Physical therapist Mark Manera got his first dose of trucking working with the occasional over-the-road driver in an outpatient rehab clinic in Southern Missouri. At first he "didn’t really take a second to think about the lifestyle, and what the day-to-day looks like" for those patients who drove. Yet those initial experiences led him into further research and, for the last year and a half, the young doc has been running a new fitness company aimed directly at helping OTR haulers help themselves out on the road to take the pounds off -- and keep them off.
Everyone wants to talk about their health, or the health of their drivers as the case may be for the small fleet owners among you, "until January 31 comes," Manera said. At that point, "everybody’s New Year's Resolutions are over," whether goals set are well on the road to being completed or just set aside and relegated to the dustbin of personal history.
"We’re trying to get the trucking industry," and most definitely individual haulers, "to think differently about health," Manera said.
Manera's Trucking Fitness Company and its TruckFit program work through a smartphone app to take operators to interactive content aimed at simplifying the process of rolling into diet modification and, perhaps most importantly, getting exercise. The program encourages routine through simple workouts that can be done in the sleeper, outside around the truck -- anywhere, really.
The company works "with individual drivers, but also with trucking companies themselves," Manera said, noting he'd been spending time of late convincing owners of fleets of all sizes to offer the program as a benefit to their employed and or contracted drivers and owner-operators, oftentimes covering the cost.
But his confidence level in the basic TruckFit program when it comes to individual owner-operators is such that the company offers a money-back guarantee to those who are looking to lose weight. That guarantee: "If you don’t lose 15 lbs. in 60 days, we will give you your money back," and "keep working with you for free until that 15 lbs. is gone." (Costs are $29.99/monthly for individuals. For fleet owners offering the program to drivers, $10-$19.99/operator/month, depending on fleet size.)
What makes Manera and company so confident? The TruckFit program was built by listening closely to drivers' input about the "barriers that make it difficult to exercise consistently, and find a healthy meal out there," he said. Through the app operators use in the program, TruckFit delivers a "program customized to their current fitness level -- everybody has a different starting place -- and their goal. Most start with weight loss, but as they progress their goal shifts."
Workouts offered are customized to individual needs -- "in the truck or outside the truck," Manera offered, "or at home," as the case may be for a local driver. "We give out all the equipment they need." All operators that sign up get a resistance band, for instance, the single piece of equipment needed to do the workouts.
On the diet side, recommendations are personalized to goals and preferences as well, depending on diet type and tastes -- Keto or plant-based, for instance, or another. "We take it a step further and give them restaurant guides for healthy meals on the road, and help build meals at the truck stops," Manera said. "A lot of people think nutrition is all or nothing, but how can I push the needle and get, say, 10% healthier? We've had some drivers that just switch to diet soda alone and the pounds just fall off."
That sounds great, right? Anybody who's ever tried to stick to a program for long-term health knows it's not exactly that simple -- I can't tell you, for instance, how many times in my history I've utterly failed to give up smoking after long periods of initial success upended simply with a single slip back into an old routine ... that quickly becomes a total fall off the flatbed, as it were.
"I can give a driver the best nutrition and exercise program in the world, but if they don’t stick to it" all is for naught, Manera said. To help, TruckFit builds accountability into its program in three ways:
- Peer-to-peer with access to a community of drivers working toward similar goals within its app.
- Access for advice, questions and more to those who've achieved goals through the program and successfully integrated good practices into their routines over longer periods.
- Finally, operators have access to company staff -- "coaches in nutrition and the rehab world," Manera said -- who are available 24/7 through the app.
"We send a check-in text message every week," too, proactively offering help, Manera said.
The goal, in the end, is "not to flip your life 180 degrees," he said, but to fit new practices seamlessly into the current routine, an approach illustrated by the example of OTR/local hauler Jeremey Oakley, who spoke as part of a series of individual testimonials posted to the Trucking Fitness Company website.
Like a trucking business built over the course of year upon year of hard-won experience, success in fitness is all about "moving slowly along," Oakley learned, integrating "the little habits. Once you start making one little habit, then you make another one, and another one ..."
Keep on truckin' ...