Friday, July 27, 2012

Guest post

My parents are two of the strongest people I know. When most people say this they are speaking about strength of character. When I say this I am talking about physical strength (they are pretty good at the character part too).

Anyone who has ever baled hay by hand knows that there is just no way you could ever replicate such a physical experience in the gym. 8-12 hours of lifting 50 pound bales all the while balancing on hay wagon! They don't make a workout machine to reproduce this experience. And even if they did no one would have the time to use it.

I think about these things because I'm a personal trainer, and the daughter of a shepherdess. I work with city types; lawyers, financiers, actuaries, and bankers. My clients are amazing people and, with a little help, they have become pretty fit folks. But as a rule, they really aren't in same fitness class as my mom and dad. This is not a character judgement. It is just a fact.

How could they possibly be when their careers demand 6 to 10 hours a day of sitting. I work with some of the most motivated, most focused, and toughest people you're likely to find. They work really hard to keep their bodies in good shape. But they are at a disadvantage. No amount of willpower, no amount of dieting, and no amount of fitness schemes can make up for a sedentary career.
You can't sit for 8 hours and then in one giant burst make up for all that time in 1 hour at the gym.

It is no mystery to me why we face an obesity epidemic. Our bodies are not made for this amount of sitting around. Our bodies are made to move.

In recent years I've done my best to help my clients, my friends, and my family to adjust their lifestyles to be more like farmers, or gatherers, or hunters. I encourage them to do a 10-minute workout here and 30-minute walk there:
Walk to the grocery store and carry home a bag or two. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stand up and stretch, maybe do some pushups every 30 minutes or so when you are at your desk. Rough house (safely) with your kids for ten minutes instead of watching T.V. Go for a walk after dinner... You get the idea.
This sort of up and down rhythm is what our bodies enjoy. Too much stillness can cause damage. Likewise too much physical activity in a short span of time can cause damage. When you arrive at the gym compelled to get all your physical activity in, in one fell swoop, you expose yourself to injury. When you sit at a desk all week and then hurl yourself into a day-long mountain biking adventure you expose yourself to injury.

What we need is to find the middle ground. Plenty of moving and plenty of rest throughout the day. On, off, on, off, on, off (as my 1-year-old son Jasper is so fond of saying).

So if you don't have the good fortune of being a sheep farmer I'd encourage you to figure out how to sprinkle micro-workouts throughout your day. If you need some suggestion on what to do why not visit your local sheep farm. I'll bet they have plenty of wood for you chop, hay for you to collect, trees to trim, sheep to herd, thistles that need to be policed, and manure to be shoveled. They probably won't even charge you for the workout!

Will all this make you as strong as my parents?
I doubt it. But you may lose a pound or two, and more importantly it will make you feel a whole lot better.

Amber Ellison Walker lives and works in Minneapolis as an in-home personal trainer. She splits her time training clients and taking care her 1-year-old son Jasper. One of her favorite things in life is returning home to the sheep farm. She is even up for an occasional 3:00am lambing session or a ride in the hay wagon. She is the owner and head trainer at I Think I Can Fitness.

Written with the help of Jesse C. Walker, a small business online marketing consultant, who also happens to be Amber's husband.

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