Before we move forwards in time let’s take a step back. On my daily commute this morning it struck me that I have missed out an important part of my journey towards my functional fitness obsession; namely my time spent working on my step-family’s farm throughout my teens. First things first; farmers get to play a lot (I know they work impossibly hard so not diminishing that in any way). I learnt to drive lots of 4×4’s, off-road motorbikes, go-karts, quads, pickups, tractors and the odd combine harvester before I was 15, not to mention the shooting – perhaps this is for another blog in itself. The more physical side of mixed arable/livestock farming also held considerable appeal for me as a young man. There are so many aspects to the endurance and skills required to farm effectively however just two remain ‘front of mind’ for me even today. Fort this post I am going to focus on just one; the annual summer beasting that is harvest.
Harvest time was a serious endurance event without exception. By definition you are waiting for the sun to shine before any crop is harvested as you want it as dry as possible. This added an extra dimension in terms of hydration and operational ‘windows’. As unskilled labour our primary role was baling. Our farm was modest 800 acres so lacked the economic capacity for full automation of baling (the huge cylinder bales you see today) so we had bales of around 1.2 x 0.4 x 0.3 m and of varying weights but typically around 50kg. These were deposited around the fields in batches of eight and had to be hand lifted and stacked onto trailers which were then taken to the various barns for storage. This was my earliest introduction to ‘the hang’ and the importance of all-body technique. Getting them off the floor observed the classic straight shin, ass back and grip strength. Punching them up onto the trailer required knees and flexion to extension (http://youtu.be/5EhR1xhexQs) to catapult the bales over head-height. The cruellest (read most Crossfit) aspect of this was that as you added more bales to the trailer, the height of the deck increased. This meant that your technique was put under severe scrutiny. Any inefficiencies would result in you tonking before the third layer of bales had been added, which lead to the public shaming of driving the tractor. A final point on this in terms of Rx. Whilst we were competing and mastering our technique, an east-coast Scot of indeterminate age (best guess is 50) in a woollen flat cap and a blue nylon boiler suit open to the naval would be stabbing the bales with a pitchfork, flicking them onto one shoulder as a transition and then hoisting overhead to the stacker on the trailer. Worthy of note is that when the height got too much he would use one arm to get the bales as high as possible. Mastery is quite something in the flesh….