Against all odds?
Tired of trying to commit to a healthy lifestyle, only to find advice geared toward the 9-to-5ers with gym memberships and daily access to high-dollar health food stores every day? Truckers have made it work with life in the truck. Here's some real world advice from people who walk in your shoes every day.

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer


A flat tire used to throw Gabrielle Peoples off her delivery schedule – and her day.

Now, disruptions are merely an opportunity to get her workout in early.

In August, Peoples noticed a flat tire on her trailer midway through Arkansas. At the maintenance shop, Peoples realized the delay was going to keep her waiting and burn much of her workday.

Rather than sit and stew, she laced up her white and green Brooks running shoes and left the shop in the dust – running two miles down the road before circling back for a quick 4-mile workout.

“I needed to get four miles in that day – and it also worked out some of the frustration,” said Peoples, a company driver and OOIDA member. A trucker since 2000, the Conway, AR-native got into trucking and later exercising while team driving with her husband, James.

Since 2007, Peoples has run to relieve stress and lose weight. Her recent push has included running four days a week before completing her first marathon in the fall of 2009. Despite its benefits, running isn’t always easy to fit into her schedule as a company truck driver.

“It’s like anything else; who always has time?” she said. “You have to make it a priority.”

If any group of U.S. workers have a built-in excuse for avoiding healthy foods and exercise, it would be truckers.

However, there is a new movement toward fitness from professional truck drivers. Many truck drivers who spend most of their working and non-working hours in and around their truck are exercising more and choosing to eat healthier.

John McElligott, M.D., has treated professional truck drivers for 16 years. During that time, McElligott says the demands of the job combined with tougher medical requirements for drivers have pushed many more drivers to combine a healthy lifestyle with their trucking life.

“I’ve noticed a big difference between when I started in the early 1990s and now,” said OOIDA Life Member McElligott. “It’s hard to lose weight and improve your body, and for many people genetics is working against them. There is much more support and information out there today.”

Though living healthier isn’t always easy, McElligott said tiny sacrifices can lead to big rewards.

“If it took you 50 years to get unhealthy, it will take you five to even approach healthiness,” McElligott said. “You can’t be impatient. You need to think about the big picture. What do you want to do when you’re 65? Do you want to be there for your kids and grandkids?”

Peoples said completing her first few runs from a truck stop was the hardest part.

“Mostly it’s a matter of not being self-conscious about being out there,” she said. “Now I’ve got several neat little areas I use near truck stops.”

Peoples said getting into running has helped her focus on good health. She takes vegetables on the road with her and orders leaner menu items.

Gabrielle says she packs a large cooler with healthy snacks before hitting the road for a few days.

“I eat a lot of Subway sandwiches and chicken sandwiches,” she said. “I avoid fries, I drink no Cokes, and I have lots of water. I still have my coffee, though. I’ve got to have it first thing in the morning.”

Known on the social networking site Twitter as “gabsatrucker,” Peoples said she’s gotten support and exercise ideas from others online.

“People are so supportive,” Peoples said. LL