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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 may seem impossible. Because of this, it’s common for drivers to see their health decline the longer they’re in a truck.

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Texas trucker turned Iron Man competitor Nathan Bugg

That was the case for Nathan Bugg, a Texas trucker who weighed 265 pounds after several years of driving for a local 10-truck fleet he ran with his brother. However, that changed with a $500 bet from his brother, one that would end up 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.”

The process to get marathon-ready was slow and painful, but Bugg’s ability to motivate himself kicked in from day one. His secret was simple: start with the basics, and build from there.

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Nathan Bugg in an Iron Man race

“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 wasn’t enough as Nathan kept training and running more races, eventually setting his sites on the ultimate endurance race: the Iron Man triathlon, which includes running, biking and swimming.

“I kind of got bored with just running and also just 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 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.”

Training was relatively easy to schedule when Bugg was running a local company from home, but he started driving longer regional routes for other fleets. Maintaining a daily workout plan on the road is full of challenges. For Nathan, it comes down to planning and timing.

“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 challenge. A lot of the time if I map it out, it turns out to be 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.

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Nathan Bugg with an Iron Man medal

“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 until 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. You just want to lay down and watch TV or take a shower,” he explains.

His training routine pays off. He recently completed the Arizona Iron Man in November 2015, and now he has his sights set on Galveston Half Iron Man in April.

While training for an Iron Man is a daunting task for anyone, let alone a full time truck driver, Bugg insists that any driver can maintain an 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.”