Are You In or Out of Shape

Gardening requires lots of water -
most of it in the form of perspiration.

Lou Erickson

This is going to hurt a little. Are you fit or fat? Gardening is an appropriate career option as long as you are prepared to tolerate and work through the inevitable physical aches and pains which are more prevalent when you first start out.

If you are athletic or work out regularly, your body will only continue to improve in both endurance and performance. Strength training will naturally be a part of your day to day on-the-job routine as you dig, lift, etc. Skip this section if you are already in shape and need little encouragement to exercise.

Do you hate working out? If climbing on a stairmaster is low on your priority list or jogging just for fun is a foreign concept, do not despair as gardening for a living combines your workout with your work with the distinct pleaasure of working outdoors. I am definitely in the camp of "gym as evil" and while my mind was willing to take on the challenge of a new career in gardening, it took at least a year before my physical endurance matched my enthusiasm.

If I can do it so can you. The last time physical exercise was part of my regular weekly routine was in high school gym class and I hate to admit that was well over twenty-five years ago. Over the years, I dabbled with occasional bouts of running and working out. But if I didn’t properly warm-up or stretch-out afterwards, my knees would complain and I usually found it to be pure drudgery. While I enjoyed the occasional hip hop or line dance class, I seldom made working out a regular commitment and approached it in fits and starts.

By the time I hit my thirties, I stopped looking for a regular workout routine. Every once and a while, I would haul out my dusty bike for a weekend ride. However, I knew I should be doing some sort of exercise and consoled myself into believing I was doing my part by at least walking to the metro everyday. I heard ultimately that some exercise is better than no exercise. But for low impact activities like walking to provide the same caloric consumption as high impact aerobic activities you really need to do it for a longer period of time.

I read newspaper article where a health expert suggested integrating fitness into your daily activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. I was shocked to discover I was breathing heavily after climbing only one flight of stairs. When had I become so out of shape?

Then to make matters worse, I put myself on a scale, something I had not done for years. I discovered I had chunked up to 143 pounds which to some people may not sound very heavy. But at 5 foot 7 inches, my ideal weight is at least 15-20 pounds lighter. In college, I tended to hover around 120 pounds. Somehow over the years, my lack of exercise and love of sweets resulted in an extra twenty something pounds!

I have a somewhat slender frame so gaining weight has never been much of an issue. Plus my height hides the extra weight fairly well. Or at least I thought it did. My J. Lo backside went undetected because I do not have the same unflattering three way mirrors they have in department stores. On closer inspection in photographs and staring at my reflection, I saw that my face had gained the same kind of weight as aging ex-supermodels who show up on T.V. infomercials. My clothes had also tried to clue me in on my weight gain. Normally I wear about a size 6 and come to think about it, my pants were starting to feel snug as I crept up to a size 10.

Getting healthy is a side benefit of gardening for a living. Because your workout is integrated into your job, you can easily establish and maintain a healthy body weight. Without the need to implement a complicated exercise and diet plan, you will find you may even drop of a couple of clothing sizes. The other benefit you will gain is greater stamina.

My husband and I recently went carless, and I am proud to say I now cycle to work. Now that I am in the best shape I have ever been, I can actually say I enjoy it. Over time, you will find physical activity less taxing and more enjoyable as your body has greater endurance. Rather than be exhausted, you will be invigorated at the end of the day. So if you have signed up for a gym membership but never go, you can cancel it. But you may find you actually enjoy visiting the gym more often and may want to develop additional muscle strength.

Image Source: Ryan Snook,

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