Don’t work out. Work in.

This fits in perfectly with my proposal for better living.  Delightful, no?Lamp_1

In a nutshell, I evaluate what I own and might own by noting how it is powered.  If it plugs in, requires batteries or consumes fuel, I think twice.  Instead, I try to use more things that I make go.  Use more things that you make go and you will have worked exercise into your life.  Do this enough and you may never need to work out again.  Bicycles obviously fit the bill, but there are so many other examples.


Got the idea for working exercise into my life, and even some of the tools, from my grandmother.  She lived a long and healthy life despite the fact that she never worked out a day in her life.  Her life was a workout because of what she did and the the tools she used.  This is off topic but I still laugh when I remember that she never used the microwave we bought her to heat things.  I don’t think she even plugged it in.  She did use it as a very effective breadbox, though.2

She lived on her own for the 35 years I knew her.  Her husband had passed away and she, well, didn’t.  Most of the time I knew her she mowed her lawn and shoveled her walks.  Turned over her garden soil with a shovel.  Climbed a ladder to pick cherries from her tree (which died before she did).  I will never forget watching her make milkshakes by placing the ingredients in a mason jar and shaking the thing until it was 100% blended.  Wow.  This is one of her jars.DSC04530

I really need to see if I can shake a (coconut) milkshake like my grandma did.

She was moved into a nursing home because she left her house a couple of times and was found out and about without a good reason for being out and about.  She got confused.  It was a hard decision to make, moving her out of the home that she loved, but it was done to protect her.  I kind of wish we had not decided to protect her, but that isn’t useful.  I really wish that the times she was found she would have said she was taking a walk.  Might have been, it would have worked, but I think one time she wasn’t wearing a coat and it was winter.  In Nebraska.  Where coats are not optional.  Unless you are tough as nails.

Like so many, in the nursing home grandma went downhill pretty fast.  She was in an alzheimer’s ward.  The doors were locked so that she wouldn’t leave.  It didn’t seem right when we visited her.  She was all there and conversational, while most of the others were not.  She didn’t have anything to do, though.  I think this is why she went downhill so fast.  People quit working and they die.  Why stick around?  She had told me she was ready to die decades earlier.  She had done all she wanted to do, but her body just kept going.  I only half believe her.  I think she liked life and the little joys it brought to her.  I know I liked living life with her.

DSC04528So I try to live like grandma.  I try to leave the the stick blender  in the drawer (even though I am so in love with it not only because it works super well but because I got it at Goodwill for $0.98) and instead use my grandmother’s hand powered beater.  While it won’t transform chunky stews into a smooth soups (under my control, anyway), it blends pretty well and requires me to do more than push a button.DSC04522

When I make bread, I grind my own flour using this gargantuan device.  Not only do I get 30 minutes of cardio and upper body, I strain pretty well just lifting it to the counter.  I just weighed it.  Fifty pounds on the nose.

DSC04525Then there is this little marvel.   It holds so much more than most that you find and the inside is rough, easing the process of grinding things into powders and pastes.  Using it reminds me of watching grandma mush potatoes on Sunday.  They were 50% air by the time she was done.

All of my efforts together probably don’t equal the single act of my pallies Lagusta and Jacob pedaling their laundry clean.  A couple of years ago they hooked up a recumbent exercise bicycle to an antique tub washer and have used the set up ever since.  Lagusta admits she might wait a bit longer to deem a garment or linen ready for the wash, but isn’t that the right result anyway?  Lagusta and Jacob are completely working exercise into their lives

None of these items are as fanciful as the furniture that inspired this post, except maybe bicycles and pedaling laundry clean, but they all help.  Grandma didn’t ride a bicycle when I knew her.  Probably did as a kid.  Maybe I should have given her a bicycle.  She probably would have hopped on and rode down the block without a problem.  Why am I so sure?  Once she mentioned that she played an harmonica as a young girl.  I later bought her one and handed it to her.  She hadn’t played in 60 years, but she played a beautiful song straight away.  I asked her to play another and without missing a beat she lifted her new instrument and played the same song again.  Here is a recording.


5 responses to “Don’t work out. Work in.

  1. What a fine story for a Monday! Sometimes it’s important to have little reminders in this modern crazy world in which glutunous energy consumption all seems very natural. Thank you for sharing that.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother and what a worthwhile point you made about everyday exercise in your normal world. I will think twice before I pull out an electric mixer or other appliance that does the work for me. I may not “do it myself” every time, but I certainly will do it more often than I do now.

    Your loving thoughts made me remember a few wonderful things about my grandmother. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I am boosted by the realization of more like minds in this world. And I also believe, the hand masher inherited from my great aunt makes the best mashed potatoes!

  4. Well, I have to say that in every respect but the ol’ Cyclean (as we sometimes call it), we pretty much lose at saving energy. Living with a sound engineer means many many things plugged into outlets at all times, and I have a weakness for long, hot showers that I don’t think I will ever be able to change.

    On the other hand, the whole “every day exercise” concept is one I am madly in love with, since I absolutely hate exercise! I was inspired by this book called Undercover Exercise that came out in the 70s or so that is written by this woman who is so bursting with life and energy and 1970s haircuts and ideas that it really transformed my life. Not that I do that much, but I do make an effort to make things harder on me, park farther away from places, do little lifts and squeezes when I can, etc. It’s fun!

  5. Thanks for writing!

    Art is one of the best uses of energy, and your food and Jacob’s sound crafting are high art indeed. Can’t say the same for long showers. Fun to be sure, but maybe not so high on the list of places we allocate scarce resources.

    I used to take 45 second showers in three steps. The wetting and rinsing with the water running together took 45 seconds, but in between I shut off the water and took all the time I cared lathering up. It was fun. Without water splashing around I could get really soapy. Felt like a kid in the bath. I hereby pledge to start this practice again and ask only that you use the energy saved to make more good art. Don’t take an extra long shower!

    I love the title Undercover Exercise. I guessed it was written in response to the 1973 oil embargo, but it looks like maybe it was written in 1984.

    I get all excited when I think of the 1970s because that was the decade of one recent bicycle boom. The oil shortages caused some to buy road bicycles to get around. Many of the bicycles were touring bicycles, with room for fenders and provisions for carrying loads. Great transportation bicycles.

    The 1980s saw another bicycle boom, but it took some time for buyers of mountain bicycles to swap high pressure slicks for the stock knobbies, making the bicycles more efficient for the paved roads on which most miles were traveled.

    Many in the 1990s bought racing bicycles. Fun to go fast, but aboard a racing bicycle it is hard to go slow even on days you feel like going slow. After all, you are a racer! Lycra, pointy helmets, funny shoes. No room for fenders. Tough to carry items on the bicycle itself. Uncomfortably low bars. Good for a racer or an occasional fast ride, but not good as your only bicycle.

    The 2000s gave us fixed gear bicycles. Beautiful, but not so good long term. The devil is in the terrain. While a single gear is enough on a flat track, fixed gear riders (let’s call riders and fixed gear bicycles onesies and see if it sticks) are now pedaling madly all over the planet. More than tires are shredded (and canned beer pounded) spinning little gears on mountain fixies, grinding huge gears on urban fixies and braking with legs. Knees and hips suffer with overuse. Certainly the Rascal scooters captained by lifelong onesies will be super dialed in and unimaginable power chair tricks will be thrown down as casually as $20s at dive bars, but I’d rather see them pedaling pretty bicycles well into old age.

    Many are getting this and have taken up cyclocross bicycles. You gain gears and brakes but maintain cred in that the cyclocross bicycle is associated with dirty and vigorous racing by relatively laid back folks. I feel sorry knowing that some segment of the group buying cyclocross bicycles are not competitive but may feel the need to race to justify their purchase. My stomach knots just saying race.

    I am excited for these riders to discover the joys of going slowly on relatively heavy but super useful transportation bicycles. Going slow can be safe, elegant and inclusive. Blame your lack of speed on your heavy bicycle (if you need to). Importantly, on this bicycle you can enjoy pedaling for life.

    Look at people who pedal in any other part of the world. They go slower. Almost none wear helmets. They do it well into old age. They do it on transportation bicycles. Many small bicycle makers already serve this segment. Bigger makers are jumping on board.

    I hope the transportation bicycle will be the bicycle of the 2010s in the USA. Already is, and has been for a long time, in Asia and Europe. After we all buy them, I hope we use them for decades. If any bicycle can bring about this result, it is the transportation bicycle. If Undercover Exercise were to be reprinted, it would include a chapter on ’em, to be sure!

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