Life Hacking on the Homestead: Getting Fit

My favorite work-out shirt: Think Geek’s ‘Prime Cuts of Unicorn’ tee, courtesy  of my little brother, Ryan.

I’ll address the food-related side of health in another post, but this one is about the fitness side of it.


I have been meaning for some time, like all of you, to get fit. When the vegetable garden is going I get at least half an hour’s good sweaty work a day, sometimes more like an hour or two, and swear there’s nothing more exhausting than mowing our bumpy-ass lawn. But in the winter I have no strenuous chores and I spend a lot of time on my plump behind, exercising nothing but my yammering mouth muscles. I figure that by starting a workout regime now I’m getting a jump on the summer chores – which means I won’t get winded or sore so easily. Also, I’m frankly quite miffed that I can’t remember the last time I could touch my toes.

Everyone has their own fitness concerns, but mine are, I think, pretty common: I don’t want to spend any money on it, I don’t want anyone to see me doing it, I don’t want anything to do with “cardio” (sorry, Dr. Lisa), and I need something low-impact (I have two different pre-arthritic conditions in my knees that make running and jumping a no-go). Oh, yeah – and I live in Washington State, in a rain shadow. I wanted something I could do indoors.

We have a Gold’s Gym® in town (yes, even here in the sticks we have a franchise gym) and a CurvesTM in the next town over. I find Curves a lot more attractive than Gold’s since I’ve got a lot of pudge and all the self-esteem issues that come with extra poundage, but Curves isn’t free, either.

So I took a leisurely stroll around the Internet and eventually found myself in the fitness section of WebMD, getting the skinny on different options. I gave serious consideration to several low-impact exercise systems that don’t require weights or machines (and therefore, dollars), such as Yoga or Tai Chi. I scratched off Yoga because it is as spiritual as it is physical. Seeing as how I “only believe in science”, as we like to say (thanks, Nacho Libre!), I figured I would be missing out on about half the purported benefits. (Also, there’s about a zillion variants of Yoga to choose from. Too many options is as bad as too few.) Tai Chi has always appealed to me, but after trying a few poses I watched on YouTube I found that Tai Chi and my knees are incompatible – the angles are just right to put pressure on the loose chunks of bone inside my joints. (Yowch!) Finally, I tried Pilates.

I know this is Pilates heresy*, but Pilates is essentially scientific Yoga. (Nerd Yoga. I think that’s what I’ll call it from now on.) Almost all the same moves, but without the prana and meditation and whatnot. Anyhoo, Pilates was developed in the 1920s by a man named Joseph Pilates to rehabilitate WWI veterans. (Incidentally, Pilates wasn’t so self-obsessed that he named the system after himself. He originally called it “Contrology” because of the way you mentally control your breathing and which muscle groups you use.) In an added bonus for my out-of-control Germanophilia, I just found out a few days ago that Pilates was German. (He politely refused an offer to train the troops, and boogied on outta there before the badness got going.)

If you have access to a library there’s no reason that getting fit should cost you a dime. Some sweat, some time, and some serious determination, yes, but no money. I will confess, though, that I did spend $10 on a used copy of the Pilates DVD I fell in love with after checking it out from the library. But that wasn’t really necessary – every maneuver from beginner to advanced can be found on YouTube. The two big tricks to this life hack are 1) find something that you enjoy doing, and 2) actually do it. Easier said than done!

– Amanda

*(Pilates and Yoga people online seem to hate each other with the fervor of atheists vs agnostics. If you’re an atheist or an agnostic or a fan of Metalocalypse you know what I mean.)

P.S. I found a handy-dandy calculator at Self.com, (here) which tells you how many calories you have burned based on your current weight and level of Pilates. In fact, they have a long list of calculators (here) that can tell you how many calories you have burned doing anything from carpentry to water aerobics.

P.P.S. Want to know something ironic? I use an old quilt for my Pilates mat, but out in the smithy we have most of a store-bought squishy rubber Pilates mat. Most, but not all, because Matt bought it a few years ago to line his climbing spurs.
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