Monday, January 30, 2017

Preparing for your Volunteer Adventure: Fitness Tips for Service Projects

With our project season only a month and a half away, it is time to be preparing yourself for the physical challenge ahead! With many of the movements being vastly different from a normal day-to-day exercises, here are some tips on how to train for your specific project! While all of these exercises are generally more indoor-based, they can be modified to fit your outdoor lifestyle...just take your workout outside!

Invasive Species Removal Projects

These projects require that you are bent over for extended periods of time, and, depending on which invasive species, that you transport hefty loads of removed plants, use lopper's (not Cyndi, but the pruning/shearing type), or even small handsaws. If unprepared, this can be extremely difficult on your back, and biceps. Exercises to prepare for this sort of project include:
  • Core strengthening exercises like plank, side plank, crunches, and "bird dog" (to keep your back safe)
  • Push-ups and pull-ups (for pulling plants and using tools)
  • Bicep curls with weight (for lopping and handsawing)
  • Superman repetitions (for lower back strength)

Trail Maintenance Projects

These projects require that you are a jack of all trades; be prepared to be bending, lifting, digging, sawing, and hiking with a pack on your back all day. Naturally, this means you need to be in good shape all around. Here are a few of the exercises that will help prepare you for this:
  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting)
  • Bicep curls with weight (for lopping and handsawing)
  • Core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists (for crosscutting)
  • Cardio training like running, cycling, hiking, etc. (for long hikes and general endurance)
  • Hiking with a loaded pack (to prep your body for what is to come!)

Rock-work Intensive Projects

These require that you are lifting and transporting large and HEAVY rocks from possibly long distances! These projects also require that you have a massive amount of patience and attention to detail, so be sure to practice your rubix's cube (or any other perplexing puzzle) prior to the project.

  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting)
  • Bicep curls with weight (also for lifting)
  • Any and all core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, plank/side-plank, and "bird dog" (to keep your back safe/strong while lifting)
If you didn't get the general theme, you will be doing lots of lifting!

Crosscutting Intensive Projects

Crosscutting requires that your back, shoulders and biceps are fully prepared for an endurance workout! You will be using a non-mechanized cross-cut saw which
  • Rowing machine, or just rowing (for core endurance and strength in for crosscutting)
  • Core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists (for crosscutting)
  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting/moving large logs)

Projects with Long Backpacks

These projects will require that you are all around in good shape. Due to the nature of projects, you will be backpacking in with a large pack, then waking up the very next morning for a strenuous or challenging service project! To physically prepare for this sort of project you should be...
  • Hiking with a full pack (for practice, of course!)
  • Cardio training like running, cycling, hiking, etc. (for general endurance)
  • Squats with or without weight (for steep climbs with a weight on your back)
  • Stair-climbers (for endurance)

All Projects 

Every WV service project requires that you are in good shape and prepared for the work at hand. No matter what project you are working on, it is good to be active all winter long, be it in the form of hiking, running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or anything else that keeps you on your feet and prepared for unforeseen physical challenges!

If your project is at elevation, or an elevation foreign to you, prepare by traveling to that elevation a few weeks ahead of time for a weekend trip. If this is not an option for you, then show up to the project location 2-3 days ahead of time to allow your body time to adjust. Regardless, you should always prepare for elevation by drinking more water, getting adequate amounts of rest, taking it easy, and knowing the signs of altitude sickness.

If you have any other tips and tricks for preparing for projects and maintaining your fitness through the winter, please share in the comments below!

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