We live in the Rocky Mountains near Winter Park, CO. To the west of us the Williams Fork wildfire is burning and to the north the Cameron Peak fire. Fortunately, neither is nearly as severe as the fires ravaging the west coast and it’s highly unlikely either of these fires would reach us. However, we live on three acres of woodland and for homes in the woods fire mitigation is essential. One of the key measures is creating a defensible perimeter 30 feet around the house in which there is nothing flammable. Trees within the defensible perimeter are okay as long as the limbs are pruned up to at least 6 feet and 10 feet is recommended.
I’ve been busy cutting off limbs as high as I can reach. The ground needs to be cleared of any significant flammable material, especially the juniper, which is a flammable as kerosene. I’ve been dealing with the juniper, pulling it out where possible so it doesn’t grow back and cutting it down if I can’t uproot it. I’ve cut down some smaller trees because we have too many for forest health. I’ve cut up some old downed trees. All of the slash — trees, tree limbs, and juniper — have to be dragged out to the road. The HOA has arranged for a tree service to come around and grind all of this slash into wood chips.
Our home site was blasted out of the hillside with dynamite and much of the work needs to be done on the uphill side, which is steeper than a normal staircase. I’m getting a full-body workout!
Step-ups are one of the best gym exercises to build leg strength and I’m doing big step-ups getting to the juniper and trees and then step-downs with the slash. I use my upper body reaching up with the pruning shears, picking up logs and reaching down to pull out juniper. Sawing with a handsaw is great for my biceps and triceps. When one arm starts talking to me I switch arms. I got up this morning I was sore all over, especially my quads and glutes.
I try to keep my core muscles engaged while I’m bending and twisting so I don’t strain my back. Also, every five or ten minutes I stop, stand up as straight as possible and reach for the sky to stretch out my back.
Dragging the slash to the road and walking back is functionally the same as hiking, although not as much fun.
Climbing up the hill with my tools, cutting away and carrying or dragging back slash down to the house is like hard intervals. Each time I climb back up I stop to catch my breath and then start cutting again.
Getting up the hillside and especially back down with a load of slash is a challenge. I step carefully always making sure I’m stepping onto something solid, not loose soil or a rock that could shift.
All the reaching, twisting and bending — done carefully with a strong core — is great for my upper body flexibility. After I strip off my work clothes I take a few minutes to stretch my back, hips and legs.
Weight bearing exercise is important for strong bones and the heavier the load on my skeleton the stronger my bones are. Climbing up and down stairs is one of the recommended exercises for bone strength and I’m doing a harder version.
I can do a couple of hours and then I have to lie down for a while to recover. I’m as tired as if I’d done a hard, hilly two-hour ride.
American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations
For overall good health the ACSM recommends year-round:
Cardiorespiratory: Most days of the week you should do moderate cardio to total a minimum of 150 minutes / week up to 300 minutes / week. Or you could do 75 – 150 minutes of intense cardio. Or you could do a combination of moderate and intense cardio.
Strength training: You should do strength training two to three days / week, which should include exercises for all major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, core, hips, and legs). 30 minutes / session is plenty.
Stretching/flexibility exercises: You should stretch all parts of your body at least four times a week — it only takes 5 – 10 minutes per session.
Weight-bearing exercises: Riding — even sprinting — doesn’t load your skeleton as much as plain walking! You should do 30 – 60 minutes a day of weight-bearing exercise three to five days a week. Your strength training and some types of aerobic exercise help to strengthen your bones.
Balance exercises: You should do balance drills both for general mobility and cycling safety.
My fire mitigation work provides all of these!
Activities of Daily Living
Longitudinal studies suggest that one of the reasons many people are gaining weight is the increasing use of mechanized means of doing things: motorized transportation, elevators and escalators, power lawn mowers, remote controls now even voice activated, clothes dryers instead of carrying clothes outside and hanging, dishwashers instead of by hand, power tools e.g., chain saw, instead of a buck saw for pruning.
Some people even hire others: a housecleaner who vacuums and mops, a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn and shovel snow, etc.
Although you may not live in a high maintenance environment like I do, every day you make choices about how to do things. For example, could you run some errands on your bike? Could you park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to the store and back?
The choices each of us makes also have an environmental impact.
Last week I wrote about e-bikes and how they can be useful additions to our exercise equipment. My intent is not to substitute battery power for physical power but to use the battery to extend how far one can ride while getting a comparable workout to riding a conventional bike.
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process has individual chapters on each of the types of exercise the ACSM recommends: cardiovascular both endurance and intensity: upper, lower, and core strength; weight-bearing, flexibility and balance. I include interviews with Gabe Mirkin (recommendations from an M.D.) Jim Langley (importance of goals), Andy Pruitt (importance of working on your skeleton, posture, balance, muscle mass), Muffy Ritz (recommended activities for older people, especially women), Malcolm Fraser (recommendations from an M.D.), Fred Matheny (importance of strength training), Elizabeth Wicks (motivation) and five other male and female riders ages 55 to 83. Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in my previous eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond. It’s your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s. The 106-page eBookAnti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is available for $14.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.