The ‘Green’ Gym – finally one that works for me!

The Green workout The Green workout

Sitting at a desk for a good part of the week, I know I need to exercise. I want to be fitter but I hate going to the gym. I’ve tried becoming a member of various gyms at various times and it’s never been a success. Even the one with the rotating climbing wall failed to keep my interest. Clinging onto a moving structure for dear life whilst it rotated a vertical sheet of climbing nodules should’ve kept me amused…

Turned out to be hard work and I kept falling off. Certainly gave me a good cardiovascular workout – mostly from all the cursing!  Here’s a photo for those that have never seen such a device – it’s not me on it by the way!

I’m naturally very slim so the motivation to workout really isn’t there. But I know that slim doesn’t mean fit and healthy. Studies have shown that slim folk often have more bad fat surrounding their internal organs than larger people. They’ve found that larger people can carry a lot of fat on their body but have less surrounding their vital organs.

Exactly 4 months ago we took on an allotment. This is what we inherited…

At the start - End March 09

4 Months later...

4 Months later...

Barefoot allotment before

April 09...

Barefeet allotment after 4 months

July 09

The first job was to dig it over. Half of it had already been done by the previous plot holder. No big deal. It wasn’t going to be hard with two of us!? Within no time at all digging made stomach crunches look easy. My lower back moaned a little but mostly my stomach muscles ached. Those muscles had been happily doing absolutely nothing for years, now I’d put them to work they were protesting.

It was then it started to dawn on me just how much work this was going to be. Stupidly but perhaps some might say, wisely – I hadn’t given much thought to how physically demanding growing a few veg would be!BFA-3m

The green gym has proven to be the best and most consistent workout I have ever done in my life. I am not kidding how much fitter and stronger I have become as a result of all the digging, building fruit cages and lugging water.

The Green Workout – daily routine (persistence training) on average consists of the following:

  • 10 mins brisk walk or 5 mins cycle to allotment plot (gentle cardiovascular)
  • 5 mins digging (tones stomach muscles and strengthens lower back)
  • 20-30 mins watering (strengthens arms, legs, back & stomach muscles)
  • 10 mins potting & planting (bending and stretches nearly all the muscles. The lifting strengthens)
  • 10 mins hoeing and weeding (gentle bending and stretching movements for whole body)
  • 15 mins pottering about, tidying up & harvesting produce (gentle stretching and relaxation)
  • 10 mins walk back home to finish

Oftentimes, I spend longer at the Barefoot allotment, mostly because of the watering. Cambridge is one of the driest places in the UK, thankfully recently it has been bucketing it down, so it’s been much easier work.

My skinny arms now have small Popeye-esque muscles formed. My legs and back are stronger and my stomach has almost a 4 pack forming!

But aside from the physical improvements, the mental effects have also been remarkably beneficial as well. I can’t describe the pleasure I get from pottering around the allotment. Perhaps it’s the whole getting back in touch with nature malarky but sowing seeds and watching things grow by the day does bring me genuine and inexplicable joy!


Another obvious benefit is the dietary one. With all this fresh, organic produce to be used up, there is little room in the fridge for junk food! The blood, sweat and joy make it a great way to get fit, with the added bonus of healthy organic, virtually free produce at the end of it. Each meal time I look down at my plate of food and can say ‘I grew this’.

Try it. Barefoot-allotment-appleBarefoot-allotment-sweetcor

Happy digging!


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Can't all be hard work!

Can’t always be hard work though!

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June 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

Walking through life with bare feet…


Well almost bare… Ok so I cheat a little, 2mm of rubber/kevlar sole separates my feet from the earth. Why? Well it’s a lifestyle choice and a good one. If nature had intended us to walk around with a high heel and pointy feet, surely we’d have been born with them!

It is a recent choice & one that I’m kicking myself I didn’t consider sooner… probably would have if I’d given it any thought. I, like most people bought shoes depending on what outfit or activity I needed them for. Perhaps style and comfort came into the equation as did price and that was it. End of thought.

Thankfully though, someone thought. Very few of us in the developed world have ever seen what a naturally developed foot looks like. The difference is startling. The shape is broad, toes are spread out from one another, creating stability and balance. But the main thing that walking barefoot achieves is the correct position of the spine. If we walk with the correct alignment then our bodies work as they were designed to.

Think about it. If you put an inch or two under something it will tip forward. Our bodies counterbalance by leaning backwards to compensate for the elevation of the heel. But at what cost? The spine is forced to bend back putting pressure on the vertebrae, which over time results in a weak or bad back.

When one finally does get around to thinking about it, walking through life with bare feet isn’t quite so crazy, cramming our naturally broad feet into something pointy with heels (no matter how beautiful) really is! Tim Ferris, author of the 4 hour work week first enlightened me to the benefits of bare feet in his blog. The blog shows pictures of a ‘natural’ foot as well as further info.

His blog got me thinking. If we can all miss something so basic as the intrinsic design and function of our own body, what else are we missing? Like Tim, I’m fascinated in lifestyle experiments and life enhancing ideas. I’m game to try almost anything that I think will be interesting. So yes, I am now wondering around in Vibram Fivefinger shoes. Yes I do look a muppet but my arches and legs are strengthening, I’m walking differently and my posture and back are improving with every ‘barefoot’ step.

The barefeet blogs will be cataloging these lifestyle experiments as well as a new found love of growing veggies and all the things I’m learning in the process. I’m also discovering the nearly lost art of the herbalist – would you know which plants to use if you got sick and were stranded somewhere without a pharmacy? I certainly wouldn’t but intend to find out. There are amazing plant remedies growing all around us, it’s a subject that I will go into in future blogs… 


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June 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

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