In this three county area, we are abundant with agriculture. Farmers, just like everyone else, can benefit from regular strength training. Why should farmers focus on strength training? Easy. Let’s discuss.
Depending on what kind of farmer you are, you have seasons. ”In-season” might be planting and harvest if you are a grain farmer. ”Off-season” is the rest of the year then. When you are in season, you are probably on the go, your body gets beat up like crazy, and you come home after hours and hours and hours of work with a sore body. Then the aches and pains set in. Realistically, your body cannot handle this type of beat down. It needs to be stronger, and strength training in the off-season is a perfect way to handle that.
Farmers generally drive large pieces of machinery….over rough terrain (plowed fields, for example). Two things happen here. First, your body, already in a seated position with stress on your low back, is getting bounced and jostled around. Well….if you have poor posture and a weak “core,” this can become a recipe for disaster. You lack the strength to actually hold your spine stable, and injuries, or just nagging low back pain can occur. Secondly, sitting in a tractor for hours on end can lead to “lazy” glutes. Don’t read that wrong…YOU aren’t “lazy.” Your glutes are. Lazy glutes mean they don’t remember how to fire correctly, or fire at all. Which means when you pick something up from the ground (a hay bale, a bag of seed, or any other heavy farming object), you probably aren’t using your glutes…you are using your back. This will lead to back pain, or injury, or a host of other ugly issues over time.
Farmers also end up needing some explosive strength every now and again. Really? Yes! Think about it….bags of seed don’t get into the planter by themselves. A farmer has to somehow get it off the ground, or off the bed of a truck or wagon, and hoist it explosively upwards to dump it into the planter. Not a grain farmer? I bet you then have livestock, and they need to be fed or bedded somehow too…probably with a bale of hay or straw. That hay has to be baled and stored at some point…which means it has to be picked up off the ground and stacked. The throwing and stacking of bales is majorly explosive. Think about doing those moves with a rounded back or spine, and you will eventually have an injury. The question is not “if” you will have an injury…it is “when” you will have an injury.
How could farmers strength train? Easy. Keep it simple. Here’s a list of exercises to possibly include:
- Deadlift – in many variations. Start with just a basic kettlebell deadlift to get the pattern down, and move to suitcase deadlifts with weight on one side only to find any imbalances. Consider adding some heavy kettlebell sumo deadlift holds as well to enforce that “zipped up” feeling. Now, picking stuff up off the ground will be the proper way….using the largest muscle group of your body!
- Plank – just a good old plank where everything is working – abs are braced, glutes are pinched, quads are flexed. Stability, stability, stability, and a strong core for the win!
- Turkish Get Up – getting up and down from the ground with a weight overhead will keep you stable while you move, keep your shoulders amazingly healthy, and teach you to work your body “as one.” No individual body parts here…your body parts learn to work together through the entire movement.
- Kettlebell Swing – explosive power! Get your swings in, and you will find throwing bales is no longer a huge chore. Some days swing heavy with low reps. Some days…swing lighter and go the distance.
- Loaded Carry – overhead, rack, and farmer carries here. Use mismatched weights, or just carry the weight on your “less strong” side first, and then your stronger side. Shoulders packed, abs braced, lats firing. YES!
Farming is not only physical, it is largely mental. When your income depends on the swing in the grain price, or the milk price, or the hog/beef price, or the weather….it gets stressful FAST. Honestly, strength training has such great mental benefits that farmers might consider it for just this reason if they see no other value in it at all.
Not sure how to perform the exercises listed above? Contact your local fitness professional to get you started in the right direction. As always, discuss beginning a new exercise program with your health care professional as well.
Please join us for some upcoming Farm to School field trips in Minnesota, a great way to bring local school districts, farmers, and community members together to advance Farm to School in your district!
Opportunity in the Meeker, McLeod, Sibley area:
August 8th - West Metro – Sibley East Public Schools and student farm. Check here for more information!
What are these trips all about? These field trips bring farmers and food service professionals together to gain a first-hand understanding of others’ operations, and how schools and farmers are working together to provide school children with farm fresh food!
What will you learn? Learn how farmers have navigated direct marketing relationships with local schools, and the on-farm procedures needed to make those relationships work. Also learn about the challenges facing school food service professionals in locating and buying from local producers, and how they are working around them to provide safe, healthy local food to their students.
Finally, summer has arrived! We had a rainy weather stretch, and are now into July, with sunshine, warm weather, and the availability of fresh produce. Here we go, Meeker, McLeod, and Sibley counties….I am issuing you a challenge!
So, what’s the challenge? I challenge you to “hunt and gather” your food. I don’t actually mean traipsing around through fields and forests to find your dinner like our ancestors used to. What I mean is to find those foods that are fresh and available to you in your area right now. I hunt and gather my weekly produce by driving to the farm that I purchased a share from, picking up my box of fresh goodies, and driving home to prep them for meals for the next week.
Before we talk about ways to hunt and gather foods, let’s talk about the kinds of foods we are aiming to hunt and gather. Ideally, the foods we are after here are whole foods, or foods that are closest to their natural state with minimal processing. Some examples are fruits and veggies that are in season, eggs, meats and dairy products from a local farmer, and whole grains in their natural state. Typically, these foods don’t come in a package with a food label, because they are the package. These whole foods are also perishable and don’t have much of a shelf life because they are ready to be enjoyed by you!
Here are some ways that you can “hunt and gather” food in your area:
- Find a farmers market near you! Make it a part of your weekly grocery shopping trip, and pick up the bulk of your groceries at the market. Better yet, get to know the growers that are supplying the foods there. Ask them questions about how they grow and care for the products they are selling. Get educated!
- Find a farm that sells shares of their crops! It might be a little late this year, but get on the list for next year. Generally, you are able to get a weekly box of products from their farm to feed your family with! This way, you are getting your whole foods straight from the ground into your belly.
- Grow your own kitchen garden! If you have a small yard or even a couple of large pots, you can plant your own kitchen garden. Start out with a couple of your favorite veggies and try to incorporate them into your weekly menu. Get your family to help with watering, weeding, and picking!
- Hunt and gather at the grocery store! Typically, the whole foods we are after are found in the outer aisles of the store – the produce section, the meat counter, and the dairy aisle. Try to prepare the bulk of your meals from these sections, and swing by the whole grains to grab some rice, oatmeal, and whole grain bread to round out your menu plans.
At first it might seem overwhelming to hunt and gather your food, but after a little planning, it becomes very easy. Make a game out of it – find one new whole food to try each time you hunt and gather. After a trip of hunting and gathering, make sure your food is washed and stored appropriately so it’s ready to go as soon as you need it for a meal or recipe. Spend 15 to 20 minutes each week sketching out a rough draft “menu” for your family, and hunt and gather accordingly. Focus on making whole foods the bulk of your meals, and you are well on your way to great health!
As we begin summer, we now have many more options available to us in the fitness and exercise arena. Think about it, the great outdoors is your playground, and what better way to get moving than in the fresh air and sunshine! So, let’s talk about what we can do to move more this summer, shall we?
- Hit the open road! Lace up your sneakers, and hit the road for some walking or running! One of the best forms of exercise that you can do is walk. Walking loosens up your body after a long day at work sitting behind a desk! Been walking for awhile? Give running a try! Start slow by adding jogging intervals to your daily walk. Gradually increase your intervals over time, or shorten your walking breaks. By increasing slowly, you allow your body to get used to the feel of running, and it becomes much more manageable!
- Bike! Biking is a great way to cover some miles while enjoying the summer scenery. The best part about biking is that it is easy on your joints, making it an ideal exercise for someone with joint pain or other issues.
- Take your family to the park! Make a game out of it, and split up into teams and create an obstacle course on the playground equipment. Then race each other through the course! See how many times you can race up to the slide and slide down in five minutes. It’s guaranteed to get your heart rate up and be fun at the same time!
- Swim! Visit your local pool or lake, and jump in with your family! While the kids are splashing around, moms and dads can swim laps. Turn your family swim into a race by “running” in the water from one side of the pool to the other. This is a bonus workout, as the pool water acts as resistance.
- Hike! Get out into nature, and make a day of it! Find your nearest hiking trail, pack up the family and a lunch, and get moving on the trails.
There is no right or wrong way to get outdoors and move. Be creative, and find something that you love!
What are some other ways that you move outdoors?