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Preventive Maintenance: Christmas Recovery

Ho, ho, ho. The Christmas/New Year's Season is over. And if you're anything like me, your fitness program got a little derailed over the holidays. Now is the time to get back on track.Sure, those extr...

Ho, ho, ho. The Christmas/New Year’s Season is over. And if you’re anything like me, your fitness program got a little derailed over the holidays. Now is the time to get back on track.

Sure, those extra holiday goodies were tasty. Those after-dinner naps were relaxing. Not to mention sitting around the tube watching football, eating foot-longs (subs, of course). But, we can’t ignore our tight waistbands and the larger-than-life image in the upright mirror. We definitely need to get back to taking our health seriously, not just to look better, but to feel better as well.

January’s the time for resolutions and fresh starts. This is the time to get active. Why? To improve your heart and other muscles, your circulation, your enthusiasm, your energy level and your ability to relax. And to pay attention to your weight. Add good eating habits and you’re on a roll (or getting rid of a roll, if you get my drift.)

So, let’s talk about a healthy eating plan, in general. Most importantly, you want to get every nutrient you need for the day out of your foods, without too many calories. You want a high octane mixed fuel. So choose your foods wisely.

First of all, pick lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you can’t find fresh vegetables, steamed is next best.

Then, keep an eye on foods high in cholesterol: beef, pork, mutton, poultry, fish, dairy products and egg yolk. The American Heart Association recommends you eat under 300 milligrams per day. This means each day you can have up to 12 oz. of beef, pork, or mutton; four cups of chicken (not fried); 25 slices of bologna (if you’re into sandwiches); or 20 oz. of fish (again, not fried).

Salt is also worth watching (no more that 2,400 mg/day). Herbs and spices are great for flavour, without the negative side affects of sodium.

What about fats? Although you do need some fats, keep them to a minimum (less than 30 per cent of your daily calories). Saturated fats – from animal fats, palm, palm kernel and coconut oil – should be under 10 per cent. Polyunsaturated fats – from corn, soybean and sunflower oil – can be up to 10 per cent. Monounsaturated fats – from canola and olive oil – can be up to 15 per cent.

As well, eat your largest meal at noon. This gives your body a chance to burn up the calories, instead of storing the extra as fat. But, if you’ve already got a good store, now is the time to burn it off.

Regular exercise and eating less fat is the key to keeping your ideal weight. This will help you control your appetite, keep your muscle tissue (you won’t burn it off), burn calories and generally feel better.

What activities could fit into your day? You may need to shift your mental gears and think; it’s not a chore, it’s a fitness program. Then when you’re not on the road, do the work around your home – don’t hire it out. Shovel your own snow (forget the snow blower – you’re getting in shape). Rake your own leaves, prune your trees and carry your firewood (besides, sitting in front of a roaring fire is a great way to warm up after shoveling the driveway.) While watching TV, get your own drink. And sit up. (You burn more calories sitting than lying.)

At home, leave the car in the garage. Walk to the corner store for milk, etc. Take a walk before breakfast, after dinner, or both! (Or, become a “fitness nut” and choose a hilly route.) Take the dog for a walk. If you do have to drive somewhere, park farther away from your destination to make yourself walk farther. On the job, walk around the truck stop a few times before you go in. (This will help the circulation in your legs, too.)

Pack a skipping rope to use in your hotel room. If there’s an exercise room or pool, try it out. While sitting around, do some leglifts. While talking on the phone, stand up. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Every little bit helps.

Make an effort to enjoy the season. Winter is great for outdoor activities. Skating, cross-country and downhill skiing and tobogganing are great for the young and the young at heart. For those of you with dedicated runs, join a hockey league, fitness club, or racquetball club.

Remember, eating right and being a little more active in a lot of ways will help you feel better and look better. Is there any better way to start off the New Year?

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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