Ideas for Productive Workouts
January 15, 2013 7:51 AM   Subscribe

I do not like working out for the sake of working out. But I do love working hard and vigorously if it means I am being productive and getting something done. Can you help me come up with ideas of working hard and having a tangible result at the end?

I recently took a job cleaning horse stalls twice a week. It takes me 3-4 hours to get 16-19 stalls cleaned. It's hard work shoveling horse poop into a bucket, then lifting the (very heavy) bucket to empty into the tractor. I work non-stop when I am doing this. And when I am done, I look back at all those sparkly clean stalls and I feel like I've really accomplished something. The added benefit is that I was moving and working hard the entire time. My arms, shoulders and back get quite the work out.

But this is only two times a week. I'd like to find some other tasks/jobs that I can do regularly (a few times a week) that make me work hard and have a tangible result at the end (i.e. clean stalls!). Any ideas?

I am a 37 year-old female. I would like to lose 10 pounds eventually. I'd most like to get in shape and be strong.
posted by Sassyfras to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Walk places, if it's feasible. My daily workout is the 3-mile round trip to and from work. I have a buddy who got in shape with 3-mile each way walking commutes, and another friend who jogs home every day.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:55 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Many landscaping activities can serve this same dual purpose and provide variety. Mowing grass once a week, digging flower beds and mulching them, making a rock retaining wall can all be physically demanding and provide that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the job.
posted by pappy at 8:03 AM on January 15, 2013

Walk for your errands, sprinting occasionally when you are unburdened. (Brief sprints at peak effort for <30s in sets of 3 or 5 is an absolutely fantastic workout. Pretend you are running from a tiger. They're the most horrible 30 seconds of your day but the returns are astronomical.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:09 AM on January 15, 2013

It doesn't produce as much as a tangible result, but try cycling. Bonus points (and money saved eventually) if you can use your bike to run errands, commute, etc. But even if it's just exploring your local neighborhood, riding a bike can be pretty interesting, and help you get fit.
posted by Doohickie at 8:10 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

scrubbing surfaces in your house? shower, floors, walls etc. Or really most cleaning can give you a workout, if you work fast/energetically enough. And you'd have a super clean house!

Alternatively, you could start some new house improvement projects: painting, building, repairing things could all give you a workout, plus you'd be learning new skills and improving your environment.

Also, this might be stretching the bounds of what you consider "productive", but learning a skill like practicing sports drills or dancing could work for you (tangible result would be the acquired skill).
posted by randomnity at 8:10 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Using a carpet cleaning machine is a good workout.
posted by Melsky at 8:12 AM on January 15, 2013

How about walking dogs as a volunteer at an animal shelter? There are also many other volunteer opportunities that could involve some physical effort: gardening at a state park or weeding at a local playground, living heavy boxes and running back and forth with supplies at a food distribution center, that kind of thing... or gearing up for a charity walkathon or 10K, perhaps?
posted by lgandme0717 at 8:12 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was in school I had a work-share with a local CSA farm. Four hours of physical work a week in exchange for produce. This is pretty common with CSA's.
posted by pilibeen at 8:13 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ooh, great question. A friend of mine walks dogs for money and loves it for just this reason. I volunteer with a food distribution center that has warehouse shifts and also farm shifts for the small plot of land they grow veggies on.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:27 AM on January 15, 2013

I worked the late shift at a cafe once, where I was responsible for cleaning the floors nightly. I used a plain broom and one those heavy mop/bucket/squeezer jobbies. Once a week I would use a deck brush to do an even more thorough scrub. After a couple of months of that my back and arms were cut! But I really just felt much stronger. I think to get a similar effect from cleaning your own home, you'd want to be extremely thorough and picky, and use heavy, old cleaning tools (versus a battery-operated Swiffer).

A relative of mine works on crews maintaining trails. It involves a lot of hiking and hauling. Volunteers are always needed! If you seem keen they will put you on more vigorous work.
posted by stowaway at 8:36 AM on January 15, 2013

I have a reel mower that's a pretty good workout. The mowed area of our property is small, though, so if you live in the middle of a golf course this is probably not a good idea.
posted by workerant at 8:45 AM on January 15, 2013

Woodworking with hand tools.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:49 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Commuting by bike. Makes a huge difference. You can happily burn 400-500 calories on a 30 minute commute if you want.

Doing walking tours of your city/a city. Here in London you can buy a walking guide book. But if you don't have one of those, you might be able to find one yourself. Organise by theme if you like - buildings, history, sports, gardens, art, shopping, food etc etc

Dishwashing. I did this for a while in a commercial, high end restaurant that generated huge quantities of dirty pans. Hard work. Not as hard work as being a rubbish collector or hay baling, but a good upper body workout nonetheless. Likewise (mentioned above) carpet cleaning or if you want to do your upper body and your abs, floor polishing. Knackering.

Alternatively you can look for jobs where you cover a lot of ground. For example, pickers in Amazon warehouses walk around 6 miles per shift, I think. Walking tour and hiking guides are obvious examples but there are others too. I once worked as a door to door sales rep and that was a few miles a day too.

I don't know where you are, but if you ever get the chance to work on or be part of a racing sailing boat crew, that is hard work. Your legs get a work out just from keeping you level and all the pulling in and letting out of sails is energetic.

Cutting timber. You'll end up with arms like Popeye. Less strenuously, hedge trimming.

Masseuse. Never done it myself, but the young, petite lady who gave me a 20 minute shoulder massage at an airport recently had hands that could strangle a rhino. It was tiring just being on the end of it.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:53 AM on January 15, 2013

Mopping with a heavy, industrial-type floor mop. Probably some types of factory work. Digging (holes, trenches, garden beds). Moving furniture. Washing walls and ceilings, especially on a time limit. Hanging out laundry to dry. Tree planting. Fruit picking. Stacking boxes of stuff. Loading or unloading trucks. Washing windows. Churning butter by hand. Making meringue, bread, whipped cream by hand. Shovelling snow.
Many types of construction work. Tree trimming. Wood chopping. Water carrying.

I love this type of work too, I'm really looking forward to the answers. Great question, thanks!
posted by windykites at 10:28 AM on January 15, 2013

Note: for these kinds of physical labour, and the work you're already doing, you really need to learn the basics of ergonomics and body mechanics to make sure you a) don't injure yourself (I have some pretty serious back problems from doing labour incorrectly) and b) can work at your highest efficiency. It feels even better to do work and know you're doing it in a way that's good fpr your body. You feel almost like an efficient machine!
posted by windykites at 10:32 AM on January 15, 2013

Bucking, cutting, and splitting firewood.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:41 AM on January 15, 2013

I agree with everyone who has mentioned transportation (walking, biking etc) if it's possible where you live. You have to go places anyway, and if you don't use a car you will probably get in shape without thinking about it.

Also: if you have access to a small sad baby who won't sleep unless you hold them and march around for hours, that is a great workout.
posted by steinwald at 1:34 PM on January 15, 2013

Trail maintenance.
posted by yohko at 8:50 PM on January 15, 2013

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