Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Manual Labour

Even as the 2012 CrossFit Games Open approaches and training becomes more specific to metcon performance, I like to try and get "outside the box" when possible.  There is always the assumption that CrossFit-style training transfers out to a wide range of physical activities and I like to test that assumption when the opportunity arises. 

Activities done without the relative comfort of the barbell and within constantly changing and unbalanced environments provide insight into true transfer of fitness.  They can also help identify weaknesses and challenge the body in new ways.  Many of the best forms (in my opinion) of real world fitness challenges are represented by manual labour tasks.

Digging fence holes, sawing logs, moving dirt, and building a stone wall are all relatively simple labour tasks that will quickly show if you have real world strength and fitness.

I had the opportunity over the recent holiday break to try out my fitness in a similar task.  My dad lives on top of a bluff overlooking the ocean and has carved a very steep path of 99 winding steps down to the beach.  Several deadfall logs clog up the lower area of the stairs and so he set about to cut them up into rounds for firewood.  The challenge for me was to carry the rounds up the stairs and through the back yard.

The rounds weren't all that heavy - maybe about 20lb on average - but were mismatched in size, of an awkward diameter, and 99 steps is nothing to sneer at.  I set a goal of making 10 trips and trying to maximize the number of rounds I brought up.  In the end, over about 50 minutes, I brought up 17 rounds - pretty poor by horsepower standards but it was a pretty tough challenge for me (I'll do another post up with heart rate data from the task soon).  7 trips were done with 2 logs and 3 trips were completed carrying one (heavier) log at a time.

I found that the gripping and holding of the rounds was as hard as the climbing and tried a variety of techniques - holding them on my shoulders to by my sides to in a front rack position on my chest.  All of those carrying styles taxed me in a different way and added to the challenge of the activity.

It was difficult but enjoyable - there is definitely something to be said for exercising in the outdoors and seeing physical proof that the energy you put in has had an impact.  You lift a barbell 50 times and it comes to rest in the same spot it started.  You climb 990 stairs and now there's firewood to chop up and keep friends and family warm - it's a little bit different.



  1. That sounds like fun! Did you run back down the stairs too?

  2. Well Chris I definitely wasn't running :) Quadskis were pretty savaged at the top of each climb so I just kinda got myself down - some of the steps are pretty crazy! Towards the end I was getting some pretty good quad shakes - like when you're doing the return trip from the top of a mountain hike...