5 Exercises to Do on Your Morning Commute

by The Darwinian Doctor

When I was job hunting at the end of my surgery residency, I wanted to work for a large medical group as an employed physician.  While not as glamorous as a private practice surgeon, the large group environment takes a lot of the headache out of practicing medicine.  Instead of spending my career worrying about hiring nurses, billing insurance companies, and keeping the lights on in my practice, in theory an employed position could allow me to just do what doctors do best:  practice medicine.

So when I began my job search, I was very happy when two jobs opened up near Los Angeles with my favorite medical group.  I was less happy when I put them on Waze to see what my commute would look like with either choice.   Both of my job prospects were about 45 – 90 minutes away, depending on which direction and how close to rush hour I was driving.  “Rush hour” in Los Angeles, by the way, is a misnomer. It’s more like “rush morning” and “rush afternoon”, with just a few hours of respite in between.

But after I’d finished all my interviews and did an objective analysis, I still chose to join the medical group over the available private practice jobs.  As a result of this decision, my daily commute to Orange County from Los Angeles has me spending about ten hours a week stuck in my car.

In my desire to improve and evolve in all areas, one thing that I’ve explored is how to work out in the car.  Between a more than full time job and family obligations, it’s hard to find time to work out. So naturally I did some research to see what kind of exercises I can do while stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.  To do these safely, these exercises should only be done while at a complete standstill. Here they are!

Pectoral Push (AKA the steering wheel crush)

Grip the steering wheel with your hands at 9 and 3 o’clock.  Push the palms into the steering wheel towards the center, engaging your pectoral muscles.  Use controlled and slow increases in pressure to avoid jerking the wheel.

Seated Abdominal Crunch (AKA the prayer to the traffic gods)

Sit tall in the seat with your back straight. Engage your abdominal muscles strongly and try to bring your ribs closer to your thighs.  After each repetition, sit up tall and straight once more. Your shoulders and head may be pulled slightly forward during the crunch, but you can explain to onlookers that you are sending a prayer to your favorite traffic deity.

Bicep/Tricep squeeze (AKA the Wakanda)

With the car fully at a stop, cross your arms in front of your chest at the wrists to make an “X” with your clenched hands facing inwards.  Pull your outer arm inwards to engage the biceps while pushing your inner arm outwards to engage the triceps. Feel like you are on the set of the Black Panther movie.

Gluteus Maximus (AKA the pelvic thrust)

With both hands on the steering wheel for support, push your heels into the floor of the car while strongly engaging your gluteal (buttock) muscles.  Your pelvis may lift off your seat slightly with a good squeeze. Ignore the funny looks and take solace in the fact that the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body, and therefore you are working out in the most effective manner possible.  


Exercise your brain

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, make sure to use your time in the car to learn.  Whether you’re into novels or real estate radio shows, there is absolutely nothing like podcasts and audiobooks to enrich your mind while making the drive simply fly by.  You can subscribe to a service like Audible, download audiobooks through your local public library, or simply listen to one of the thousands of podcasts available for free on iTunes.  Lately, I’ve been splitting my time between the White Coat Investor and BiggerPockets podcasts, and sometimes I don’t even want to leave the car because I’m so engrossed with the episode!

So what do you do on your commute to stay fit and awake?  Post your comments below!


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