Login | February 19, 2019

Defining a workout

Pete’s World

Published: July 9, 2018

Twenty years ago I’d have scoffed at the thought of entering the past two days worth of work - shoveling, pickaxing, root-busting and raking - into my training diary as workouts.

Well, this week was just one more incident over the past few years which has helped me to embrace the notion of chores as workouts. Because despite my inability to run, cycle, hike, swim or participate in any kind of resistance exercise, I still ended up as one thoroughly beaten up, bedraggled and whipped puppy.

Heck, my body was so sore I felt as though I’d just finished a grueling, day-long adventure race. And…I kind of liked it.

Now you might be wondering just what it was which brought me to that proverbial “crawling-across-the-finish-line” feeling?

How about digging and infilling a crater sized, 4-foot deep by 4-foot wide hole in the ground? And believe you me, my motivation wasn’t doing it as some kind of Crossfit kick-ass workout. Nope, my motivation was money, like trying to save myself 500 bucks worth of labor fees.

That’s right, by doing all the muscle busting, core twisting, sweat inducing, cardio cranking preparation work such that the well repairman could easily reach and mend a ruptured water line, I was able to cut the service fee by nearly 75 percent.

And let me tell you, when I found out how much I could save by doing all that physical prep work, well, I did my best Wile E. Coyote impression, furiously digging a Grand Canyon sized abyss as if trying to create a trap for the lightening-quick Road Runner.

Now to be perfectly honest, I was on a mission for another important reason. I had to shut the water off to the house for however long it took to get the water line fixed. Indeed, not having running water and saving money was all the motivation I needed to dive full on into an Olympic caliber digathlon.

Anyway, this little incident further illustrated for me how loose the definition of working out can be. When I was younger, hole digging, lawn mowing, garden tilling, leaf raking, those were jobs not workouts. Chores were work, while workouts were play. What’s more, chores were jobs that got in the way of workouts.

Funny how I now see that as flawed logic, since both chores and workouts equally challenge the body.

I guess having a few more years under the belt can totally change perspectives. Like nowadays I kind of enjoy raking leaves because it’s a great workout. I kind of enjoy pushing a lawn mower because it’s a great workout. And this past week, I kind of enjoyed digging a hole in the ground with old fashioned pick and shovel because it saved me a ton of money and...it was great workout.

What were once mundane chores are now exercises that elicit an incredible full body workout. And If done with the right intensity, some chores can function as both aerobic and anaerobic exercises.

Now I'm not suddenly declaring that chores can replace the pleasure and harmony I feel when cycling, running, lifting, etc., that’s a bridge too far. But what I am saying is that a workout can be defined as any session of vigorous physical exercise - like a chore.

This relatively new perspective now puts me in agreement with all those gardeners, landscapers and DIY lovers who claim their preoccupation with home improvement can lead to some great workouts.

Yup, a workout can be as simplistic as using a shovel and wheel barrow to move a pile of loam from the driveway to the garden. Heck, an hour or so of that easily equates to an hour-long group workout at the fitness center.

Now you might still be where I used to be - not buying the idea of chores as workouts - but there’s plenty of scientific data that vouches for the fact that raking, mowing, digging, blah blah blah, is as good for you as any HIT (high intensity) session in the gym. But it is.

So remember that the next time you get sidelined with a broken water pipe, a yard full of leaves, a weed-choked garden, or a deck that needs painted.

As I’ve come to learn, substituting those pesky domestic chores for any of my hallowed workouts doesn’t have to be a decision that’s fraught with feelings of overwhelming guilt.

And that is freeing experience.