Physical Preparation for Planting
Physical preparation by no means guarantees success planting. It can, however, greatly reduce risk of injury, soreness and fatigue, as well as increase your production and earnings if your motivation matches your fitness level. That being said, no matter what shape you start the season in, expect to be sore and tired in the first weeks.
There is, unfortunately, no activity that completely prepares you for the repetition and specific action of tree-planting besides tree-planting. For this reason, I have chosen to outline some guiding principles from my own experience rather than merely providing specific workouts. Hopefully this will help you to design and stick with a fitness program between now and the season’s start. At the bottom of the page I will include some ideas for workouts that I know myself and other planters have utilized successfully in the past.
Do less than you can/think you should. Do it every day.
Suddenly committing to an intense fitness program typically results in extreme soreness and discomfort, which in turn makes it easy to rationalize skipping activity in the following days. Monumental, sporadic effort has less of a positive impact than incremental, consistent daily efforts. Choose some activity that is so easy and simple for you to fit into your busy schedule, that it is embarrassing to rationalize missing a day. Build the habit of daily activity first, and slowly, incrementally (perhaps weekly) increase your duration as you become comfortable.
Find something that you enjoy!
Choose an activity or sport where you don’t have to fake your enthusiasm. ‘Working out’ is overrated. If you view your activity only as a masochistic obligation where the end justifies the means, it is unlikely that you will stay with the program consistently. Find something where you can enjoy the process, ideally something you look forward to doing every day.
To begin a week before the season starts, no matter how intense the bootcamp, is nearly entirely worthless, and could be dangerous from an injury point of view. Begin today with something small and manageable, and then work your way up from there.
What gets measured improves
Record your daily activity somewhere; create a journal or tracking tool. Make sure no day goes by without recording some activity, no matter how small or menial seeming.
Set a long term goal and work your way backwards. Write down the image of where you want to be fitness-wise by the start of the season, and why you want that. For example: to avoid injury or to earn more money for the summer. Goal-setting studies suggest you should write a statement in the present tense ‘I am…’, (see yourself actually being there in future), define your purpose clearly and specifically and write it down, perhaps reread that goal every time you record your daily activity. Now work from your goal backwards and set small weekly activity goals that get you to where you want to be on schedule. This may sound cheesy but is a surprisingly effective accountability builder- the vast majority of our best planters throughout the years track their personal production and define purposes surrounding their work.
Muscular endurance rather than speed/power
Planting utilizes barely any explosive or quick-twitch muscle. Each day is a marathon not a sprint; you must choose an output than you can safely maintain for 8-10 hours. Consequently it is fitting to choose activities that have longer duration and lower output. Hiking rather than sprinting, body weight exercises rather than lifting weights.
Planting uses your legs. Find activities where you use your legs.
Activities with significant planting cross-over:
- Warm up/stretch. Jog/run five minutes, do lunges or body-weight squats for 1 minute. Repeat. Some ambitious people add in dips -at park benches or other structures on running route or at the end of each set- as the only significant upper body you use planting is triceps. If you want to be challenged exchange the lunges or squats for burpees and increase your running speed. (This is literally one of the only planting specific workouts I do, if you can get up to 1 hour of this you’re typically in an excellent fitness position to transfer to tree-planting.
- Walk/run/bike everywhere you can in the next two months to places where you would normally drive.
- Any body weight core exercises (sit-ups, push-ups, dips, pull-ups, burpees, squats, lunges etc.)
- Stretch, keep your mobility as high as possible
- Hiking (probably one of the highest transfer to planting is multiple day backpacking or hiking trips where you move slowly all day)
- Ski touring
- X country skiing
- Downhill skiing