been sitting for hours. Knock off a few pounds and take a walk when you’re home.

Like they say, life’s a journey, so take it one step at a time.