I just got back from my tremendously wonderful trip to Vermont this week. I took part in the traditional face stuffing that always accompanies a vacation, and yet when I weighed myself upon my return, I found to my surprise that I hadn’t gained any weight. I attribute this to the fresh mountain air and the fact that we spent the week walking, hiking, biking, canoeing, and even playing ultimate frisbee.
On our trip we stayed with Kate’s uncle, Uncle Buzz, who is one of the coolest men I have ever met. Buzz has never read Men’s Health, doesn’t down protein shakes, and has never belonged to a gym. Yet, he is in better shape than almost any man I know.
Sometimes when I am at the gym, I look around and think, “Man, this is a bizarre place.” I think that if our ancestors were transported to our time and saw us sweating away, running on the treadmills like hamsters on a wheel, stacking weights on our shoulders and pulling cables, they’d think we were slaves or prisoners, forced to labor against our will. In days of yore, men got their exercise from their daily labors, walking and plowing and fixing and building. It is a strange part of our modern existence that we must schedule in an hour of time for our body to move since we are almost completely inert for the other twenty-three.
Yet it need not be so. With a little dedication and creativity, you can build your body in the manliest way possible, by integrating exercise into your daily activities. Here’s how Buzz does it:
Get a dog, take a walk. Buzz rises most days at 4:30 am and takes his dog Buddy for an hour long walk. He also takes him for a long walk each night. Having a dog will motivate you to get out the door no matter the time of day or the weather. In the rain Buzz wears a poncho and mud boots. In the winter he snowshoes. Having a loyal companion while you stroll will make the time more enjoyable. So get a pooch and get moving.
Do your chores the old fashioned way. Modern technology has made our lives increasingly comfortable and easy. Yet it has also removed almost all work and thus exercise from our lives. Sometimes it’s better to turn down the new advancements and do things the hard way to stay in shape. Buzz mows his large lawn with a non-self propelled mower; pushing that baby uphill can really work up a sweat. When it snows in the winter, many of Buzz’s neighbors hire someone to plow the several feet of snow from their driveway. Not Buzz. He’s out there at the crack of dawn shoveling away.
Find volunteer work that will build your spirit and your body. With the eye-popping costs of oil these days, poor and elderly people in places like Vermont have a tough time keeping their houses warm during the long winter. So Buzz started an essentially one man project to help these folks out. He gathers fallen and discarded limbs and trees, splits the wood into logs, loads them into his truck, and distributes them to needy neighbors for use in their wood-burning stoves.
Several times a year Buzz also volunteers to work on the USS Slater, a WWII destroyer escort which sits in dock in Albany, New York. Toured by the public, it requires a lot of upkeep. Buzz, who feels a tie to the ship because his father served on a destroyer escort during the war, volunteers several times a year to work on the ship, doing things like blasting away old paint and scraping off the bird poop.
Combine exercise and recreation. Working out doesn’t have to be chore. Instead of spending your time going nowhere on the elliptical machine, take up an active sport. Several times a week Buzz and his co-workers spend their lunch hour playing ultimate frisbee, which if you have tried, you know is not for the faint of lung. During our stay in Vermont, I had the chance to play ultimate frisbee with Buzz and his co-workers. While I was sucking air and taking several breaks, Buzz never stopped. He was a machine. Last winter, Buzz started a dodge ball league, which met every Monday night for a rousing game. Find a sport you like and look around in your town for an opportunity to play in intramural or pick-up games.