In my adulthood I have always been interested in health and wellness. I’m perpetually reading some article or book about it, I go through fads where I follow one certain workout regime or another and I go to great lengths to cook most of the food we eat from scratch with wholesome ingredients. I love to be active and work up a sweat every day and I truly believe that our health is our greatest asset.
Even so I will be the first to admit that I find exercising just for the sake of exercising to be HARD. With the exception of yoga which I have adopted a daily practice that I enjoy and look forward to, if I do a “workout” I am usually watching the clock to see how much time is left and it takes just the right amount of self motivation and guilt to get to the workout in the first place. I do it a bit anyway, especially in the winter months because I understand the health benefits and I usually feel good afterwards but running on a treadmill does leave me feeling kind of hollow and like I never really went long enough or pushed hard enough.
In the past no one had to go looking very hard for exercise, it was just built into daily life. People used to work for their food (growing, foraging), heating (gathering and splitting firewood), shelter (building, repairing) and transportation (walking, paddling, etc). But now most of us work for money so that we can buy these things and I think we can all agree that it has made us all much more sedentary.
All of this is why I am so thankful for the physicality of my work. It seems there are always tasks that need to be done that are workouts in disguise. Hauling 50lb square bales, jumping over gates, walking through deep snow with all the heavy winter gear on, hammering in hundreds of fencing staples, carrying 60lb boxes of meat, splitting wood, the list goes on and on.
Today I knew the animals needed hay but it was too cold to justify starting the tractor when I knew that it would be much warmer in just a few days and I did put a hay bale in a different pen for this exact occasion so that in the future I could “just” open a gate to feed them (delayed gratification!). The only trouble is the gate had been totally drifted in with hard packed icey snow so I had to shovel it out first to be able to open it. It was about -27 today but after a few minutes of breaking off snow chunks and tossing them aside I was sweating. There is something special about that feeling of being cold and sweaty all at once.
The beauty of this workout is there is no arbitrary pre-assigned time or distance goal. The goal is getting the gate open so the animals can eat which provides the motivation. So you just keep at it and do what it takes until the job is done. There have been countless moments when I am doing a task and it feels like I am almost going to break but the goal is right there, just about in reach so you push to get to it. I know for certain if I was lifting weights in a gym and my arms felt the way they do when I am unloading a truck full of heavy boxes of meat, I would not do more reps. I would be satisfied with my efforts and feel like I worked to the max but this extra boost that you get when you know you have to push through is pretty magical.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when I think I am crazy for leaving my cushy, climate controlled desk job. Back in those days I used to workout over my lunch breaks and I found a balance there. We also lived in the city for a short stint and when we did I biked and walked places often and I played recreational sports, not because I am any good at any sports but because I enjoyed moving my body and getting exercise in a way that doesn’t feel mundane. All the power to you folks that keep up a gym routine as I have a lot of friends that do and experience great results, it just doesn’t always work the best for me.
I know you might be thinking, but Arlie, I don’t have a job that demands me to be physical and that might be true but I bet there are things you can find that ask you to move and give you that motivation. Like walking or biking to work, joining a rec sports team or swapping your usual date night dinner out for a night of dancing or wall climbing! Remember I said I wasn’t great at sports but it’s still fun to do them with friends anyway and now that I’m a grown up I really don’t care what I look like while I’m doing it!
What fun ways have you found to work exercise into your life? I’d love to hear from you!