The Training Corner

Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul

Q: Is physical labor enough?

I work in construction, and I am on my feet all day long, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, climbing and maneuvering materials and tools. I am 48, feel good, but suffer occasionally from knee and back ache towards the end of a full week. I eat pretty well, have a couple beers on the weekends and quit smoking 15 years ago. I keep an eye on my belt notch, which is the same as when I was 25. My vitals are all well within a healthy range, and I generally have a lot of energy. I really enjoy hunting, fishing and snowmobiling on weekends. I am wondering if I need to do more as I approach 50. I seem to have maintained my strength and stamina over the years just by working, which also forces me to kneel, crouch and reach. Just looking ahead! John, 48

A: Congrats, John, on maintaining healthy vitals, including your belt notch. Yes, your physical work has kept your vehicle running well. For now, don’t stop. Let me make a couple suggestions that may extend your physical work life, if that is what you plan to do, and looking down the road, optimize your health span and movement longevity.

There are five pillars that support resilience, durability and robustness for the long haul:

1) Movement, 2) Diet, 3) Rest-Recovery-Regeneration, 4) Thriving on Stress, and 5) Purpose, Meaning and Relevance, your reason to get up in the morning.

Without knowing more details about you, #3, the Rest-Recovery-Regeneration pillar may need a boost. In addition to 7-8 hours of sound sleep, you could enhance your recovery from a full days labor by doing some simple foam rolling, breathing and stretching exercises after dinner. 10-15 minutes of body work can work wonders, alleviating those aches, and facilitating recovery for the job and weekend play.

A 48 year old body is no longer filet mignon. Think beef jerky, like the meat of an old bull elk.

Foam rolling is the modified version of having a massage.

Rollers, balls, trigger point tools, etc. can aid in recovery of muscle damage, all the while advancing mobility in labor and recreation. Deep diaphragmatic [crocodile] breathing while rolling and stretching also contributes to decompressing at the end of the day. Stretching of the hips, shoulder girdle, upper spine and neck most often need attention. Soft tissue work AND a yoga-like or tai chi-like flow of moves works really well, too.

To further enhance repair and recovery, and boost your immune system, consider optimizing your diet by including healthy fats [salmon, olive oil, etc.] along with DAILY multi-colored veggies and fruits, especially berries.

Down the road, if your physical workload decreases, and you find yourself stuck at a screen for 4-8 hours/day, then formal training can plug that void and counter the ill-effects of sitting and text-neck. So, the more sedentary your day, the more you will need to train, and the tighter the rein on the food and drink. It is a non-negotiable, and neglect is not an option.

For now, keep doing what you are doing. If your job becomes less heart-pumping, add some XC or skate skiing on weekends. Or get a big dog that needs to be walked daily. Continue to invest in your health and well-being through positive habits, practices and patterns 80-85% of the time. Don’t stop doing the things that you love to do. Stay the course. It’s simple, not easy. That’s grit!

Need some coaching? Contact Pat through See previous editions of Mountain Grit for more training tips from Pat.

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