I was thinking about this yesterday as we were bringing down firewood. My husband cuts logs into 18 inch chunks, we throw them in the trailer and bring them down to where he splits them and I stack them. Not to give myself a pat on the back, but I did surprise myself at the size of the pieces I could lift. This is the major goal of why I lift, to be able to do things like that. There were no pieces that I couldn’t lift that my husband could.
I know people who say that they don’t need to go to the gym since they do hay, or firewood, or whatever. I have to politely disagree. The only people who I would say might get away with that argument are postal workers who walk their route or garbage men who throw the stuff in at least three days a week. Even they would benefit from rounding out their activities with some planned exercises. Everyone else, in my opinion, would be doing manual labor sporadically, which not only doesn’t build muscle, it increases your chance of injury. Even farmers, who do a lot of manual labor, could benefit from regular exercise. If you are rolling your eyes at that, let me explain. When you do things “as needed”, there is no plan about what it is doing for your body, good or bad. There are no guarantees that when a farmer is lifting a bale he is using good form. He is not thinking about building up the antagonist muscles that would support and balance the muscles he is using. Bracing your core is not instinctive, and can make a huge difference in protecting your back. Most work movements are done in front of you, just like computer work and can lead to rounded shoulders and weaker backs. I saw this guy walking out of Walmart and he made me wince. He had a huge gut and was walking almost bent over at the waist. That told me he has a weak posterior chain and tight hip flexors. He got into a truck with a farm logo. Could he do his chores? Probably. Did he do them in a lot of pain that could be remedied? Probably.
If you work out only when you are working, there is no plan, no progression, no goal. As in any area of your life, if you only react, instead of thinking, planning and acting, you will only achieve things randomly, instead of purposefully. The results of working out comes from planning, consistency, and progression. Oh, and I should mention- when I say working out, I don’t mean going into the gym and randomly picking up pieces of equipment and using them. You do need a plan and a goal. They should be realistic and balanced. Obviously, since I am a trainer, I think you ought to have at least one or two sessions with a trainer to teach you the basics, and ideally, you should work with one to create and achieve your goals. I should also mention, you don’t need a gym. You can achieve quite a lot with body weight and a few cheap pieces of equipment. If you are going to do that, I would say to get a book or DVD with a program on it to follow. Most are fairly well written and good for the average person. The downside to doing that is if you can’t follow them, you can’t ask them how to modify their program.
Regular, planned exercise helps your manual labor by:
- Balancing out your muscles, so some aren’t over developed at the expense of others.
- Maintaining a level of fitness to prevent injuries during sporadic labor.
- Teaching you proper movement patterns, to prevent injuries.
- Progressing your strength, making your daily chores easier.
I hope this convinces some of you to either give it a try, or recommit to regular exercise. I could give you countless examples of people I know who work hard, but aren’t in shape. Most of it is basic education about exercise, which really makes me wonder about our physical education in schools. Maybe we need to spend a little less time playing soccer and a little more educating people in how their bodies work and how to maintain them. Oh well, I guess I have the topic of my next post.
Speaking of my next post, I have two other topics that may get their own treatment, but I don’t want to forget them. First, I have been blending kale and adding it to my oatmeal. I don’t know what else to do with it, to get decent amounts. I wouldn’t recommend it to others, since it is an acquired taste. Considering the level I am working out at, and how little soreness I have, I think there is real benefit. I am using it in salads and sauteing it as well, but I agree with those who say you can never get to much greens in your diet. If anyone has great kale recipes, or how to sneak it into other foods, please comment.
Second, I saw this article on Paula Deen, and while she only changed when she had to, at least she changed. Of course, how she lived before is how she got the diabetes, but that describes much of America now. Maybe the fact she is changing will inspire all those who follow her show to change with her.