PUMPING IRONY: The Handyman Workout

Puttering around the house is a great way to change up your workout routine.

I’ve been puttering around the house lately, framing up a sewing room in the basement for My Lovely Wife, cleaning out the gutters, and generally upgrading the old homestead. It’s a rite of spring, I suppose, and a helluva workout — though it never feels like one at the time.

It’s one thing to swing a kettlebell around and crank out some pushups every morning; the body gets used to that activity and seldom rebels. But the movements that go into general handyman labor is a different deal altogether, and I really feel it the next day.

New Routines

I’m reminded by these subsequent aches and pains how important it is to shake up your routine every so often. Your body gets used to the same-old, same-old. A new routine — even one that’s not intended as a workout — definitely gets its attention. Yesterday, for instance, I pulled my old extension ladder off its brackets in the garage, pirouetted around a stack of drywall and, without any collateral damage, planted it amongst the blossoming tulips in the front yard garden before climbing 15 feet or so to get a good look at my clogged gutter, imagining at ever step what my descendents might say at my funeral. He sure kept his gutters clean.

This involves a certain amount of upper-body strength, some degree of balance and proprioception, as well as enough lower-body agility to ascend to an altitude that threatens your future well-being. Having survived that particular exercise, I descended into the basement and spent the next several hours measuring, sawing (“measure twice, cut once,” my brothers used to says; I measure once, cut once, utter an expletive, measure again, cut again, pray that it fits, and go to the lumber yard for more wood), hammering, and generally exerting my will on a collection of recalcitrant building materials. This involves the sort of movement that I could never choreograph into a bodyweight workout: reaching, crouching, lunging, lifting, swearing, and trying very hard not to leave the scene with something sharp and metallic protruding from one of my appendages.

There are, of course, better (less dangerous) ways to change your workout routine, but sometimes it takes this sort of challenge to remind yourself that you need a little change of place. And if you’re having trouble coming up with a similar challenge, let me know. I could use some help with the drywall.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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