constantly rotate the hundred or so boxes we had in our storeroom. Same had to be said for the 100 or so bags of seed, and it was made worse by the fact we had the occasional mouse problem, for the moment we picked up the bag it would come apart and throw seed everywhere since those little buggers liked chewing through the bags on the side we couldn’t readily see. I also developed some good leg strength during those days as well, merely from the fact we had to bring so much stock back and forth from the upstairs stock room and we had no elevator to work with! You have to remember, back in 1990 when the theater I worked at was built, no one had ever heard of a 12-plex theater and thus, whoever designed the place did a fly by night job just to get the place built. I guess a stinking elevator wasn’t in the cards. Anyway, I was in pretty decent shape due to all the physical labor I had to do in spite of my 250-pound frame. I mean, you try cleaning up a 500-seat theater left to shambles after a Harry Potter movie with only four people and tell me that is not physically demanding. When I became a projectionist and would have to help clean out the theaters on the bigger movies, I made sure I wore my crummy button down shirts as opposed to the nicer ones I would wear during the week. Sweating up a storm and getting wayward drops of soda and buttered popcorn on you was pretty typical.
My days at Circle K also tested me physically, mainly because I was standing and cleaning all day. But like I have mentioned many times in this blog, this was where things started going downhill for me as I started eating everything in site and doctoring waste reports to fill my belly with hotdogs and various roller foods. It was kind of funny when I worked with my father, for I always thought I was in pretty good shape in spite of my size. I was able to pull myself up into attics, move around well in tight spaces and handle the drudgery of carrying heavy ladders and such through an entire department store when it was demanded. Yup, I believed a lot of things about my health, which is why when I first started working out at Parsons Training, I believed my strength would be up to par and only the running and cardio would be an issue (I mean, I was pretty much 400-pounds!). It was pretty sad, when I officially learned I could barely do 135 pounds and had trouble dealing with any dumbbells over 40 pounds. So not only was I out of shape, I was technically considered weak for a man of my girth. I guess the fat around my arms and the fat around my legs had led to a false sense of strength in my mind, for bigger was not better in this situation. It was quite interesting to see how the changes in my workout regimen made it easier to do my job. I started losing a lot of weight, and because of this my father actually let me do the majority of the attic work, especially when it was much hotter than normal when we up in the roof. The difference was quite astounding, for my days before working out, moving around in attics was something of a chore and quite taxing, provided my father actually let me do it (he always feared I would fall through the roof, because let’s face it, I was gigantic!). I was of course much better in digging ditches for underground wiring and handling the 50+ pound jackhammer we used to dig up holes. Just having less fat on my body meant it took a lot longer for the sun to cook me like bacon. After seeing the difference in my physical work ethic, my view of doing hard jobs changed as suddenly as my desire to fix my eating habits.
Well, once again, I am doing yet another hard job, doing a lot of shipping and receiving and stuff that requires me to work nimbly while standing the entire time. I will admit, it is not something I really want, but considering how much trouble dealing with the Arizona State Unemployment Office has been for me in the past year, I decided to opt for a tough job rather than hope an unemployment check can cover my bills for the month. Plus I can continue my search for a better job, which will be my goal for the time being. Anyway, going into this job, all I heard was how tough and hard it would be and how hungry I would be from the exhaustion. While I admit standing on my feet all day kind of bothered my back, not once did I feel physically tired or feel like eating four or five slices of pizza (which a lot of my co-workers tend to do during the lunch break….in fact lunch seems to be a massive buffet for everyone!). Even at the end of the day, I still felt like doing some running (but I didn’t mainly because I didn’t want to expose myself to a possible injury. So I just decided to take the pups for a 4.65 mile walk rather than run). It is kind interesting how maintaining a good workout regimen can aid in physically demanding jobs. It is kind of funny how people continue that misconception that just because you have a hard and physically demanding job, doesn’t mean you can hack it like a boss in the gym. I’ve heard stories about construction guys saying they could handle a tough workout, only to be dying some 30 minutes later. Heck, I have seen a great many out of shape fire fighters attempting to run in my neighborhood, for you don’t become hot well muscled sexually appealing men of the flame by simply doing the job! No matter what, you have to work on your physical fitness, for work can never replace the actual work you put in the gym. But here is an issue with the idea of working a tough job and working out to make yourself better--you may actually be killing yourself in the process! http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/19/physically-demanding-jobs-are-linked-to-higher-risk-of-heart-disease/
A couple years ago, two studies were actually published to exhibit the correlation between an intense, physically demanding job and intense workout. Conducted in the 90s in both Belgium and Greece, both studies illustrated it might not be a good idea to do intense weight training or running due to the type of work you do. The first study from Greece was a little shaky due to the lack of a large data set, but the results were interesting. With 1,000 participants, the severity of the work pressure and pace created issues for men, for as the intensity of the work increased, the percentage of having a heart or stroke episode rose. Even with other factors like diet, smoking and alcohol thrown into the mix, the percentages stayed fairly even during the study. Now most people can understand how tough doing hard manual labor is, for just look at the levels of alcoholism, drug abuse and injury are associated with said industries. During my time with my father, I probably tweeted my ankle a couple dozen times, banged up my knee, smacked my head, suffered multiple scrapes and cuts (including the disgusting arm injury I had last year when I went all firefighter on a wooden pole!) and since I was an electrician, many, many direct shocks, including 220-volt surprises that nearly knocked me off ladders. And this was the stuff I directly suffered, for the lower back, leg and shoulder soreness were the other problems I suffered on a regular basis. This more than anything was what led me to become a compulsive eater, for not only did I eat to cover up feelings and get an instant drug fix, I also did it to numb the pain due to the dopamine effects I would get from the casein in all the dairy products I ate.
The second study cited in the article was much more conclusive, mainly because it followed 14,000 men over the course of four years. The difference was pretty startling! Men that rated their jobs less physically demanding who also did moderate to intense working out had a 60% reduced risk of heart ailments. But here was the interesting part for the study. Men that rated their jobs to be physically demanding and did a lot of working out in their free time had a increased risk of 70% for heart disease! Now some adjustments were made in accordance to diet and other factors, but even with these thrown in, the chance for heart problems was still four times greater! The primary diagnosis was because of the exertion the body goes through in a high intensity job. With the body constantly working overtime throughout the day, putting it through more hell can actually be problematic for the person. Dr. Els Clays, the lead researcher, said it best in regards to the correlation between the two. “The hypothesis based on our study and other recent literature is that physical activities done on the job usually include more static activity types which do not have a training effect on the cardiovascular system, but have an overloading effect on the system. Jobs that require activities like heavy lifting, awkward postures and high physical exertion are known to increase blood pressure and heart rate. If people are exposed to that for a long time, like multiple hours during the day, that can really have an adverse effect on their cardiovascular health.” Now this seems like a pretty hard pill to swallow for the millions of people that work these type of jobs, but another caveat was thrown into the mix. Most of these jobs don’t have good insurance plans, so preventative health can be a problem. And like I have already mentioned, numbing the pain through vices is quite typical in these type of industries. Not to mention a high stress job can generate higher levels of cortisol in the body, which can be problematic for the body.
So what is a person to do if the very thing that is making them better at their job is also killing them? There was never one particular answer I found on the internet. Some of the advice ranged from some good practical ideas, like reducing the intensity during workdays and then working harder on days off. One advice column I came across stated doing some light cardio might be the only cure, since one is working their muscles so hard during the day that doing more weight exercises might actually hurt you. But this was the most practical advice I came across from bodybuilding.com. Eat better and just don’t try to kill yourself! Focus on low rep and high weight training as opposed to high intensity training that would focus more on speed and rep counts. Since your body is already going through the ringer at work and is somewhat “warmed up,” you might as well focus on weight rather than reps. And of course they also mentioned to stay away from the heavy vices that will ultimately kill you! Of course, being this a website about body building, they didn’t really get into the details of a good cardio workout (surprise! hehe).
I think the best advice anyone can give in this type of situation is to listen to your body, eat well and try to stay ahead of the health game. During all my physically demanding jobs, the wealth of bad food being available to me sure didn’t help in any shape or form in maintaining good health. Personally, that is probably the toughest part about working in this field. Unless you are on a big job site that is kind of removed from the general populace, the number of poor options will be quite abundant. And let’s not even talk about doing “power lunches,” which are typical in the manual labor industries. I can say this about my temporary job, the entire break room is a wealth of junk food and syrupy drinks. And when I worked with my father, there was always some fast food joint that's on the way to whatever job we would go to. So I guess like a broken record, if you want to do well in your job, you have to take care of yourself!
About Parsons Training
Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.
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