Derrick Ivey: My FarmFit workout

January 14, 2014 

Several years ago I was working on the back deck of Manbites Dog Theater, on the corner of Foster and Geer streets in Durham.

This was before the cultural explosion in that part of town – back when pedestrians were few and far between. So I took notice when a young woman went sprinting by. I was busy painting something and she was at a bit of a distance, so I didn’t get a good look. But I did see that she was clutching something green and round to her abdomen.

Odd. What could that be? Maybe the Farmers Market up the street was open that day. Perhaps she’d bought herself a honeydew and was rushing home to make melon balls.

I smiled at the thought and went back to work. Then another person dashed by, also with what appeared to be a small melon pressed to his stomach. But this guy was running at a pretty good pace and had more than a hint of desperation in his eyes.

Was he stealing that honeydew?

Soon another melon-hauler went past. And another. And another. Each more determined than the one before.

What was going on? Were they all stealing melons from some unfortunate and unobservant farmer at the market?

When the next alleged melon bandit ran by I stopped painting and took a good look. She was wearing stylish workout clothes – the kind folks also wear to the grocery store. And it wasn’t a melon she was intensely lugging down the street. It was a green rubber sphere which, judging from the way she struggled with it, was very dense and heavy.

This was some form of exercise. These people were jogging while clasping weighted balls to their abdomens – all for the sake of good health, or weight loss, or muscle gain, or whatever.

It seems that among the first new businesses to join the theater in that part of town had been one of those urban fitness concerns. And I soon noticed them sprouting up all over the Triangle. People were going to great lengths to get fit all over the place.

I saw folks across from the gas station holding heavy things over their heads and walking in circles. Or by the coffee shop desperately diving into emphatic lunges and then popping back to a standing position, over and over again. I noticed packs of people sprinting down city sidewalks, some pushing baby carriages, some talking on cell phones, some listening to their newfangled audio devices. Each with that same emphatic look in their eyes: I’m going to get fit. I’m going to get fit. I’m going to get fit.

Then one day, I saw four or five people standing around a tractor tire in a parking lot. Each wielded a sledge hammer, and they were beating that poor tire for all they were worth.

I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help myself.

Something useful

Over the next few days I kept thinking about those folks beating that tractor tire, and about all the time and energy they were expending without accomplishing anything. Why couldn’t they be doing something useful like chucking bales into a hayloft, or building a shed, or mowing a lawn? OK, they were getting a workout of sorts. But what were they really doing?

Suddenly, those two thoughts came together for me: Getting fit and getting things done.

I’ve never been much of one for gyms and exercise regimens. But I’ve always had chores to do, as people everywhere have had forever. I think it’s the way we were meant to operate. But it seems the concept of doing real work in the modern age needs a bit of re-branding.

So I give you “FarmFit.” It’s a simple twist of the idea of “working out” to one of “out working.” With FarmFit, every chore is a workout. And every workout has instant results.

A couple of hours clearing brush with a sling blade is a great FarmFit workout. And the instant result is a freshly cleared bit of land. Add some quality time with a chainsaw and the result might also include a sizable stack of firewood.

Shoveling gravel. That’s a mighty fine FarmFit workout, and you can enjoy the instant result of filled-in potholes and a newly-level driveway.

Digging holes. An intense FarmFit workout which instantly gives you places to plant trees or to sink fenceposts.

Raking leaves. A great FarmFit workout, and nothing is more gratifying than sitting on the glider at the end of the day and enjoying your own newly tidy yard.

Soon you’ll actually look for chores to do. FarmFit workouts have had me hauling topsoil, lugging rocks, dragging logs, and more. And the instant results have brought me raised garden beds, landscaping walls, and stepped woodland walkways. All things I can enjoy and appreciate each and every day.

In all fairness, I logged on to the tractor-tire-pounding website to see what they were all about. Basically, they promote a variety of activities which challenge your body in different ways. I guess FarmFit does pretty much the same thing. If you do what needs doing when it needs to be done, life and luck will make sure your tasks are varied.

It’s not a new idea, but perhaps one which needs to be revisited. The art of getting things done. Accomplishing something. And enjoying the instant results.

Derrick Ivey is an actor, directer, designer, and gentleman farmer who lives in Chatham County.

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