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Time Travel

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Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

September 25, 2007 

I believe in time travel.

Both my wife and I were in our early- to mid-40s at the 
start of last weekend when we loaded the kids into a mini-
van for a long road trip.

Half a day later, we got out of the vehicle and discovered 
we had aged. Our faces looked the same, but we were moving 
and creaking like geriatric patients. I could no longer 
remember how I made it through all those college road trips
as one of seven people stuffed into a Ford Escort. 

P.S. If you're interested you can now post comments on this 
and recent issues on our forum at... Travel Tips Forum 


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Ergonomics, as anyone who has a desk job will tell you, is 
important stuff. It isn't just for fending off carpal tunnel 
disease, but preventing your body from tensing up and 
tightening painfully because of the positions you hold your 
body in for extended periods of time. 

I am talking, of course, about driving. 

Here are some tips I got from the central personnel office 
of the government of Alberta, Canada. I'm not sure why that 
ended up being the most complete site for travel-related 
=ergonomics, but it did. 

* Get to know your vehicle's adjustment controls and adjust 
them before you drive. Move the seat forward or backward so 
that your knees are slightly higher than your hips. This 
avoids pressure points and improves circulation.

* Adjust the angle and position of the seat, back support 
and head rest. Maintain neutral posture by keeping your 
upper body upright while you look straight ahead. The 
headrest should not push your head forward.

* Check the position of your seat in relation to the 
steering wheel. Reaching for the steering wheel when the 
seat is too far back can cause shoulder, neck and upper arm 
strain. Adjust the steering wheel for your comfort. 

Adjust your seat as close to the steering wheel as is 
comfortable so that your knees and elbows are bent, and you 
can easily operate the steering wheel and pedals without 
reaching. With your hands in the 2:00/10:00 position, your 
hands should be below shoulder height and your arms should 
be less than fully extended. If you are shorter than 5'4” 
and have an inflatable driver side air bag, always maintain 
a 10-inch distance from the spot where the bag explodes out.

* Make sure you seat supports your lower back. If it 
doesn't, use a back support, a small pillow or a rolled
towel or sweater. Remind yourself to lean against the
backrest instead of leaning into the steering wheel. 

* Take that bulging wallet out of your back pocket to keep 
it from biting into the nerves that feed your legs. We all 
know there's nothing but grocery store lists, business cards 
and gas station receipts in there anyway.

* Use your arm rests on long trips. Keep your elbows close 
to your body to reduce muscle strain. 

* Change posture frequently to improve circulation and 
prevent fatigue.

* Don't sweat those red lights- use the time to loosen those 
muscles. You can stretch your neck by pulling your chin to 
your chest and rotating your head side to side and down to 
your shoulders. Also try rotating your shoulders and making 
a fist and releasing it. 

* If your back hurts while driving you might want to take a 
rest stop break and go for a short walk. 

* Stress adds to muscle tension so be sure to give yourself 
enough time to get wherever you have to go. 

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Here are some exercises you can do in your vehicle to help 
ease ergonomic discomfort. Remember to keep your eyes on the 
road while you do them.

* Neck and shoulder stretch

Tuck your chin in. Move your left ear to you left shoulder 
while pulling your right arm down behind you with your left 
hand. Repeat on the other side.

* Finger flex and stretch

Make a fist and squeeze. Hold for 10 seconds. Spread your 
fingers and stretch them out, like you're trying to pick up 
a bowling ball that's too big for you. Hold that for 10 
seconds. Do this exercise several times with both hands.

* Shoulder shrug

Raise the top of your shoulders toward your ears until you 
feel slight tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold the 
tension for three to five seconds, then relax and let your 
shoulders fall back into their normal position. Do this 
several times.

* Wrist rotation

Rotate your wrist in both directions. Then do the other 

* Back stretch

Hold your right arm with your left hand, just below the 
elbow. Gently push your elbow toward your left shoulder. 
Feel the burn and hold it for five seconds. Then repeat on 
the other side.

* Ankle turn

Sit forward and place your feet on the floor. Straighten one 
leg and raise it a few inches off the floor. Rotate your 
foot. Then repeat with the other side.

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Airline travel can also be an ergonomic nightmare. Here are 
some hints to make it more livable: 

* Good luggage makes a big difference. Look for lightweight, 
durable luggage with extending handles and good wheels. 

* Plan your packing so you don't take unnecessary items, 
which can weigh your luggage down. 

* If you have items with shoulder straps such as a laptop 
computer or garment bag, be sure the strap is wide and 
padded to disperse mechanical stress to the shoulder. 
Alternate shoulders to distribute the load. Walk with an 
upright posture. Don't let your luggage pull you to one 

* If you can, check your luggage. This eliminates carrying 
bags during layovers and reaching to load overhead bins 

* Bring a small, lightweight carry-on bag to prop your feet 
on. This will help keep blood from pooling in your feet 
during flight. This is particularly important if your feet 
do not rest comfortably on the floor. Taking a "walk" during 
flight also helps promote blood flow and decrease muscle 

* Place a small pillow or blanket in the lumbar region of 
your back to help reduce back strain. 

* If you have a tendency to fall asleep with head on your 
shoulder, use a pillow. Those “U-shaped” travel pillows that 
fit around your neck can also help. 

* If you use a laptop during flight, try placing it on a 
pillow on your lap. For most people the pull-down tray is 
located at a height much higher than their seated elbow 
height, which causes awkward hand and wrist postures while 

Well, that's it for this week. Travel safe and stay in

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   



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