Work or exercise?

My friends go to a gym to exercise, I don’t. I really like strenuous activity; I just want something practical or beautiful to come of it. I love doing hard work but the idea of paying to go to a gym, wearing scanty clothing made of trampoline material and sitting on a machine in the blue light of glowing mercury and listening to loud music or watching the “feeding frenzy” channel on a ceiling-mounted TV feels more to me like elective dental surgery to me than fun.

I tried it once. I was the only fat person there. In fact many of the people there looked like they badly needed a good meal and a pint of Switchback. They were busy pressing weights and riding ellipticals – whatever they are – and spinning. I think my great-grandmother used to spin, but I usually got a sweater or mittens out it and she never broke a sweat.

I understand the health benefits. But when I ran a business, we were warned by wellness professionals that repetitive motion was bad and caused all kinds of medical problems so we focused on varying the type of work our people did. It was still work though and produced a product that our clients valued. And our employees didn’t have to pay to work for us. We paid them.

Two or three times a week, I head for into the woods with a variety of dangerous tools, chainsaws, splitting wedges, lobbers, a peavey, pry bars, and an axe. I wage war against invasives like buckthorn, poison parsnip, and honeysuckle. We don’t have to heat our house with wood, but we choose to. Chain-sawing, skidding, cutting, splitting and stacking is hard work. I stay out of breath and get drenched in my own sweat, culling and cutting trees.

I dig up large rocks that I find when the brush hog behind my tractor makes a racket and spits up a spray of sparks. To the astonishment of my children, I bring my rocks home with me on a stone boat and save them for future endeavors like rubble walls, retaining walls, foundation fill or garden elements. My family doesn’t always share my affection for stones, especially if I forget and leave one in the driveway.

My wife works just as hard in her gardens, digging, weeding, planting, and harvesting. We both carry four cords of wood up a flight of stairs once the frost sets in.

I don’t work because I love exercise but because I love to be on the land. I breathe hard, use all my muscles and rarely repeat actions.

I look forward to the next time the mower blade hits a partially exposed stone and I don’t know if it’s the size of a breadbox or a VW. I’ll dig it up and bring it home as a gift to my wife.

And by the way – our treadmill is in the attic where the cats sleep on it.

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4 Responses to Work or exercise?

  1. Virginia Russell says:

    Bill, your prose brings me back to Vermont and all dhe had to offer. You are staying healthy in the way of our ancestors. Doesn’t cost a cent while you are building muscles and peace of mind.
    Best regards from a Vermonter uprooted to Florida. You can take Virginia away from Vermont but you can’t take the Vermonter out of Virginia.
    You have written a delightful essay.

  2. Many thanks for your kind words. It is more satisfying to me to work than to exercise. Be well. Bill

  3. Vahan Sarkisian says:

    We need to take another hike on Baffin Island. Obviously,
    you are not working or exercising enough. Playing with rocks…..what’s next Bill? Hey, you ought to see the rock I brought home this summer.
    Your opinion on a clothed woman is right on…half the fun is taking the clothes off…..that’s what they tell me.

    • Good to hear from you. I have thought of our trip together so many times. It was a landmark venture. Hope tis finds you well and thriving. We should have an arctic reunion if you are up this way.
      Very best to Ann,
      Bill

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