It’s spring again, all the yearly ad hoc joggers are out, and the plants are blooming! My favorite time of year. This week, I unexpectedly had two of the toughest workouts I’ve had all year. We decided to add more gardens to our yard, and my contribution was mostly manual labor: digging through grass, weeds, and roots to get down to nice, rich soil for our newest garden additions. It didn’t sound like a big deal. But those days were hot, and the amount of dirt to be removed amounted to several hundred pounds, and some of it didn’t move very willingly. By the time I was done each time, I was out of breath, and very tired. Fortunately, because I love to stay in shape, I wasn’t sore the next day, just bone-tired.
These brief but intense bouts of work reminded my of my respect for farmers. They often do this sort of work for many hours at a time, putting my level of strength endurance to shame, despite my enjoyment of fairly intense exercise. Apart from the ability to do this type of work for many hours at a time, they also often have very impressive strength in other areas, such as the ability to deadlift considerably more than their own weight, or having enough grip strength to crush the hand of your average bodybuilder. Though farming is maybe not as glamorous as [insert your favorite TV sport here], its practitioners are often great athletes in their own quiet way. And because our national diet is so bad, paying attention to farmers and valuing their contributions are more important than ever.
As time goes on, manual labor grows more and more a thing of the past. Certainly our lives are easier and more convenient. But this is not without some negative side effects. Now that our exercise has been reduced to pressing TV remote controls, something like carrying a small bag of groceries can cause an injury, and that’s just pitiful. The great thing about gardening and other yard work is that it can be a form of exercise for anyone. It can be tailored to any individual – it doesn’t have to be the hard grunt-work I’ve described above, which would be too much for a non-fit person. Someone like that could start nice and easy with planting a flower or two. And growing flowers or food certainly would seem more rewarding and satisfying than paying big money to a club so that you can get on the treadmill for an hour. And you’re getting outside in the nice weather, so what’s not to like? Just roll up your sleeves, put that hat on, slather up with sunscreen, and go for it! You might even meet your neighbors!