Working in the trades can be very rewarding and even lucrative, but it’s also a tough and demanding job. In an arena best known for bodies breaking down and early retirement, what can you do to lighten the physical load and keep yourself strong, fit, and healthy?
Work on Fitness Off the Job
Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it’s the very best thing you can do to future-proof your body. That goes even more so for hard working tradespeople. You’re probably spending a lot of the day physically active, or driving to-and-from job sites. While that’s enough to burn a ton of calories, all you’re really working on is the same repetitive tasks that can lead to issues like arthritis and spinal issues.
Make sure you’re building both strength and cardio training into your overall lifestyle, too. This will let you work on other aspects of your physical wellbeing, prevent you from picking up disordered habits like bad posture, and strengthen muscle groups that could be weak or dysfunctional from over-emphasis on your core work. Stretch-centric exercise like pilates and yoga can help you stay limber and with good joint mobility, too. The healthier you are, the less susceptible to work-related injuries and chronic pain you will be.
Lighten the Load
In addition to physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing is a critical cornerstone of a healthy working life. Resist the lure of rhetoric that’s designed to make you push yourself beyond your limits- the ‘self-made man’ myth, and ‘hustle culture’. If there’s a smarter way to do something that frees up time in your own day, then use it. For example, as a landscaper, why painstakingly run around every supplier in your geographic radius trying to track down what you need if you can find a soil aggregate partner that will source what you need and connect you right to what you need seamlessly? Why undertake a dangerous move solo on a roof to run cabling or piping, if you can pick up some day labor and keep a safe, efficient site?
Learn when (and how) to reach out for the help you need, and restore a better work-life balance. There’s no point in working hard if you never get to enjoy it, after all.
Support Your Body
Bustling from job to job doesn’t exactly promote health-forward habits. Grabbing a quick bite from the corner store is well and good, but doesn’t ensure you’re correctly fuelling your body for the stressful demands placed on it. Just as you wouldn’t load unleaded petrol into a diesel engine, continuously depriving yourself of good nutrition is a recipe for disaster. Likewise, when the body is dehydrated, you run the risk of working at less efficiency, and court long-term issues in the cardiovascular and urinary systems.
Whether you embrace meal planning, find healthy to-go options, or pack in a vitamin and protein shake on the road, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success daily. After all, the average contractor burns around 2500 calories a day just working!
The trades suffer from a lot of machismo at their core. People are urged to skip safety gear to show off. Sunscreen is something best left to Instagram models. You have to ‘take it like a man’ (even if you’re not one).
Nope, nope, and nope. The only person who loses out buying into these toxic stereotypes is you. You only get one body, so not caring for it as best as possible simply doesn’t make sense. You are the one who will be dealing with equipment-related hearing loss, or skin cancer, not the people urging you to disregard your health for appearances.
It’s tough working the trades, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose sight of personal health just for job success. It’s perfectly possible to mesh the two together with simple tweaks to how you approach your work and structure your day- and the benefits will pay off for years to come.