At the end of June, I will have completed my first Healthy Trucker Challenge. Headed by wellness coach and nutritionist Andrea Morley, Healthy Trucker is a health and wellness program for all of us in the transportation industry.
Healthy Trucker is powered by NAL Insurance. This program provides the tools and support to take a more critical and objective look at your overall health and then take a step each week towards healthier choices about how you feed and care for your body and mind. It’s a source of community support – a source of support that I have given short shrift to over the course of pursuing a healthier lifestyle while longhaul trucking.
I’m of the belief that a large part of your makeup needs to be of the lone wolf if you are to succeed as a driver in the field of longhaul trucking. That’s the nature of this business.
As a driver, you are at the tip of the spear, always. We are not alone as we face the challenges of our day but this industry depends on the independent and solitary characteristics of its drivers to make the right decisions, be accountable, follow the rules, and ultimately make everything work smoothly where the rubber meets the road.
But the lone wolf’s approach to life has its drawbacks. Fierce independence and a solitary life may be the Achilles heel of a trucker when it comes to making decisions about personal health and well-being. Successful truckers are filled with confidence and self-assurance when it comes to decisions made in the moment; the safety of all road users depends on it. But truckers should take the time to think about and analyze the decisions they make about their personal health and they need some community support, some expertise in the field, to help them do that.
I’ve been looking for the magic formula to live as a healthy trucker for the past 19 years. I quit smoking in the autumn of 2000. A year later, I started addressing the weight gain that resulted as I used eating habits to replace my smoking habit. I have had a lot of success over the years and have always attributed that success to myself, to my own stubborn stick-to-itiveness, until recently.
Our lives are dynamic and ever-changing. In the past five years my tough-mindedness, that sense of dogged determination that has kept me focused on a healthier lifestyle has been wearing thin and failing me.
I’ve always understood the strong relationship between physical and mental health, recognizing that when you eat the right foods and get the right amount of exercise and sleep, then a healthy body will result in a sound mind.
But I discounted the fact that I have lead a life free of any severe emotional or physical trauma, that I have never had to depend on support or help from family or community to live from day to day. The result of this privilege is having to come face to face with the fact that my own self-assuredness and independence is only a Band-Aid when it comes to dealing with issues of mental health. Toughing it out hasn’t been working for me lately.
Aging is a funny thing. It fills you with wisdom while waking you to a deep sense of your own mortality. In 2017 my oldest brother, a healthy and active man in his early seventies, was diagnosed with sudden onset leukemia that took him down hard and fast.
He died just eight months after his initial diagnosis. At the same time, I have seen a number of my peers, much younger than my brother, diagnosed with ailments that have been either debilitating or terminal in nature. I view this out of a sense of how precious time is and not out of any sense of fear. It is that value of my time that I have come to recognize as the source of my greatest anxiety.
I can recount many days of highway driving that my mind has turned to thoughts of my family at home and amplified an anxiety of separation in my mind. Toughing it out doesn’t work here. This is when you most need a community, someone close you can just reach out and talk to. This is a hard place for the lone wolf to wake up in each day.
So, I joined the Healthy Trucker Challenge to get back in shape in terms of nutrition, exercise, and sleep and was awakened to the fourth ingredient, community.
As truckers, we work hard for the time away from trucking that we need for a healthy mind. That time is spent by most drivers with other people – loved ones, friends, family – that we can just talk to. We need that. Getting the right nutrition, the time to exercise, and the time to sleep depends on it. I felt a healthy body leads to a healthy mind but now find myself needing a healthy mind to lead to a healthy body.
Maybe that’s just a little wisdom gleaned from aging.
Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at www.truckingacross canada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall