By Laurie Sweig
I watched a video on Instagram that made me chuckle. It was a personal trainer demonstrating a workout method that uses a mace (macebell) and tractor tire.
A mace is a new style of fitness equipment that consists of a metal rod and a weighted ball. Swinging the mace in different patterns develops core strength. Hitting a tire with it causes it to bounce in an uncontrolled/unpredictable fashion requiring more strength and coordination to get it under control before hitting the tire again. This seems like a great exercise but the thing that struck me was if you’re gonna do all that swinging and hitting something why not split wood and be productive?
I am a country newbie. One and half years ago I made the big move from downtown Ottawa to a property just south of Haliburton. This transition has opened my eyes to the damage that comfort and convenience is doing to our bodies. For demonstration purposes I’ll stick with the example of heating with wood versus other sources of energy such as gas or oil. In my world this is what’s involved to keep the house warm using wood:
There’s the stacking of the nine face cords of wood delivered to the house. I’m not yet ready to be cutting my own wood so I have it delivered. Last year, my first experience with this whole heating with wood thing, I looked at the six-cord pile and thought I’ll get this done in a couple of hours. In a couple of hours all that I had managed to do was strain my back. Not to mention, the first attempt at a stack fell over. Wynton Marsalis says “The humble improve.” I did improve. I changed my strategy to tackling the task an hour at a time until I got it done. This year I was physically stronger so it took a little less time per cord.
The second step in the process for me is splitting some of the logs. I found that the wood stove I have works better that way. I fill up a wheelbarrow and move that load down a small incline (talk about resistance training), throw the logs onto the ground near my splitting block and then away I go. I have a six-pound splitting axe. I could have sold tickets to watch me splitting wood last winter. This year it’s a whole different story. I challenge myself to hit a specific spot on the log I am splitting.
Next up, ya got to get the split wood from the ground back into the wheelbarrow and get it into the house. There it gets stacked again. I discovered that wood burns better when it’s warm.
The last part is getting the wood to and into the stove. There’s lots of kneeling down on one or both knees. Let’s not forget the standing up part once I’m done.
All of this effort when I could just ensure that the thermostat is turned on at the beginning of the cool season. That’s what life was like when I lived in Ottawa. I could still do that now but there is so much goodness rolled into the effort that it takes to heat with wood. It’s a total body workout! Sure, now I don’t have the time or energy to do other things like ski or hike as much as I used to but I am accomplishing my goal of maintaining a certain level of fitness. In fact I would say I’m surpassing that goal because of how varied an activity like splitting wood is.
Comfort and convenience has left us searching for ways to get into shape. I used the stacking/splitting wood example because the swinging-the-mace video struck me as an unproductive use of time. There are other chores that require movement like washing the dishes instead of using the dishwasher or how about hanging laundry instead of throwing it in the dryer. Have a look around you and you’ll find ways to move more. There are opportunities everywhere.
Gotta go throw another log on the fire!
Laurie Sweig is a certified personal fitness trainer and spinning instructor. She owns and operates The Point for Fitness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.