By Victoria Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.
Well, here we are. The holidays are behind us and most of us are left with a bit of a chunky reminder of all that good eatin’, sweetin,’ and drinkin’ we did over those weeks.
So, what do your wondering eyes see everywhere you look? Advertisements for gym memberships, and where there once were sugar plums and cookies, now exercise equipment adorns the store shelves. Time to take that bull by the horns and get moving if you don’t want to turn into a right chubby old elf yourself!
It’s a common inclination to run out and take advantage of one of those great gym membership offers, and/or to buy yourself some fancy new exercise apparatus. Resolve is high! But you know how that goes. How many of us who buy those memberships actually continue going all year? How many treadmills become clothing racks by June? (February?)
I would like to offer an alternative if I may. I humbly suggest that you already have everything you need to keep fit and it’s right under your very nose. It’s right there in the very body that you are concerned about. No expensive equipment required. It costs nothing to exercise. Old fashioned sit-ups and jumping jacks are there for the taking. If you want to shake it up, there is a myriad of varied routines you can follow along with online. If you must spend some money, buy yourself a few hand weights or resistance bands or a jump rope or an exercise ball. Any of these can enhance your routine.
Another fabulous piece of exercise equipment is your legs. Right there attached to your body and you already know how to use them! You can use them indoors, you can use them outdoors, you can go uphill, downhill, or just stay on the flat. Oh, the places they can take you! And, now thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can track exactly how many steps and miles you have walked each day. All you need is your cellphone, which, I take it, most of you already have on you 24/7/365 anyway. I aim for the much acclaimed 10,000 steps per day.
But rather than going out of my way to stay fit, with a set exercise routine, I try to stay in shape by simply living in a way that requires moving throughout my daily life. Let me give you some examples of things we do here that incorporate exercise into our lives.
Snow shoveling. We have no snowblower in our garage. (Bonus! We saved money by not purchasing and maintaining one!) When the snow flies, we go out there in the fresh winter air, use our handy dandy snow shovels and get a workout at the same time.
Gardening. Lots of exercise to be done there! There’s digging holes for planting, shoveling, turning the compost heap over, shoveling mulch onto the beds, weeding. Even harvesting requires movement and lifting. (For example, we picked 46 pounds of cabbages last summer.) Another piece of equipment we saved money on by not buying (and help save the environment by not using) is a leaf blower. We have rakes.
Housecleaning. Why hire someone to do it for you when you can do it yourself and get a workout at the same time? Pushing the vacuum, using your elbow grease on cleaning floors, shining windows, and scrubbing the tub are all great exercise. Put some music on while you clean to help make it enjoyable. In fact, while you have the music on, dancing is a fabulous aerobic exercise. Again, you can look up free routines to follow along with online if you would enjoy that.
Shopping. Out in the real world. Walking around a store. Reaching up for items on high shelves. Carrying bags of groceries to and from the car. It’s all exercise.
Cooking. Making bread is great for working your arm muscles while you knead the dough. In addition to that, even just moving around the kitchen, chopping, and lifting heavy pots and casserole dishes is all more exercise than just, say, sitting in your chair and lifting your phone to order something in.
Going up and down stairs. We have a two-story house (well, three if you count the basement.) So, there is a lot of stair climbing for us here at home. I deliberately put the washer and dryer in the basement where there is a walk-out door to the backyard. This way I can go out there with my (heavy) laundry basket full of wet clothes and hang them on the line (while bending and stretching). Bonus: I save money on gas by not running my dryer.
Of course, even when you are not home you can also take advantage of stairs. Just skip the elevator or escalator. You can also walk (or bike) places, again helping to save the planet as well as your health. You can even just park your car further away to add some steps.
Child Care. If you’ve got kids in your life, they are a great source of exercise! Get out there in the yard and play with them. Not only will it knock them out for bedtime, but you will get some bonus fitness at the same time.
Entertainment. When we have some leisure time, it’s nice to sit and read a book, or share drinks and snacks with friends, or just veg out in front of the TV. But there should also be room in the recreation schedule for some activity and movement. Sure, you can spend money on these things. Skiing comes to mind. But there are so many healthy activities you can do for free. Here in New York’s Hudson Valley where I live there are hiking trails galore for every skill level. All for free! There is the Hudson River to put a kayak in. There are frozen ponds in the winter for skating. For the cost of a little equipment, there are tennis and pickleball courts. And wherever you are you can always just put on your tennies and go out for a nice walk.
Challenge yourself to think of ways that you can get up off the couch and add some exercise into your days. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to stay fit. It’s really just a matter of exercising your brain to think of all the creative ways you can get moving for free. And maybe you can save the money that you would have used on fancy exercise equipment or a gym membership for something more fun. Like a trip to the beach! And maybe while you are there you will be inspired to (bonus activity!) go running in the sand and swimming in the ocean.
Wishing you all a hale and hardy, happy and healthy New Year!
A long, long time ago, after the birth of her third child, Victoria made the life-changing decision to leave the work world behind and devote herself to being a full-time mom and homemaker. Along with her new title of Domestic Engineer, she took on the role of the Chief Home Economist for the family.
At first, it was scary to try to live on less than half their income, but Victoria found that she not only rose to the challenge but thrived in the enjoyment of learning to live their best life with limited resources. She embraced this new frugal lifestyle of the at-home-mom and went on to add a fourth child to the mix. And their family was complete.
Along the way she acquired a great deal of wisdom in how to not only avoid debt, but pay off mortgages early, buy cars for cash, travel on a shoe-string budget, and send kids to college with no student loans, all while also saving a tidy nest egg for retirement. She currently educates others in these skills through her business Bright Future.
Now living the life of a modern homesteader in the Hudson Valley, New York, Victoria has added gardening to her list of skill sets as she grows many of her own vegetables to supplement her family’s primarily vegan diet. And she has come to realize that this waste-not, want-not, carbon-friendly, sustainable life she is living is not only benefiting her own family but also our Mother Earth, and that each of us has the obligation to live a responsibly sustainable life not only for ourselves, but for the greater good of our community, and our planet. We can all do this one household and backyard at a time. We are the world! And it all begins right at home.
Victoria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org