I have observed that living in the country is the easiest – if not most effective – way to stay fit, whether intentional or not.
While everyone else is out denying themselves pastries and driving to the gym, we country folk are making ourselves a stack of flapjacks before heading outside to survive.
I support the gym-goers, of course, because moving our bodies is vital to our health and sanity, and treadmills are arguably more safe than any of the terrain I shuffle across. In fact, I’m trying to get the imaging center to give me a punch card so I can get my next MRI for free. It’s never a good sign when the radiology staff is on a first-name basis with you and asks how the kids are.
The problem with gym workouts is they require a little something called “motivation” that must come out of some sort of magical, mythical pot of psychological ambition. I know some of these people. They set their alarms for 4:45 a.m. Regular alarms, too. I thought they’d at least be using shock collars.
Backwoods fitness is a mandatory sort of do-or-die, chop-or-freeze, shovel-or-suffocate training plan. It also includes all of the best ideas of any other trendy modality out there. The only difference between a burpee and an Idaho burpee is that in the latter, you hold a shovel and check under the axle when you hit the ground.
My favorite high-intensity interval training is firewood: Set the logs, chop, chop, chop until I’ve dislocated something, set more logs while my heart rate recovers. I should open a gym in my backyard. Some city sucker might just pay me to get my firewood in.
Just the other day I was running in a blizzard, the kind where you wait until the temperature drops and the snow is blowing both upward and sideways before you decided to gear up for a jog. Winter running is considered “you time” and “self care” by my family because it’s not actually producing anything. In fact, I get to choose the music and eat adult versions of gummy bears. Running in ankle-deep snow while icicles form on my eyebrows and lashes is just conditioning for chore time around here.
As I was slogging up the luxury of a plowed road, I saw a man hiking along the tracks. He was dragging something behind him. I was wondering about his own backwoods fitness plan. Were there kids in a sled? Was he stealing tools from the neighbors? I could see puffs of steam coming off his coat as he worked his way toward the road, and then the stiff legs of a deer carcass in his hands. “Good one,” I thought, “schlepping a dead ungulate. I know there is a CrossFit workout named after that.”
“Ooh! Are you harvesting that deer?” I asked, because I live in Idaho and we get excited about roadkill or train kill, the idea of hides we can tan and free venison. As I am currently 2-0 with wildlife (one moose, one Bambi), I have a wallet full of numbers to call when the next unlucky animal meanders in front of my Subaru.
“Nope,” he answered, leaning hard into his next step and grunting as he pulled the large, frozen animal through the snow. It made a soft scraping sound and left a deep path behind him. I was impressed – it must have weighed a couple of hundred pounds. His quads must be strong. Not to mention his grip strength. “I need a workout like that guy’s,” I thought. He took a couple of breaths and said, “I couldn’t make it to the gym today.”
It turns out, his motivator was a dog that kept munching on the find and coming home to get sick. I can attest that this is the worst kind of dog sick that backwoods athletes have to deal with, because whatever end it comes out of, it’s full of fur. This has led me to 2 a.m. workouts when I am running stair laps with a heaving dog and a rug and a bucket of cleaners while holding my breath, like an Olympian doing oxygen-deprivation training.
I dream sometimes of the kind of gym where they have TVs and I can catch up on news or a PBS special. I would wear trendy yoga pants and ankle socks as opposed to Carhartt overalls and wool tights. I wouldn’t even need gloves or a tourniquet in my workout kit.
But it would only be a matter of time before someone says, “Hey, you can’t drag that deer around in here!”
Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at email@example.com
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