Monday, January 22, 2007

Work Versus Workout

I recently read an article in our local newspaper about the growing popularity of health and fitness clubs this time of year when people need to lose weight and improve their overall physical wellness. Several times in the past several years I had occasion to visit a fitness center, and was always amazed to peek into their workout rooms to see large numbers of dedicated and highly motivated people pumping away on a broad array of exercise machines designed to help them achieve their various health improvement goals. Apparently these people shell out a range of $30-$50 per month for the privilege of working their muscles and burning off unwanted body fat in hopes of being “the better off for it”. How wonderful, I would think, if I could find a way to harness some of this energy and put it to work on my farm. Then perhaps they, and I, would end up with real benefits.

The program I would offer would be radically different from that offered by a health-fitness club. There would be perks that I doubt any of them could offer. Instead of exercising to the beat of rock music and the odor of everyone else’s sweat, participants in my program would inhale fresh outdoor air and be soothed by chirping crickets and singing birds, punctuated by an occasional crowing rooster or a barking dog. Rather than set them up on a $5000 “do nothing” machine, I would hand them a $15 hoe, shovel, or rake and teach them how to dance with it. The beauty of it all would be that they could move as slowly or as fast as they would need to in order to achieve their particular exercise goals, much like they would in any fitness program. Although on a farm there would be no fancy instruments to measure their heart and respiration rates, there would be ample opportunities for one to toil until muscles ache, the heart beats faster, or breathing begins to be deeper and faster–all things that benefit overall health if not overdone. And hopefully when they are done, they could look back and admire something they had actually accomplished.

I could offer a considerably better deal than $30-$50 per month to any one interested in joining this program. In fact it wouldn’t be a bad deal for either of us if I offered the program for free. However, even if I offered to pay them something to work out on my farm, I still doubt if I would get any takers. Isn’t it interesting the difference in the meaning between “work” and “workout”?

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