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Weight Training and Manual Labor

By Louis Jackson

For those of you who work a manual labor job, you are probably well aware that your occupation can really put a damper on your weight training. You lift heavy weight all day, you sweat in the sun, and you labor rigorously to make ends meet. At the end of the day you enter the gym to exert yourself even more.

This labor, however, is a labor of love. How then can you maximize your gains and make the most of this labor of love considering that your day job is doing nothing to help? As a manual labor worker myself, I have sought ways to enable these two diametrically opposed efforts to work to my advantage. Sure, a 9 to 5 office job would most likely be more conducive to making gains in the gym, but for many of us we either choose a different career route or are unable to find this kind of sedentary work.

In searching for the answer to successful training while enduring the daily rigors of strenuous drudgery, I have discovered several key components that will make hitting the weights a lot more productive. Alot of these are common sense and will apply to everyone who trains with weights, regardless of their career paths. However, it is the person who labors manually who must pay even more attention to these things and implement them more strictly in their daily lives.

The first key we will look at is nutrition. “Duh” you may say. We all know that proper nutrition is a requirement for every weight trainer out there, regardless of whether he answers phones all day or hammers nails into 2x4’s. But as someone who does gruntwork all day, you must pay special attention that you are supplying yourself with the nutrients you need all day long. Plan your meals the night before work so that you will have everything you need to fuel your body throughout the next workday.

Go to work with your toolbox in one hand and a lunchbox in the other. A few convenient items that you might want to include in your lunchbox are: a shaker bottle, a packet or two of meal-replacement powder, a bottle of water that you can refill throughout the day, and a zip-lock bag or pill box with all the supplements and vitamins you will need.

You can grill chicken breasts the night before, wrap them in cellophane, and eat it on your lunch break. You may also want to prepare some rice and store it in a small plastic container (such as Tupperware). I also like to put a few tablespoons of Gatorade powder in a zip-lock bag and carry it along with me. This ensures that I supply my body with a sufficient amount of carbohydrates throughout the work day.

Rest, like nutrition, is important for every weight trainer, but for the manual laborer it is a bit more difficult to achieve. The office employee, while likely working the same amount of hours as you, is probably getting a lot of rest at work. This person sits at a desk all day and rarely experiences anything that is physically taxing. While they may endure a lot of mental stress, there muscles are able to rest and recover for the most part. You, on the other hand, must get all of your rest outside work as well as outside of the gym.

In addition, you probably have to mow the yard, hedge the sidewalk and do other physically demanding household chores. This leaves only a small window of time for you to recover from the physical demands that have been placed on your body. The most advantageous thing you can do with this time is get plenty of good, quality sleep. Get 8-10 hours of sleep per night if you can. On the weekends or your days off try sleeping until you just can’t sleep anymore.

Quality of sleep, however, is just as important as quantity. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or you wake up several times during the night, try taking a natural non-addictive supplement that contains valerian, L-Theanine, or melatonin. A variety of commercial products are available that contain these and other ingredients. I use Schiff Knock Out, which contains all of the above ingredients. If sleeping problems still persist, discuss this problem with your doctor.

The third component of achieving success despite a manual labor job lies in training. There is no clear-cut training plan for manual laborers. Instead, you will have to take into account the physical demands of your job and adjust your training around this. If you know that certain days are going to be more strenuous than others, then alter your training based on this.

For example, don’t plan on doing squats or deadlifts on days you know your body will have been sent to hell and back because of work-related duties. I have a certain amount of predictability in my job. I generally know what days are going to require massive amounts of lifting and I plan my workout schedule around this. When I’m moving 50 mattresses and bed frames into the storage building there is no way I am going to be working my back at the gym that night.

If you work in a physically demanding occupation, don’t be frustrated if you are making slow gains or even no gains at all. With a proper strategy that optimizes your diet, increases the quantity and quality of your rest, and fine-tunes your training routine and schedule, you can allow your training to co-exist with your job and improve your gains. I know the frustrations of training hard Monday night, getting little sleep, and then going to work where I toil away for 8 hours before hitting the gym. This is why I had to devise a course of action that allowed me to make ends meet while pursuing my training goals as effectively as possible. Don’t give up. With the right knowledge and planning you can succeed just like anyone else. Good luck!

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