Sure, we’ve all heard of the Paleo Diet. But how about Paleo fitness for the homestead?
Crunches and bicep curls are great if you are trying to look good on club night, but the cows on the homestead won’t give you a second glance. For those unaccustomed to the work, homesteading takes a toll on the body.
Your tasks may include,
- bending and kneeling to weed and plant,
- hoisting 50-pound or heavier bags of feed while balancing them over a feeder,
- carrying crates of chickens,
- shoveling compost or wet snow,
- chopping firewood,
- bending over cheese vats,
- lifting heavy, wet trays of veggies out of the sink to prepare for canning,
- unloading trucks and tables at the farmers market,
- pulling calves and so on.
To make matters worse, if you are injured while on the job, you will have no one to call to inform you cannot make it in that day. There are no “sick days” out here, sorry. So best get your body ready for what lies ahead.
How? Well, imagine living 50,000 years ago. What activities would you be performing and what would your body look like as a result?
It’s unlikely that you would have been carrying excess pounds, and what pounds you did carry would likely be firm, strong, and lean rather than soft, weak, and flabby. Thriving in that environment would have demanded that you be quite nimble, athletic, and very active.
I can easily imagine my “primal self” alternating between slow stalking and flat-out sprints as I covered five miles a day or more, balancing myself on rugged terrain and flexing my back as I tugged stubborn roots from the ground or dragged big game to my “tiny cabin.”
The sedentary lifestyle most of us live today is diametrically opposed to the active primal lifestyle I just described. Even those who do embrace fitness today often focus on what looks good rather than what works well.
We have all seen examples of people with biceps twice as big as their calves as a result of doing endless bicep curls. That’s fine, I suppose, but biceps do not come in as handy on the farm as strong legs, a good back, and flexibility. Equally important is maintaining weight at the right target level for your age and height.
So, given that we are not stalking (or fleeing) wild beasts every day, what exercise movements are best to help us achieve the physical capabilities of our primal selves?
Below are seven movements that I believe are far better to prepare you for life on the homestead than any number of crunches or bicep curls. If you’re unfamiliar with them, please look them up (after you consult with your doctor about your level of fitness, of course).
- Squatting – Plant both feet on the ground, bend your legs so you lower your body as you keep your chest up and lower back straight. Just as you use squatting to sit in a chair, you will use it often on the homestead as you weed, lift, and in some cases, leap.
- Lunging – Our “primal selves” would have used lunging to heave a spear or carry water while stepping over a downed tree, and you will use it plenty on the homestead too. Just step forward with one leg and bend it while keeping the other leg stationary.
- Pushing – Think push ups. If that is too hard, you can push against a wall at first and increase the angle over time so that you are pushing more weight. I have had to push many a new cow into the milking parlor for their first milking. The problem with being so friendly to your cows is that, sometimes, they just will not move no matter what you do. Pushing helps.
- Pulling – And, we have had to pull many calves. If you have never done this, you will be surprised how much pulling effort it takes. Once, it took three adults using all our collective might to pull out a calf! Other times we are pulling large tree branches off fences. Get your gang together and practice a weekly tug of war; it will prepare you for what is to come. Or if it is raining, just grab a dumbbell and do a single dumbbell row.
- Twisting – Practice twisting by sitting on the floor, raising your feet slightly off the floor and twisting your torso right to left. To increase your strength and agility, perform this while holding a weight against your chest. Or better yet, pick up a 25-pound truckle of cheddar cheese and twist between the shelves and the table as you are brush it.
- Bending – Oh boy, will you do some bending out here. Digging and pulling potatoes, planting, feeding, weeding, seeding… you name it. Get your back in shape NOW, for any soreness or injuries you experience while homesteading means that work will not get done.
- Accelerating – Walking and jogging are common activities, but you will not find yourself doing a lot of jogging on the farm. Rather, you will walk or you will sprint when your cows or sheep break out again and you need to get ahead of them before they hit the pavement and the sheriff visits you. Again. Of course, our “primal selves” would have sprinted a great deal and, if you get used to doing it, you will get the added benefit of being fit and trim. Ever see any flabby sprinters?
If you’re serious about becoming a homesteader but haven’t taken the plunge yet, take time now to get your body in shape by focusing on paleo fitness. That way you’re less likely to suffer an injury when you can least afford it.
Question: If you’re already homesteading, did I hit the mark? How important is fitness? You can leave a comment by clicking here.