I often tell people I have a firm policy against unpaid exercise.This nips in the bud the idea that I'll move furniture for beer. Don't drink it. Never have. My niece recently suggested that we go to the gym, give them eight dollars and then lift weights. I declined the offer telling her that I had just torn down a chimney and cut a house in half so that it could be moved down the road. I had no intention of doing anything more until starting work the next day.
This sort of exercise is preferable to me because I can look at the results of what I've done and it puts money in my pocket. I will occasionally go for a walk or kick a soccer ball around but you'll never find me running up and down stairs to the beach(unless I've found some good cedar slabs to carry up) or pumping weights in the gym.
My body is a machine and as such it will one day wear out. I'm saving my energy for useful endeavors. I always have plenty of things that need to be done and I find that by mixing it up with a bit of this and a bit of that I get a good overall workout.
Sometimes I get a job which is mostly technical and not terribly physically demanding. I don't seek additional exercise during these times I simply allow myself to soften up a little and rest the bones. Soon enough someone will have a very demanding job which needs to be done in record time and I'll go at it like Rambo on crack. By the time the job is over I'm in great shape again and ready for another rest. That's how athletes do it and it works.
Speaking of athletes, remember the boxer Larry Holmes? He was often accused of being a lazy fighter. He wasn't flamboyant and yappy like Mohammed Ali and he didn't possess the lightning speed of Mike Tyson. Yet Larry was able to chalk up more title defenses than any other fighter since Marziano. He did this using what one admirer referred to as an "economy of motion." This basically meant that Larry who is a big guy, didn't waste his energy. When faced with an opponent who wanted to dance in circles around the ring, Larry would pursue them in a pattern that kept him near the center so that he had to cover less distance. If he threw a punch and realized mid-motion that it was not going to connect he would ease up and change tactics. If an opponent threw a punch which was feeble or off target Larry wouldn't waste his energy jumping out of the way. He would turn his shoulder or pivot just enough to allow the blow to glance off of him.
Sometimes opponents would believe they were giving him a pounding but they where really wasting their precious energy. Larry was working efficiently, choosing his battles and allowing opponents to chalk up a few points, knowing that he would still have plenty in the gas tank and knock them silly at the end of the fight. Commentators would often imply that he got lucky somehow when what he really did was outwork and outsmart his opponents. I believe him to be hugely underrated. We can all learn a thing or two from Larry.
Any homesteader who does a combination of planting, building, cutting firewood etc. will tend to stay in perfectly good physical condition without fiddling away time and energy at the gym in pursuit of store-bought muscles.
When trying to sell a customer on the idea of hiring me to remove a building my brother once said, "He's an automatic working machine." I liked that one and have been using it ever since.
Here is a list of some of the extremes I will go to to avoid unnecessary effort while still getting lots done 1. I don't commute. Since my jobs are episodic and often have to be done very quickly I need to stretch the length of my days any way I can. Even if my job is only 10 miles from the city I plan on living there until I'm finished. No distractions, no wasted time and no money spent driving.
2. I seldom bend over when removing wood from buildings I'm demolishing. I generally heave stuff into a pile on the ground or into the back of a pickup truck and from there all other handling is done by customers who purchase those items. If I'm working with a helper I constantly remind them that once it hits the floor it's not mine to deal with.My back is strong but I avoid bending over in the name of efficiency. When I walk around a jobsite and something is out of place I'll often give a quick flick of my foot and send it to the appropriate pile. Hammers and pry bars resting on the floor are flicked to my hand juggler style.
3. Whenever it's possible to sit or lean against something I'll do it.
4. I constantly switch tools and methods until I find the one that gives me the most production with the least effort. I do this with helpers as well. If I show someone how to do a job several times and they fail to do it efficiently I put them onto something different. Those who can't do anything efficiently are laid off immediately.
5. I seldom travel more than a few extra steps in order to urinate. At the job site I'll piss in downspouts, laundry sinks, planters etc. In downtown Victoria most public washrooms have been closed to the public in a failed attempt to control our druggie population. I seldom search for bathrooms. Instead I'll stand with the vehicle door partially closed and pretend to look for something on my dash as I pee in a Starbucks cup in front of the whole world.
6. I don't jump out of the way of little things that are about to fall on me. Whether I am yanking off drywall or knocking down saplings I allow the material to contact me in a controlled manner and use my body weight to direct where it falls. Quite often when cutting young trees that are only 4 inches in diameter I'll whack them off at five feet high then as soon as the but hits the ground I do it again and again. If I'm quick enough I can have a 40 foot tree piled in front of me and I've avoided walking 40 feet. I would never do this with big heavy stuff. Too dangerous.
The list goes on. I'm not averse to hard work and the accompanying exercise. But I'm horrified by the thought of piddling away my time and energy on unpaid exercise.
Tell us some of the profitable ways that you've managed to stay in good shape.
I have often extolled the virtues of "laziness" by which I mean "not working harder than you need to." My goal is to not have to work harder than a hunter-gatherer for my living. Hunter-gatherers average about 4 hours a day of work to provide their living. This is time spent actively walking around foraging or hunting. The rest of the time they spend gossiping, improving their personal appearance (grooming), resting, singing, playing music, making some kind of art, etc. As I transition away from a money-based living to a living-things (permaculture) based living, I want to be able to keep the hours worked low. Eventually I think it would be neat if I could make a comfortable living working maybe 2 hours a day for money and 2 hours a day actively practicing permaculture. But to do this I need to get better at making money during those 2 hours and better at growing things during the other 2 hours.
Great thread. I call it the 'lazy housewife syndrome'. Permaculture is all about not wasting steps, time, or energy, so it was like I found the perfect worldview.
Right now I'm finishing up an adobe and cob earthen oven. It works surprisingly well and was a great workout to build. Lots of heavy adobe blocks to lug around, rocks and rubble to scrounge, shoveling gravel and sand, mixing mud, moving heavy wheelbarrows, bending and kneeling, all in all, a very satisfying autumn task. I wanted some red sifted dirt from my daughter's house for the final plaster (and to have on hand for more projects). Her soil is incredibly rocky and compacted, a nightmare to dig. Today I used a pick and shovel for 4 hrs, sifted hundreds of lbs of dirt and rock and filled ten 5-gal. buckets--- that is my idea of a fun workout! The grandkids 'helped' me with their new dirt sifters made from hardware cloth and duct tape. They got a workout too.
I love to build things from rock and rocks are heavy. I have quite a bit of it in my glaciated soil. I could easily remove an average of 20 pounds of rock per square foot. Since I plan to intensively farm about 3 acres I will eventually need to move 1,290 tons of rock.
I intend to utilize pigs since they push rocks to the surface while excavating roots, and I will use my crane with a big stone boat to take rocks to areas of storage and utilization. That way I only have to handle them once and never have to lift anything more than 2 inches off the ground since big ones can be rolled into the trough.
No doubt I'll get plenty of exercise in this process but by utilizing the animals and equipment I'll probably get a small percentage of the exercise received by someone who goes the shovel and wheelbarrow route.
I have a log choker cable which I use to move rocks as large as a dishwasher. This will be invaluable when I construct terraces, foundations for buildings and rock gardens. I also hope to plunk a few big nuggets directly into the living room and greenhouse areas of the house. These rocks will become visual focal points and will add greatly to my thermal mass.
There's 1 million things you can do with rocks that will give you plenty of exercise but no point being silly about it when machines are available.
We have quite a few Portuguese stonemasons here in Victoria, mostly men in their 50s and 60s. They often get rocks from my job sites. These guys are strong as bulls from the work they do. They don't go home at night and pump weights. Instead they go home and chow down on all sorts of high calorie food yet they remain more fit than most 20 year olds.
My job is physically demanding. I'm a supervisor for a refractory contractor: Firebrick, heat/acid/abrasion resistant linings and coatings in an industrial environment. Everything is heavy. Some of the time I chase paperwork or move materials around. Now and then I sit on a bucket for hours watching the stuff cure (fire watch). Much of the time I get right in there with everyone else, doing what needs to be done.
Today's job was a trench and pad repair. Only 4 of us, but the job is small. The trench has a pipe buried in concrete, about a foot wide, 8 inches deep, 40 feet long. The pad has been eroded by sulfuric acid. For the trench: 20 pound jackhammers, shovels and a wheelbarrel. For the pad, the same tools, but only the top needs to be torn out to a depth of 2 inches. The hammers will wear you out fast so we take turns. Not too bad of a project. Except that in the sulfuric area we wear one piece acid suits. It was 75 degrees out, but my boots filled with sweat.
Bricks This is always an adventure. Sometimes the brick jobs are small. Sometimes we move LOTS of bricks. The last time we did the lime kiln at Buckeye Paper we put in 1.5 Million bricks. About 30 guys on each of two shifts working around the clock for several weeks. We can drive right into the kiln with a forklift, but those bricks have to come off by hand, and be laid by hand. I'm not a brick layer. I help where I can passing bricks. You'd think I would have giant muscles by now.
Before the brick goes in, the old material has to come out. For hand tools we use hammers of different size, up to the bigass 90 pounders. I tried working a 90 pound hammer once. I fell over, it landed on top of me, someone had to lift it off me. I dont handle the 90 pounders, I delegate that.
Sand blasting and shotcrete These sorts of jobs amount to a lot of lifting. Pick up a 55 pound sack, break it into a hopper, repeat. I've done my share of lifting. I won't bother with the 100 pound sacks. I just dont have what it takes. The shotcrete is handy because you can shoot it onto any surface, including overhead. I can handle a 60 pound hammer for a little while. Ripping out the stuff overhead is a bear.
Hazmat We handle petroleum and acid spills. While the work is grueling, we get to do it in protective gear of varying levels of discomfort. A tyvek suit is lightweight, and offers some from splashes and grime. 2 piece rain suits can get pretty warm, especially when the tank is 120 degrees and raining acid. The worst is the one piece acid suit with a full face respirator, acid hood, rubber boots and gloves taped tight. A feller can stand that for about 15 minutes.
Its an active job. We carry tools from place to place, climb ladders several stories high, haul stuff up by rope, do a lot of shovelling. We get to ride in cute little cages hoisted by cranes. There are skidsteers, loaders, dozers, excavators, and dump trucks. Now and then we get to drive REALLY BIG EQUIPMENT! We did a job last month that was not so bad-we painted a fabrication shop, breakroom, bathrooms, and storage rooms. It was a joy.
I work with a bunch of roughnecks and all I want to do is grow vegetables. Why do I do this? Because the money is good, the scenery changes, and we have an awesome set of power tools. Someday they might let me use explosives. oh...and we curse all day long.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
We have a couple of those 600 pound sumo guys. I feel pretty foolish struggling to drag one of those big tools across the ground when they can hoist them onto their shoulders with one hand and run up the stairs.
I'm doing better. When I started, I could barely lift the 60 pounders. Now I can hold my own. The persistent nature of the work we do has not built up a huge amount of strength-I still dont cast much of a shadow, but my endurance has improved greatly. I can shovel compost all day. Shovel a cubic yard of compost? Gimme a few minutes is all. I can spend days in a boiler. A 95 degree afternoon in my garden is a piece of cake, and I grew up in Maine.
Strength is handy. Endurance is invaluable.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Almost always when I've had someone working and they're putting out maximum effort and strength it's because they're doing it all wrong. My work is definitely an exercise in endurance. By working smart and allowing gravity to help me I seldom bear the full weight of items I rip off of buildings. I've gotten best production with men ranging between 150 and 190 pounds. Only a few times has someone larger than this had adequate endurance. Of course I dealt with many bozos who drink too much. They tend to be skinny.
To learn to work better study some judo or other throwing type martial arts. Not strength but leverage and control. A cheater bar may not be 'macho', but it will let you still be working at the end of a day after the macho ones drop by the wayside.
One time I was filling the bed of a customer's pick-up with 40 lb bags of top soil when someone tried to get me to buy membership to a gym. The only reason I would pay for gym membership is if they are spa equiped too.
There are too many new and different mistakes out there waiting to be made to be wasteing your time repeating the same old mistakes.
I so agree with this. I absolutely hate doing exercise for no return. My family teases me that even my hobbies make money. Oh well, at least it makes sure I have have I need.
One thing that has worked very well for me is commuting with a bike. You travel about 30 minutes each way with a bike, you don't need a gym. You will need to eat more though.
I could easily pay someone to turn over my garden, but I like doing it by hand. One great thing about the tropics is you really don't have seasons, so you don't have to kill yourself off trying to put in a large garden in a weekend. Everyday, I go putter for 30 minutes to an hour. It is amazing how much you get done, when you do that everyday.
Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
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