Soon after the baby was born, we both realized that we needed to do something about our weight. It stinks having to buy bigger clothes because your old stuff doesn’t fit or, in my case, having your super-sized butt rip through the back of your favorite jeans while you’re getting in the car to drive to work. I knew I had to take action when my favorite clothes were getting treated like I was the Incredible Hulk.
Because we’re time-strapped cheapskates, we did what any red-blooded American couple would do: we turned on the internet and started looking for workout videos and tips. We also went to our local library. Fortunately, there are a wealth of workouts and physical fitness websites of all types that tell you what you need to know in order to lose weight and get in shape. Many of these websites charge fees, but there are an ever greater number of resources that are totally free.
This physical fitness campaign made me realize that there are a bunch of archaeologist, architectural historians, and other heritage conservation professionals that are in the same boat as I am. Speaking as an archaeology field director, we spend the majority of our time either sitting in an office in front of a computer screen. This long period of sitting is broken up by shorter periods of intense physical activity, sometimes in 100+-degree heat. Because we have been sitting (either in class, the office, or at our homes), our bodies are not in excellent shape and are susceptible to breaking. Yet, we need them to be in optimal condition. Weak bodies are easily injured. Injuries cost time, money, and careers. After a few days of aching backs, arms, wrists, legs, and feet, our bodies have usually adapted to the project we’re working on, which is usually right around the time the project is over.
You may know you should keep in shape, but just haven’t been able to work it into your schedule. I understand. This is why this article only lists 30-minute workouts. Thirty minutes each day is just barely long enough for your body to benefit from physical exertion by building muscle, improving cardiovascular strength, and burning a few calories. It’s also pretty easy to fit it into your day. I put together suggestions that you can do anywhere you have cell reception or WiFi, especially if you have a smartphone. There aren’t too many excuses for not doing a 30-minute workout in your living room or hotel room. I mean, I work full-time, raise 3 kids, maintain a blog, write eBooks, and run a company and I still find time for 30-minutes of exercise every day. You can too.
Maintaining decent physical fitness is one of the best ways you can prevent injuries in the field. I’ve compiled my best tips for keeping in shape and preventing injuries just in case you find yourself working on a 100+ mile-long survey in the Sonoran Desert in 100+ degree temperatures.
Disclaimer #1: I’m not a doctor. Some of the stuff I suggest may hurt you, especially if you have previous injuries or overdo it. Listen to your body. If you think you may get hurt doing some of this stuff, get a doctor’s opinion.
Disclaimer #2: The YouTube videos I recommend are probably copyrighted and have been uploaded to the internet without permission. I am against online piracy and do not recommend you do anything illegal. Because I don’t want anyone to be fined or banned from YouTube for uploading a workout video, I did not include links to these videos. Just copy and paste the title text (in “parenthesis”) into YouTube if you want to watch the videos.
Here are my suggestions:
Stop smoking– Do I really need to say more?
This is more of a mental workout than a physical one because smoking is extremely difficult to quit. Here are a couple reasons to do this: It’s expensive. You can’t do it indoors except in a casino or your own house. You’ll die.
For smokers, the easiest way to get in shape is to stop smoking. This also includes bullshit nicotine vaporizers, which (in my opinion) make you look like a total weakling (I mean, if you’re gonna smoke, don’t be a spineless imitator. Grow some cajones and kill yourself with a real cigarette).
I know it’s hard to quit, but millions of other people around the world have done it. You wouldn’t be the first. I smoked for about 12 years and stopped cold turkey. I have a friend and fellow archaeologist that used to smoke about 1.5 packs a day for almost 20 years and he quit. Initially, he used a prescription but later he went cold turkey. Cigarettes are so addicting and very difficult to quit, so I understand your pain. If you can quit smoking, you can do anything you set your mind to. Anything.
Running– There are a million excuses for not jogging. Overweight, knees, back, it’s boring, ect. I get it, but running is one of the best ways you can strengthen your legs, build endurance, and improve your cardio-V capabilities. You don’t have to be Usain Bolt to get benefits from running that are applicable to working in the field. You can also run even if you’re away from home because all you need is a dirt road or trail and some shoes.
If you’ve never been into running, I suggest you read “Chi Running” by Danny Dryer. You can buy the book on Amazon, or you can probably check it out from the library for free. I’ve gifted this book to almost everyone in my family and have recommended it to dozens of my friends. Chi Running will teach you a stress-free running posture that will save your knees and ankles.
In order to start running, all you need is a good pair of shoes. I suggest you go to a running store that videos you running on a treadmill, which will show if you pronate or supinate. The store employees will be better able to suggest a pair of shoes designed specifically for your running gait. Once you get into the habit of jogging 3-4 times a week, I suggest you buy a small metronome because it will help you establish a tempo and keep you from dragging your feet.
Running takes time to get used to. Start by jogging in 5-10 minute intervals and walking for a couple minutes until you can jog for 30 minutes. After that, you can increase your speed by adjusting the tempo of your steps. You can also do hill runs and speedwork. If you’re really hardcore, you can run in the winter and summer heat, which will make you able to better withstand fieldwork conditions. (Actually, if you want to be a tough-assed field renegade, run for 15-30 minutes in 95+-degree heat after work 2-3 times a week. This is something I don’t recommend to anyone that is struggling in the field. If you get to the hotel and feel absolutely wasted, don’t run. But if you’re acclimated, you should jog for a few minutes. It will turn you into a Spartan!)
“Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred”– Levels 1–3
I hate workout videos almost as much as I hate going to the gym. Most of them are corny and make you feel like a tool when you’re doing the exercises. Jillian Michaels’ “30-Day Shred” videos are no different (Jillian even calls the viewers “ladies” throughout the videos, which is totally emasculating). So, why do them? Because you will actually get stronger and see benefits in 30-days and they will remain challenging for a long time after you’ve finished the original 30-day course.
The course is divided into three levels that last for 10 days each, but I suggest you do 5 days of each level and alternate between levels for the next 5 days before focusing on the next level (ex. If you’re just starting, do Level 1 for 5 days. Then alternate between Level 1 and Level 2 for the next five. Then do five days of Level 2 before alternating between Levels 2 and 3 for 5 days). This keeps you from blowing out your knees by slavishly completing each 10-day session.
The best thing about these videos is the fact that you can do them on your phone or computer while you’re away from home in the field. All you need is cell reception or WiFi. The bad thing is many of the exercises use small hand weights that you may not want to bring to a hotel. Nevertheless, you can do the exercises without the weights and still see benefits.
If you aren’t already in shape, you will be shredded after your first day at Level 1.
“8-minute abs”, “8-minute buns”, and “8-minute legs” Combination
These are oldies but goodies. They’ve been watched on YouTube millions of times. All you need is a computer/smartphone and a foam camping pad or folded up hotel bed comforter for your back and you’re ready to workout.
You can complete all three of these workouts in a row in less than 30-minutes. The only bad thing about just doing these three workouts is you don’t really get any cardio or core strengthening. You’ll probably want to alternate between the 8-minute videos and jogging every other day.
For those that want to get over-the-top, hella strong
Buy the book “The Navy Seal Workout” by Mark De Lisle if you want to go from the aforementioned workouts to “Special Forces-level” brute strength. The book covers upper body, abs, running, and swimming (just in case you need to swim while in the field). I bought this book years ago, but lost it and had to repurchase recently. It’s currently available on Amazon for less than $3. The book is almost 20-years old, but you will be in the best shape of your life if you can complete the advanced program (I don’t know anyone that can do the advanced program. Even crossfit people).
Pros: None of the exercises require special equipment. Cons: You may not be able to find a way to do some of the exercises like pull-ups and swimming at your house or while out in the field. Also, once you get past the beginner program, your daily regimen will take longer than 30-minutes to complete.
I’ve never made it through the advanced program. Maybe I’ll try to again someday.
I have several personal reasons for staying in shape. I have a family and don’t want to get injured in the field just because my body was too weak. I want to be able to pick up and hold my kids when they weigh 50 pounds each– can’t do that if you’ve had back surgery. High blood pressure and diabetes runs in one side of my family and I have watched several family members suffer and die from the effects of obesity, diabetes, and smoking. These are primarily lifestyle illnesses that I can ameliorate by simply staying fit and eating right. If it just takes a 30-minute workout each day to stay away from that fate, I’m more than willing to make time in my schedule.
Most importantly, I love watching a 20-something field tech panting in the shade while I finish digging their unit. I’m getting old and I love running circles around a newbie. Call me shallow, but its true.
If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.
“Resume-Writing for Archaeologists” is now available on Amazon.com. Click Here and get detailed instructions on how you can land a job in CRM archaeology today!
Small Archaeology Project Management is now on the Kindle Store. Over 300 copies were sold in the first month! Click Here and see what the buzz is all about.
Join the Succinct Research email list and receive additional information on the CRM and heritage conservation field.