It seems that most New Year’s resolutions involve lifestyle changes that help you improve your fitness and lose weight.
Given the choice to exercise more or eat less, most opt for workouts to burn calories.
This usually means going to the gym or spending time exercising.
While some like to exercise, others are reluctant to find the time to exercise.
What if you could burn those calories doing chores that must be done anyway? That’s what I did. But the transition to using muscles over machines came out of frustration rather than inspiration.
My quitting gasoline devices wasn’t about getting more exercise or saving the planet, it was a lack of mechanical skills that was the motivation.
There was a time when I owned an electric lawn mower, snowmobile, chainsaw, and snowblower – wonderful labor-saving devices, all supposed to make my life easier. But they didn’t.
With some, if an engine sputters or does not start, they are puzzled. They see the non-cooperation of the engine as a challenge. Take out the tools and owner’s manual. These people tinker with the non-compliant machine and may even cover it up. When I tried that, I failed.
The first to go was the lawn mower. Every spring when it was time to cut the lawn for the first time, my mower would not start. I would pick it up in the trunk of my Chevy Nova and take it to the repair shop.
I imagined my neighbors saying, “When you see Dave lifting his mower up into the trunk, you know spring is here. “
I did this for about three years and then bought a push mower from a yard sale. One less gas tank to fill. I also stopped cutting the grass so often. If you let the lawn grow a little longer, you have to work harder to push the mower. And it burns more calories.
For our first winters on Mitchell Lake, we rented a cabin with a wood stove and after chopping wood with an ax for the first year, I bought a chainsaw. It seemed like a great idea at the time. But the honeymoon was short. The deafening roar of the saw and the near misses when the blade jumped after being pinched into logs dampened my enthusiasm at being a lumberjack. Today our house does not have a wood stove. When I need firewood for the campfires, I use an ax and a handsaw.
My history as a snowmobile owner has been short.
I had a large wooden ice cream hut. The snow machine dragged him into the lake. The engine was loud and cantankerous. After a few years and several trips to local mechanics, I sold the snowmobile and the cabin became a shed. It turned out to be a good move. On foot and without a cabin, I was more likely to explore fishing grounds in other parts of the lake. The result was better catches. And walking in the cold and trying to warm up takes energy.
When my stepdad moved into a condo, he gave me his snowblower. At that time, I owned three varieties of snow shovels and didn’t see the need to put them aside for a roaring machine to clear the driveway.
Shoveling snow is a top calorie burner. Clearing the driveway after another snowfall eliminates any need to visit the gym that day.
All of this happened when I was in my thirties. I was young, strong, and loved to use my muscle strength to mow grass, move snow, get firewood, or rake leaves. I figured that as I got older and had less energy, I could reinvest in motorized labor savers. This does not happen.
These days I probably don’t throw as much snow with every full shovel and I’m sure my leaf raking is less vigorous than before, but I still enjoy doing these tasks. And it is undeniable that all of those calories are burned through muscle power. But more importantly, it’s silent work.
If I wielded a roaring leaf blower, I would never hear a flock of honking geese flying above me. With the rake in hand, I can pause, look up, and see these birds in an almost perfect V-shape, pass overhead. I prefer nature, rather than machines, to provide the soundtrack.
Walking, running, biking, paddling in a canoe, pushing a lawn mower, chopping wood by hand, raking leaves and wielding a snow shovel – doing these activities is stepping back in time to a more ancient era. simple, a quieter era where we relied on muscle rather than machinery. I know it has been good for my health and I think it has been good for my mind as well. Whether it’s shoveling snow on a night when the air is filled with falling snowflakes, paddling a canoe in misty waters, or mowing a lawn on a hot sunny day, my mind seems more animated with ideas and thoughts as if I were driving a machine with an engine moan. And on top of that, I burn calories.