When I got married, it was a happy time for both my wife and me. But I didn’t realize that she was happy for another reason. My ego was telling me that she’d found the man of her dreams, her soulmate. I complete her, or whatever. But the real truth is that she was happy because she’d acquired a pack mule. A beast of burden. Men have twice the upper body strength of women, and the ladies know that. So when they’ve managed to entice a man into a life of servitude (marriage), they very quickly put them to work.
I noticed this early, since my wife has the rather peculiar tendency to rearrange furniture every month or so. Her excuse for this involves something called “Feng Shui”, which apparently is all about making sure the room is in harmony with itself. Unfortunately, this frequently produces the opposite of harmony because each time she moves things around, we inevitably lose the TV remote. There is no harmony in the room if I can’t find the remote.
Still, she continues to do so and inevitably drafts me for the work. Or uses bribery. I’ve come to learn that when she goes to the store and comes back with epically marbled ribeyes which she grills to perfection and serves with exquisitely prepared mixed vegetables and a baked potato, this is a prelude to manual labor. In short order, I will be required to move the sofa, the recliner, the beds, the end tables, and so forth. So it’s not a soulmate thing. She clearly wanted me for my body, and not in the way I would have preferred.
Fortunately, any resentment went away when I started tracking calories. It turns out, an hour of moving furniture around can burn 400 – 600 calories. That’s not bad. It’s enough to burn off the six pack I drink after I’m done, like any working man does. Although it would have to be weak, watery, light beer, otherwise I’d be gaining weight. Stronger alcohol can break a diet.
I’ve also learned that keeping the “Man” parts of the house in order (the back porch, the shed, and the garage) has the same benefit. So I do that regularly. Normally, these types of places are disaster areas when men are responsible, but now that I know keeping it tidy actually helps with the waistline, I’m all in.
This is why I didn’t object at all when my sister-in-law asked me to help move things out of her apartment in DC. She was going to be occupied overseas on family business but had to be out by the end of the month. As far as I was concerned, this was an excuse to travel and spend some time out of the house, and also would be decent exercise. Also, she was giving us her big screen TV, a smaller TV, a microwave, a toaster, some small furniture, and assorted other goodies. I mean the exercise part is good, but I was mostly in it for the free loot.
I flew up on a Friday and got to spend the weekend in DC, mostly walking around the Washington mall. As I’ve noted before, this sort of thing can make vacationing a good way to lose weight. Then I spent Monday and Tuesday helping with the move. Once the movers were done and carried the remaining stuff down the three flights of stairs. It took over an hour, and I probably burned nearly 1,000 calories.
And I don’t get this benefit just from one-time events. Opportunities for this sort of workout repeat annually at Christmas and Thanksgiving, when my aging parents almost always need help moving furniture up and down the stairs. Even ten minutes of this can burn over 100 calories. Probably more since there’s a lot of struggling and cursing involved. Although only the struggling burns calories. The cursing doesn’t. I checked.
Being encumbered in general is good for the calorie burn. An easy way to add a few calories to another task. I mentioned before, in a piece about commuting to work, how it was easy to keep weight off while toting around a backpack filled with books. So now I do it with groceries.
If I’m only buying a few things, I’ll ride my bike to the store, then load up the backpack and ride home. The twenty-minute trip there burns 200 calories but coming back encumbered burns about 15–20% more. It works when I walk down to the corner store for some beer as well. The fifteen-minute walk there burns 75 calories, while the walk back (encumbered with a twelve pack of…something) burns 86.
And now that I’ve broed out and started lifting weights, I’ve learned that there are ways to add some encumbrance to regular exercise. Such as doing Supermans or arm rolls or lunges with weights in your hands. There are ways to add weights to situps, pushups, squats, and various other things which are normally just body weight exercises. Only I don’t use those pansy ankle weights. I’m guessing that would cause permanent man-card cancellation.
Moving heavy things around, whether it be from house chores, errands, or just a cleverly altered exercise routine, is a healthy practice. So, I’m glad I agreed to help my wife with these things. It introduced me to an easy trick to help keep the weight off. I suppose I could’ve told her I wouldn’t be her beast of burden, like the old Rolling Stones song. But that would’ve cost me the opportunity to lose a lot of weight while keeping the house looking nice. And resulted in noticeably less sex. Which would be a shame, because that’s pretty good cardio.