Winter Workouts

Stay in shape: You’ll be a lot happier when you pick up the ten-weight.

by Scott Sadil

Some of us, if I recall correctly, needn’t do squat.

Pick up a fly rod, say, or a pair of oars or even a garden mattock following months of winter repose, and the physical repercussions are as negligible as if you had re-potted the African violets your sweetheart grows on the kitchen windowsill.

Or you hoisted a schooner of beer.

For others of us, however, taking up a tool or other piece of equipment we haven’t had our hands on for awhile, expecting we can start in where we left off the last time, is a recipe for subsequent aches and pains, a dose of Advil or Ibuprofen, or possibly a trip to the ER.

Joe Kelly, strong on the oars

If there’s a sadder or more humbling truth about aging, I don’t want to know what it is.

No doubt, it takes everyone by surprise. You carry the splitting maul over to the pile of rounds left behind after the neighbor had that rotting maple dropped in his yard, and you wake up the next morning feeling as though you were in a car wreck.  Whoever imagined you could find yourself “stove up,” as my father used to say, from an hour or two on your back under the boat applying a new coat of bottom paint?  These days, I find it’s a good idea to pay special attention to a formal warm up period—say, about three days—before picking up anything larger than a ping pong paddle.   

The fact is, if you don’t do something in the way of genuine exercise during the depths of winter, you’re asking for trouble.  The tradition of bringing back baseball players in spring, well before the regular season begins, was started because even the game of baseball, which hardly demands extreme fitness, will almost inevitably hurt you if you try playing following a winter of idleness.

Even a relaxing row can make a difference.

And ball players are youngsters compared to most of us in fish camp these days.

My strategy?  When it became apparent some years ago that I could no longer rely on a regimen of roadwork to keep me feeling reasonably fit—not if I wanted to reach a ripe age with my own two knees, not devices installed by a surgeon—I took up with the local club of US Masters swimmers. This is no place to descend into testimonial babble, other than to suggest you really can’t go wrong taking part in a formal pool workout three or four times a week.  Movement, cardio, core strengthening—it’s all there.  Plus, if you were never a trained, competitive swimmer (despite a decades-long surfing career, I wasn’t), and you work on your technique, you might actually find yourself improving your performance, which is not something I can say about other aspects of my physical prowess these days.

Of course, if I were wading the Deschutes every day, or rowing back and forth across the Columbia, or trying to keep up with a less than thoroughly obedient spaniel prancing after grouse or mountain quail each evening after work, I wouldn’t have to worry about my waistline or my heart rate or my rattling shoulders. Young soccer players, I’ve noticed, rarely need any fitness training; they just play soccer all of the time. I do remember, in fact, when you stayed in shape simply by living—working hard and playing hard.  The only way you were in shape to surf was by going surfing.

You want to be able to make that cast without hurting yourself.

Meanwhile, back here on the downslope to oblivion, I suggest you don’t get too far into the winter without some sort of commitment to your physical well-being.  

You’ll be a lot happier when you pick up the ten-weight.

Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil finds good health one of the few things not overrated in life.