I am not an athlete.

March 19, 2013 · 9 comments

firewood logs // Wayward Spark Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to live in a walking society, whether that be a modern-day city or an olden-day rural community. I love walking so much, and I always wish I had more utilitarian reasons to travel on foot aside from the exercise and fresh air.

Something I don’t love? Running. Though I have run more and less consistently at different times in my life (not recently), I really can’t get into it. I can appreciate the act of running for its healthful benefits, but I have never experienced its alleged mind-clearing, euphoria-inducing qualities. And don’t even let me get started talking about my short legs and long torso. Let’s just say, I wasn’t built to run.

In years past, winter has been a pretty dark time for me. It’s been fine to curl up with a cup of tea and a book for a few days in October or November, but attempting to hibernate for three months didn’t work that well and didn’t make me feel good (about myself). Last winter after lazing around the entire month of January and then overindulging on sweets in early February, I finally got to the point where I knew I had to make some sort of positive change, so I started jumping rope for 20 minutes a day, five or six days a week. Jump roping may seem like a weird hobby to get into as an adult, but it’s kind of awesome. It requires $5 of equipment, 5 minutes of prep time, and a bit more than 5 square feet of floor space. Even in my tiny house, there’s just enough space in the bedroom to swing my jumprope freely, so I can get in some exercise no matter the weather. Last winter, I jumped rope consistently for about six weeks until a few more daylight hours returned, and I was able to get out and about in the sunshine more often.

This year as soon as we evicted the Christmas tree, I started my jumping routine again, but I also added a bunch of sit ups and mixed in some jumping jacks. I am still not an athlete, but getting even a small amount of intense aerobic exercise most days of the week makes the winter a little more bearable.

splitting firewood // Wayward Spark

My favorite aerobic activity? That title probably goes to splitting firewood.

After college when I was totally burned out on academia, I got a job working for a guy who sold firewood (among other things) to local clients. For most of a year, he would buck (cut logs into sections with a chainsaw), and I would split the pieces with a maul (a 6-pound maul for maple, 8-pound maul for oak). I think we figured that we cut and split over 40 cords of wood that season, and needless to say, I got pretty good at it.

In the years since, I haven’t done quite so much splitting. In fact, I haven’t done much at all because I happen to be married to a guy who also enjoys splitting firewood. I’m in charge of moving firewood from our makeshift woodshed (really just a fence-like structure with heavy plastic over it) onto the front porch during the winter, but that’s not nearly as satisfying as hefting a maul.

Late last summer, wood pulp prices went so low that a friend in the timber industry was practically giving away scruffy oak and maple logs. We ended up getting a couple big truckloads at our house. Henry cut and split some before the weather turned in the fall, but most of it has been sitting around until recently. One particularly beautiful day last week, I found myself at home with no kids underfoot and a relatively short and therefore ignorable to-do list of household chores. I knew exactly how I wanted to spend an hour of my free time, so I grabbed my maul and headed down to tackle the piles of wood rounds. I was out of shape, for sure, but even if I had to swing at some of those gnarly oak pieces 30 or more times before they finally gave way, I felt like I was being more productive than if I had stayed in the house to jump rope. And you know what they say is totally true: firewood warms you twice.

As you can see from the photos, there are a lot more logs to buck, and there will be many more rounds to split. I look forward to the challenge.

firewood // Wayward Spark

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole March 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Ha ha ha! I had to chuckle when I read this post! I agree on both counts. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, get into running at all. I just don’t enjoy it one bit. And, I LOVE to split firewood (and stack it). It’s one of my favorite chores around here. I’m happy to hear that you got some quality time alone with your maul and wood pile. Congratulations on a productive workout!
And… I’ve been curious how your big leaf maple syrup turned out? I live a few hours north of you on the southern end of the Olympic Peninsula, and am thinking about tapping some of our trees next year after reading your post on tapping. We’ve got lots of big leaf maple on our land and I’d love to know how it came out for you guys!
Happy spring!


Camille March 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

The maple syrup turned out great! We only ended up with a couple quarts, but that will last us for a while. Next year, I want to start the process as early as mid-January because by the end of February, it’s way too springy and warm here in the Northwest (unlike the Northeast where they’re just tapping now).


EcoGrrl March 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I am with you – I only run if I’m getting chased or am about to miss the bus. 🙂

That being said, six years ago I decide to walk the Helvetia Half Marathon here in Portland and LOVED the experience. I trained with a group called Portland Fit, whose ultimate goal is prepping people for the marathon in the fall, but the HHM is the halfway point in training and tons of folks walk it. Participating in this, especially preparation on “game day”, was really different and exciting for me. I had learned what type of socks work, moleskin and other goodies to protect my feet, and how to stay hydrated along the way, not to mention the mental practice of just not quitting. It was really tremendous and emotional to cross the finish line. They moved the location of the training group otherwise I’d still be doing it, but I will say as a non-athlete it was pretty cool. (I was a dancer, I am a cyclist, but never incorporated “athlete” into it for some reason)

PS – firewood rocks.


Camille March 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Good for you!


Ann March 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Another fun activity (and exercise) is hula hooping! I found directions for how to make a hula hoop out of poly tubing on line (black poly irrigation tubing) and made a tough hula hoop for a few dollars. It’s fun and good for the core.


Camille March 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Interesting. I wonder if hula hooping requires more floor space than jumping rope? I suppose I could do it out on the porch or something…


Becky March 20, 2013 at 5:57 am

I like to do yoga with a super cheesy workout video I found. Read an article yesterday on NPR about how downward dog is supposed to help with depression.


Camille March 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm



George Henson March 23, 2013 at 8:34 am

Olympic pennisula sounds fantastic. Beautiful place! I wonder about the sun there though. How many days of sunshine do you receive a year??? How about wind?? How do you power your existence? I guess you really don’t even need power do you?? In southern Colorado with 330 days of sunshine a year, we live in “sun central” a perfect place for solar living. My exercise comes from four 14 thousand foot peaks just north of our home. If ever in the neighborhood, drop in. Contact me via webpage if I can answer any questions.


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