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WOSTER: Staying fit in a back-to-nature way

I just hit upon an idea that could be the next big thing in farming, and in fitness.

I'm talking about tapping into the health, wellness and fitness market in this country. I'm talking about Farmhand Fitness. You're thinking this sounds too good to be true, but let me explain how I came up with Farmhand Fitness.

One recent evening, reflecting on a time before rural electrification brought power to even the most remote farm and ranch in the country, hand tools ruled agriculture. Drills, hammers, saws, scoop shovels and pitchforks, all hand tools. If something needed to be lifted, moved, shoveled, stacked or cut, the work involved those tools, along with the muscles of the hands, arms, shoulders, legs and back of a hired hand.

Thinking of the tiring work involved in a typical farm day, I moved naturally enough to the idea that people in today's health-crazy world would jump at the chance to stay fit in a back-to-nature way. People these days want to be fit. They want to be healthy. All across the land, people of every age want to live a long and healthy life. They see fitness as a path to that kind of life. They join fitness groups and gyms for all sorts of workouts. They'd embrace Farmhand Fitness, a new program to stay fit the traditional way.

I believe this not because I'm in a fitness group or a regular at the gym. When we talked about gym in the old days, we were either using the informal name for a class called Physical Education or talking about an actual structure used for basketball games, school plays, music concerts, proms and commencement ceremonies.

Nobody ever went to the gym to, you know, get fit. Two of my classmates in high school found an old set of free weights and did some lifting on their own after track practice. They were the only ones I knew in high school who worked out without a coach's order.

What I know about fitness programs, I learned from the ads and infomercials on television. I've seen people riding stationary bicycles, walking and running on treadmills, climbing on stair machines, rowing, boxing, kick-boxing, doing yoga, even sweating to the oldies with that bushy haired guy in the striped shorts.

What I have observed is that every few months, a new fitness method hits the gyms, whether it's spinning, a new dance class, high-intensity yoga, low-intensity stretching, whatever. The program representatives talk about strength training and flexibility exercises and cardio and isometrics and working heart rates. I don't understand half of what I'm seeing and hearing, but I recognize opportunity.

Years ago, I did a news story about a ranch down along the White River where people from places like New York City and Philadelphia came for a week or two in the summer to get away from it all and do some ranching. They'd ride horses and work cattle and pitch hay and do other physical chores around the place, just the way I did as a kid. The difference was my dad paid me $5 a day. These people paid the rancher for the chance to do farm work.

So I've come up with the idea for Farmhand Fitness. Those who enroll will do farm chores just as I used to. They'll stack hay and scoop cracked corn for feeder cattle and paint barns and hoe cocklebur and pick beans from the garden. And, like those East Coast folks on that ranch, they'll pay for the privilege of sweating the day away in a hay field or back of the barn in the branding chute.

Hey, I was an officer in Future Farmers of America. I believe in the future of farming. Because of that, I'm not going to hog this program. Any working farm or ranch is hereby permitted to use my Farmhand Fitness concept to start their own program. They can design the curriculum to fit their spread, charge whatever the market will bear and offer complimentary T-shirts and coffee mugs. I won't even take a cut of the action.

I'll just sit back and watch their infomercials.

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