Hi Hayley,

In May I will begin something that I have dreamed of for a long time– a road trip across the States and then up to Canada. Having lost my mother this past year due to a horribly long bout of mouth cancer, I’ve decided enough is enough, and time to grab life by the horns (or balls, as my mother would have said).

I am 30, and in OK shape. Truly…just OK. I have a long history of laziness, asthma, and a new-ish anterior knee pain issue (with my now regular PT sessions, I should be good by May). Prior to PT I was doing spin class 3x a week, and Pilates 1x a week.  I hated spin, almost as much as I felt like a champion after each class. I have never enjoyed hard cardio, but I LOVE walking and hiking – (expected knee recovery should allow, per PT, 4 miles a day MAX).

I am concerned about the lack of exercise opportunities along my way, given my preferences, my tendency for excuses not to exercise (hello knee injury as almost a blessing), and healthy food options between legs of the road trip. I have a few national parks and hikes on my bucket list along the way… but there’s a lot of driving between cities. Any suggestions on healthy living (food and exercise) between the long drives?


I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I just lost my father very suddenly a few months ago, and I sympathise with how you are feeling right now. But losing a loved one is one of the ways of teaching us that life is short and the only thing that we truly have is now, as there may not be a later. It sounds like you are ready to make some serious changes in your life and start living for you.

The first thing you need to do is change your attitude towards exercise, because as soon as you do that you are going to enjoy it that much more. We all hate spinning, trust me, but there is still a way to look at a spin class in a positive light. Instead of dreading how hard you have to work, or how much your butt hurts the next morning, focus on how it challenges you. Thrive on the fact that for one hour in your day you are doing something for you and for nobody else. However, take it back a few and instead of going four days a week, maybe just get to one or two.

Loving walking and hiking is fantastic! I am constantly wondering why people think running, or hard cardio, is the only way to exercise. Yes you burn more calories running, and you do see greater physiological benefits when you push yourself harder, but it is all relative and if you do not enjoy running or plan on ever running a marathon (which is your choice) then hiking and walking is just as good. Stop comparing yourself to those who run and start rewarding yourself for the fitness that you do.

But here is the kicker. You need to get your butt into shape now. No more excuses. As soon as you have clearance from your physiotherapist you need to start moving because opportunities to build your fitness while sitting in a car for days will be limited. You are also going to want to be in the best shape possible so when you are out exploring the amazing parks you plan on hiking through, you are going to have the energy to complete them as well as not be crippled in pain the next day!

When you finally hit the road for this epic journey, you are going to have to be careful. Keep a cooler in your car stocked with healthy snacks that you pick up fresh from a local market every other day or so. Precut vegetables, humus and whole wheat crackers, nuts and seeds, healthy snack bars (such as larabars) dates, fruit and water should all be on hand. Try and make your own lunches as well, or find places that make healthy sandwiches and salads that you can pack on the go. 

Stay away, as much as possible, from fast food restaurants and if you must make a stop at one, try and find the healthiest option you can. A piece of vegetarian pizza with a side salad is your best option here. If it is breakfast you are after, stay away from potatoes and have fruit instead. If it is breakfast on the go, opt for a breakfast wrap of some sort (with eggs) rather than a muffin. They may pack the same amount of fat and calories but the fat you get from a wrap is going to fuel you a lot longer than the fat from a muffin. Try not to drink your calories either so stick to water rather than juice and soda.

And on the days that you will just be driving, get out for a walk before you head out in the morning as well as try and find somewhere along the way where you can get out and stretch your legs. You could do some squats, lunges, pushups, jumping jacks and step ups at a rest stop along the way to help keep you from that afternoon sugar craving that is so common. And before you check into your stop for the night, get out for another walk.

Your mom would want you to live the best life you can and part of that is honoring your body and filling it with foods that are healthy and nutritious. It is ok to splurge once in a while and make a stop at your favourite burger joint, as long as you don’t make it a habit. 

Safe travels.