Monday, April 8, 2013

Building a fit body through physical work, walking and rowing.

I have been busy since Christmas trying to get in shape. As I get older this seems to take more time and thought, but I am finding all my exercise is paying off. A couple of years ago I seemed to age overnight; I had a pinched nerve in my upper spine that gave me terrible pain for many weeks before it gradually faded away, and then a year later it came back, fortunately not so badly. I associated these episodes with repetitive actions that are part of my usual work around the property, like working with firewood: felling, bucking, splitting and stacking. I cannot avoid this and other physical work so I needed to set my body up so it was less likely to recur.

Weeks before I started cutting I began to walk longer and further every day. I used the hiking poles that I originally bought for walking forest trails and beaches, but this time I went power walking, - striding along, head held high, arms pumping. “ Are you recovering from knee surgery?” was the usual sympathetic question of passers-by. These poles seem to be associated with the lame and elderly, but I am using them to give me whole body exercise while walking.

I began my wooding job carefully, limiting myself to an hour each day and by the time I got past chainsawing to splitting, the job itself became part of my exercise routine. Up goes the heavy splitting maul and down. Bang! Over and over. So what else could I now add to my daily exercise?

I would have liked to add a rowing machine to begin preparing for summer boating but space and money stood in the way. But wait! I could put my rowing canoe ( the one I built and then rowed around Saltspring Island in one day a couple of years ago) in my pond ( full to overflowing at this time of year) and tether it in some way so I could row as hard as I liked without immediately crashing into the far side. At first I simply nosed against a soft bank and continued to row but there was no give, no elasticity, so I bought ten feet of bungee cord, added a length of rope to it and fasted one end to a cleat on the wall of the studio and the other to the stern of the canoe. Now I can pull against a flexible resistance and also gauge how effective my strokes are by how much tension is on the cord. Who would have thought how powerful that final part of the stroke could be without seeing it in the bungee! I can count my strokes, a few more each day, and vary how much effort goes into it, starting gently, pulling strongly and then sprinting towards the end. What great exercise! And I am actually rowing my boat, not a mechanical substitute.

My weight has almost settled to my fit end-of-summer state, I feel good emotionally, my body is firming up, exchanging flab for muscle, but most happily I have been able to work and play without a return to decrepitude.

See Tillikum canoe blog listed on the right for more information on this rowing and sailing canoe construction.

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