Fitness and truck driving don’t always go hand in hand. For most drivers, it’s hard enough to eat healthy on the road, so fitting exercise into days spent almost entirely in a truck cab seems practically impossible. Because of this, it’s common for people in this industry to see their health continuously decline the longer they’re in a truck.
That was certainly the case for Nathan Bugg, a Texas-based trucker who had ballooned up to 265 pounds after several years of driving for a local 10-truck fleet he ran with his brother. However, that all changed with a $500 bet from his brother, which would end up completely altering Nathan’s lifestyle.
“I kind of got overweight like truckers do, just living the lifestyle, being on the road and eating,” says Bugg. “My brother bet me one day that I couldn’t run a Marathon and gave me one year. That conversation happened in February 2007 and a year later I was 70 pounds lighter and had finished the Houston marathon.”
Fast-forward to today, and Bugg has gone much farther than he ever might have imagined. He most recently completed the Arizona Iron Man triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run) in November 2015, and now he has his sights set on the Galveston (Texas) Half Iron Man in April.
He didn’t get there overnight. Training for that first marathon following his brother’s challenge was a slow and painful affair, but Bugg’s ability to self-motivate kicked in from day one. His secret was simple: start with the basics, and build from there.
“I just went out and ran a mile the first day. It took me about 10 and a half minutes, and I felt like I was dying,” explains Bugg. “From there it progressed daily. I was just determined. It got up to where I’d run anywhere from three to six miles a day and then on the weekends I had progressive long runs – starting at 10 miles and then the following week I’d run 11 – and built my way up to where I could run the marathon.”
One marathon clearly wasn’t enough, as Nathan kept training and running more races, eventually setting his sights on the ultimate endurance race: the Iron Man triathlon.
“I kind of got bored with just running and also jut found a new love for fitness,” says Bugg. “I started motivating myself to do something different, so I bought a bike in 2012 and started riding it. Then I found a local guy who had done an Iron Man [triathlon], and he talked me into training with him and doing a little swimming at the local YMCA. It progressed from there and I did my first Iron Man in May of 2014.”
While training was relatively easy to schedule when Bugg was running a local company from home, by this time he had started driving longer regional routes for other fleets. Maintaining a daily workout plan on the road is obviously full of challenges. For Nathan, it comes down to planning and timing. The first step for him is finding a place where he can lift, swim, and cycle.
“I have different gyms that I’m a member of and I have to find those along the way to get in there and train. Trying to find a place to park, where I can get to a gym, is a challenge. A lot of the time if I map it out, it turns out to be a good run for me, so I run from where I park the truck to the gym and then run back,” Bugg says.
Once he’s found a workout location, the next challenge is determining a time to exercise. This is easier said than done when most of the day is spent behind the wheel.
“I love working out in the morning,” says Bugg,” but generally I don’t know when the load picks up. Midday is the best time. If I can find somewhere to stop once I’m loaded, I’ll find a gym midway, take my breaks all at once – which would be an hour to two-hour workout – and then get back rolling.”
If he’s caught in a bind and has limited time or can’t find a gym, Bugg uses the dumbbells and stretch weights he carries with him in his cab. One thing he always avoids is waiting till the end of the day to exercise.
“At the end of the day you’re tired, you’re worn out, and by the time you eat dinner you’re just done,” he says. “You just want to lay down and watch TV or take a shower.”
Another challenge he faces on the road is eating healthy. While many truck stops offer alternatives to the fast food staples, finding the proper nutrition is usually pretty difficult. The best thing he can do is take advantage of healthy options, like fruit and turkey sandwiches, whenever they are available.
Nowadays, Nathan doesn’t always train alone. He introduced two of his hometown friends to the sport and coached them through to a full Iron Man.
A week in the life of the ‘Iron trucker’
With his on-the-road training strategy set, Bugg has become a truck driving, triathlon running machine. Bugg is also sometimes joined in training by his wife, Whitney. Nathan got her into running several years ago, and she completed her first full marathon in 2013. Whitney attributes her husband’s ability to compete as an athlete while also driving a truck full time to his innate drive and self-discipline.
“He’s just very dedicated and self motivated,” Whitney says. “No matter how tired he is or how much sleep he gets, he gets his training in. He’ll pull over on the side of the road and run to the gym. He just has a natural drive to do it.”
While training for an Iron Man may seem like a daunting task for anyone, let alone a full time truck driver, Bugg insists that any driver can maintain a simple exercise plan on the road. All they need is the right amount of discipline and motivation.
“Always make time for yourself,” says Bugg. “People are going to push at you for their agenda, but just be sure to always put in a little time everyday for yourself, for health and exercise. Even if it means walking around a truck stop, just do it and don’t worry what other people think, because it’s for you. Nobody’s going to miss you for an hour a day.”