Fit for Fun

August Health Hero: Hank Dobbs recently rode his bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a charity event.

Six years ago, Hank Dobbs, a trucker from Abingdon, Va., decided he was tired of carrying around 260 pounds of flabby weight on his 5’9″ frame, but he wasn’t sure how or where to begin a fitness program. He’d been overweight most of his life and always thought it was his destiny; most of his family was overweight. He’s not sure exactly what tripped his desire to get started but says he became determined to live in a fit body or die trying.

“I was worried that the ‘die trying’ part was going to come before the ‘fit body’ part because it was so hard at first,” Dobbs says. He began by changing his diet from high-calorie, fatty foods to leaner, healthier choices and smaller portions. At the same time, he slowly added short runs and weight lifting to his daily routine. “I started with just buying a pair of running shoes and getting up every morning wherever I was parked and going for a run,” he says. “It felt like it was killing me at first, but I stuck with it.”

He was driving over-the-road and carried free weights with him in his truck. The weight began to come off, and he got down to 157 pounds. “I lost 103 pounds in the first year but was mostly happy about getting rid of the gut that had taken 30 years to develop,” Dobbs says.

Eventually, after becoming more serious about lifting weights, he added muscle back until he leveled off at 185 pounds, and he has stayed in the 180s for three years. Dobbs joined the YMCA, which offers membership anywhere in the country. “I started finding YMCAs all across the U.S. and began keeping a notebook of their locations. That way, I could plan my trips and figure out where to park the truck so I could work out at an area Y. This wasn’t easy, but I was able to work out with weights three times per week,” he says.

The 39-year-old trucker now hauls locally but is proud of his newest athletic venture, road bicycling. In fact, he rode in a charity bike ride in September, traveling 525 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation.

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Personal: Dobbs lives in Abingdon, Va., and works for Highlands Petroleum hauling gasoline and diesel to convenience stores and construction companies in Eastern Tennessee, Southwestern Virginia, Western North Carolina and Eastern Kentucky. His dog, Gizmo, a Pekingese, travels with him.

How do you feel now that you are in shape? I feel stronger overall and find that my workouts are easy to stick with since I’m no longer exhausted by their difficulty. I don’t know if I had any health problems because I wasn’t good about staying on top of my health at the time. But now, I’m doing great!

What’s your favorite motto? “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” is one of my favorites, and it has served me well in getting fit. It reminds me I have no one else to blame for how my life and body are, it’s totally up to me to shape them the way I want them.

What diet tips would you give a trucker who wants to be healthier? Eat small and eat frequently, at least every 3 hours. Keep track of what you’re doing and what results you’re getting, and be open to changing it if you’re not getting the results you want. Consume lots of water! Don’t drink empty calories like sugary drinks. Pay attention to the fat, sodium and calorie contents of everything you eat. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.

How can a trucker add fitness to his routine when he’s on the road? Get up early and run, walk or bike. When I was on the road, I would park at a truckstop so I could get a shower when I was done, or I would find a YMCA for a weight workout and shower there. It’s not easy, but with planning, it can be done.

What’s your next health goal? I’ve gotten pretty good with cycling, but I’ve not done much racing, so my next goal is to win one of the local bike races this summer.

What inspired you during the tough times? The My Body for Life book on tape read by the author, Bill Phillips. What tough times Bill didn’t get me through, my friends always seemed to have my back. Even the ones who weren’t into fitness always seemed to encourage me.

Nominate Health Heroes
Do you know any truckers who have worked hard to become more healthy? Maybe they’ve quit smoking, started an exercise program, controlled their sleep apnea or changed their eating habits. E-mail [email protected] or send to Truckers News Fit for the Road, 3200 Rice Mine Rd. NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.

Health Question of the Month:
I have been driving for 20 years with very few health problems other than being about 10 pounds overweight. However, recently I’ve been suffering from heartburn. What kind of diet and fitness programs help?
– Charlie from Butte, Mont.

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.

Some call it acid reflux; others call it heartburn. The official name is gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD. And you know it as soon as the acid creeps into your esophagus. It causes pain and tissue damage if you don’t make some lifestyle changes.

Diet plays a big part in controlling the symptoms of GERD. Start watching what you eat and when you eat. Specific foods and situations can cause a flare-up of symptoms. Here are a few nutrition tips:

Lose the big meals, sticking with three moderately-sized meals a day. Avoid the one giant feast at day’s end.

Sit upright, making sure you’re in an upright position for at least an hour after eating. Take a walk. Sit up and read a book. And try not to eat too close to bedtime.

Hold the spice and cap the hot sauce. The spicier the food, the more fierce the heartburn.

Pass on the fat, eliminating all deep-fried foods. Avoid pastries packed with saturated fats, and cut out butter and whole milk.

Cut back on acidic foods, including citrus fruit or juices and tomatoes – even chocolate.

Kick the caffeine habit; put coffee and caffeinated soft drinks on your “no-fly list.”

Say bye to the booze – eliminate or reduce your alcohol consumption.

If you have persistent heartburn, see your doctor. In the meantime, make some easy diet changes that will help chill the hot spot.

Ronald Rush, M.D., is a family care physician with Highway Health Care and clinical director of Med- Xpress Health Care in Texarkana, Texas.

Gastric reflux is a very common problem, and many truckers complain of a burning sensation after eating large, spicy truckstop meals. A few lifestyle factors that worsen the symptoms include obesity, eating prior to lying down, large or greasy meals and the use of carbonated drinks. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking also aggravate symptoms. One related common physical problem is a hiatal hernia. This occurs when a small portion of the upper stomach rises above the diaphragm. The contents of the stomach are less well contained when this occurs and can easily back up into the esophagus. Each of the lifestyle factors mentioned above worsens this problem. There is a surgical option for the hiatal hernia, and your gastroenterologist can tell you if you are a candidate. For most people, the best option is to make lifestyle adjustments such as diet and fitness changes. When those adjustments are not effective, the use of an acid-lowering medication often is essential. Your antacid neutralizes acid after the fact, but treating reflux is not just a comfort issue. Stomach acid from reflux bathing the lowering esophagus irritates the tissue. This is a common cause of esophageal cancer. The time to start treating this is now.

Linda Dunn is a fitness expert from Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Being a little overweight and physically inactive can lead to numerous health problems as you age. Our bodies need regular physical activity to stay fine-tuned and in good working condition. Gastric reflux can be related to stress and anxiety. Daily exercise can help you by overcoming the negative side effects of chronic stress. Get out and walk, swim, ride a bike or jump rope for at least 20 minutes a day with a goal of working up to 45 minutes, and make no excuses. Make sure you wear loose clothing and athletic shoes with good support when starting a walking program. Learning to relax before and after meals is easy if you practice calming breathing techniques. Inhale with long, deep breaths and focus on where your breathing starts and where it ends. Exhale and begin again. Deep, calming breathing techniques can reduce stress.

Even ten extra pounds can increase abdominal pressure, which pushes the stomach contents up into the esophagus. Adding physical activity can help you lose weight and feel less stressed. Another tip is to elevate the head of your bunk or bed or use a “wedge” pillow to keep your head slightly elevated during sleep. When all the systems of our body and mind are in balance, there is an optimal level of mental clarity, physical health and emotional well-being.

The advice and opinions expressed herein are only general suggestions. Before you undertake any course of action, you should consult your doctor to determine what steps are right for you. Randall-Reilly Publishing, Truckers News and the experts consulted for these articles do not endorse, warrant or promote in any way the products of any of our sponsors.

When to Call the Doctor about Heartburn
Source: Cleveland Clinic

You should contact your health care provider for any of the following reasons:

  • Your heartburn symptoms have become more severe or frequent.
  • You are having difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing, especially with solid foods or pills.
  • Your heartburn is causing you to vomit.
  • You’ve experienced a drastic weight loss.
  • You have been using over-the-counter antacid medications for more than two weeks (or for a longer period than recommended on the label), and you still have heartburn symptoms.
  • You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription or non-prescription medications.
  • You have severe hoarseness or wheezing.
  • Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.

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