The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Want Weightlifting? Plant A Food Garden

Sledge Hammerer 

For weightlifters who enjoy Olympic lifts, rows, cable cross-overs, curls, and all the other good stuff with endless heavy weight, you may like growing vegetables.

We have been tilling a vegetable garden from a rocky field at my Mom's. Seems her home was built on landfill. We had to sledge-hammer and pry concrete slabs - prodigious squatting, levering, clean-and-jerking, and hundred pound medicine ball throws over the just-built garden fence into a pile. Then lifting and hauling away the pile.

Carrying sand, earth, rocks, weed bales, tree branches as heavy as you can lift, over uneven rocky hilly earth back and forth from the truck, the field, and the new compost pile a hundred feet away for hours is functional weightlifting. Hours of repetition-maximum (RM) hoeing gives a harder abdominal, arm, and gluteal workout than it looks.

Healthline software still isn't uploading my own photos.
At left above, a photo of a statue with too much
lumbar curve/hyperlordosis to be healthy,
but in general doing functional weightlifting.
Use your muscles to prevent overarching like this when
swing a sledge, a kettlebell, or other weight.
For Fitness Fixer posts on neutral spine and hyperlordosis,
click the photo or here.

Over the winter while visiting home in Asia, my husband Paul and I went to a workman's shop. The store-keeps remembered us and smiled. The first time we went there years ago, they were so sure we were lost tourists, they took our shoulder and gestured at a restaurant. In the best Thai I could manage, I explained that Paul is a carpenter, has done forge metal work, and loves old-world tools, strong bamboo handles, and hand-hammered metal. They smile each year we return. In the US, we live in a crowded urban area with minimal bricked exterior in deep shade from surrounding buildings. Vegetable gardens don't grow. Paul wanted to plant my Mother's field - a brambled overgrown area.

In the Thai tool store, I explained with the words I knew that Paul was looking for a specific Thai tool, shaped like a backward shovel, that you use in overhead action, like a mattock (flat bladed pick).

Quickly, excitedly, word went from the store-keep, to her friend in the next shop, to the next, and next:
"Man who good to Mother of wife!"

The coconut telegraph was happy. We bought two heavy tools, called "job" in Thai. Both had thick lovely bamboo handles. One was giant sized for Paul, the other for me. Fun getting them through flights and US customs.

Mom had asked a local man what it would take to clear her field, and he told her a blowtorch, a machine plow, three men, and a week. Paul and I cleared it in one day in early April with a digging stick and the Thai hoe-shovels. The ground was half frozen. Six, or so hours massive exertion - first clearing brush and tall grasses, then hours of half-squats to seize handfuls of stalks, standing back up to pull them with grip strength. Then excavating slabs of concrete and discarded materials with a pry bar, the Thai digging tools, and bare armed weight lifting.

The packs of seeds we had scattered in assorted flowerpots, pans, shoeboxes, and containers sprouted over just a week into tiny plants - broccoli, cabbage, pea, hot and sweet peppers, strawberries, eggplants, and assorted spices. We have been learning about complementary planting - plants, just like people, who are better and healthier with specific other kinds of plants so that chemical fertilizer isn't needed. We are learning about plants that repel pests, instead of using insecticides.

We got a rain barrel to reduce water bills. We attached an old broken hose. The holes made it a natural soaker hose. We poked more holes and arranged it around the garden for drip irrigation. We don't know the water quality of either the rain or from the tap. We will send six dollars and a soil sample to an agricultural university for testing. Maybe other toxic things are in that landfill that we don't want the vegetables absorbing. Maybe commercial food factories have the same problem. Many things to learn.

Weeks pass squatting and sitting well to plant seedlings, still hitting buried rubble. More lifting and hauling. Each night we are too tired to worry or think anything bad. We are barely were able to lift hands and feet. I consider what people for thousands of years have been doing just for subsistence farming, day after day, year after year. I thought of Fitness Fixer success story Ivy and her story - Farm Work, Lifestyle Exercise, and Preventing Overuse Pain.

We thought we planted everything, then found a half pack of pea seeds left. Paul mentioned we didn't have one more container for them. I laughed, "we didn't have a pot to pea in."


  • If you're a tough vital strong person, or want to be, dig a garden.
  • If you don't have anywhere to dig one, hook up with some nice elder who wants one, a community group, Habitat for Humanity, or someone who doesn't want to exercise like this but still wants a garden.
  • Contact your community to see about organizing parents and children out in sunshine for functional exercise doing good for all.
  • If you only want one hour a day of hard total body fat burning muscle building exercise, only plant a small vegetable garden.
  • No need to buy fancy tools, use what's handy.
  • If you don't want to exercise so hard, try a single pack of seeds in some potting soil in almost any container on a sunny windowsill. A chance to get the vegetables you like.
  • Fancy individual peat pots and seed starters aren't essential; a simple pack of seeds can get you a pan full of fragrant oregano, said to be very healthful. It gives a gasp of wonder (to me) when seedlings actually sprout.

Before the 2008 election, a video appeared by Roger Doiron (I don't know him, just liked the video). He asked the next President to grow a garden. It did come true. Here is his viewpoint of getting your own garden started, showing various bending, occasionally good:



If the movie does not appear, click YouTube video URL

Read success stories of these methods and send your own.
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.