In my yard, there is a “Chinee Coconut” tree, which constantly bears coconuts with the sweetest water I have ever tasted. The problem is, I cannot reach the coconuts with my short ladder. What a shame to waste the nuts, letting them dry on the tree, eventually dropping to the floor much to the delight of the dogs, who spend hours husking them. To the rescue comes my father. A tall, slender man in his mid-sixties, with sun-kissed olive skin from years of gardening and “Mcguyver-ing” outdoors, he has just about every tool imaginable, and almost every skill I can think of that is needed to get any household or yard job done. He brought what I call his “fireman ladder” to my house this weekend to pick the coconuts. Out of the trunk of his vehicle he pulled this massive extendable ladder and carried it by himself to the back yard, where he stretched it to its full length and propped it against the coconut tree.
Up he scampered, jumping onto the roof of the adjacent garden shed with the ease and agility reminiscent of my cat, who often lounges in the sun on top the shed. Three jumbo garbage bags of coconuts later, he was using his small knife (my cutlass was too dull) to cut the nuts to get the water. In no time at all, he had filled all the available jugs. I marvelled at the speed and ease with which he hacked away tirelessly at the coconuts with this small knife…something that would be so tedious and difficult for me was a “walk in the park” for my father, who at his age, is considered a “senior citizen.” The bottom line is, senior citizen or not, my father is quite fit. He may not be able to keep up with me on a bike ride up Lady Chancellor, as he no longer possesses that type of sport-specific fitness since he no longer plays sports. However, he will outlast me any day in the garden. Gardening can be seen as a low level Crossfit where multiple components of fitness are needed in order to perform effectively day-in, day-out without injuring oneself. In the Reebok Crossfit Programme, the goal is not to specialise in any one type of fitness. Unlike cycling hills like Lady Chancellor or the North Coast Road where a lot of aerobic endurance and strength endurance are needed, Crossfit athletes require all the components of fitness such as agility, strength, endurance and power, in order to be successful.
I can appreciate the need for these different types of fitness in the garden, albeit it not at the extreme level of Crossfit athletes. The valley in which I live is a haven for mildew so I borrowed my father’s power washer (of course he has one!) and undertook the task of powerwashing the entire exterior of the house this weekend. I followed this up by lifting crocus bags of topsoil from the pick-up into a wheelbarrow and transporting them to the back yard where I then unloaded them to fill a low-lying area. I also managed to do some maintenance work in the garden, weeding, moulding, digging and planting. So by the end of the weekend, I was physically tired, aching throughout from my shoulders to my back and legs, and almost feeling as if I had done Crossfit!! The powerwashing, while not demanding aerobically or strength-wise, challenged the endurance of my shoulders as I held the hose overhead to wash the walls of the house. Washing the ground while slightly flexed at the back required a lot of postural and core endurance so that I did not injure my back while holding this position for the three hours it took to complete the task.
Pushing the wheelbarrow filled with over 100 pounds of soil back and forth through muddy, waterlogged grass was a massive undertaking of strength and power for my slight frame. I felt every fibre of my buttocks, legs, abdominals and back muscles tighten in order to push the heavy load through the boggy ground. “Phew!” I exclaimed after the task. My neighbour even asked why I was bothering. The fact is that I like gardening, and can undertake such tasks as I am fit enough to handle them and know the correct techniques to use. I recovered quite quickly, my good aerobic fitness from riding helping to replenish my oxygen debt from that short, powerful activity. It was on to weeding and digging the flower beds, another activity in which core endurance, combined with proper technique would take me through without a problem. There was no agility-type gardening activities for me this weekend. I think I might leave that to my father, who in my books, takes the gold medal for the Crossfit challenge in the garden!
Carla Rauseo, P.T., M.S., C.S.C.S. is a physical therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Total Rehabilitation Centre, El Socorro.