Experiences in country cross-training

Experiences in Country Cross-Training

Posted by Jim Mize on January 4, 2022

Need some humorous inspiration to fuel your New Year's fitness resolutions? Jim Mize shares his first-hand experiences in woodland country cross-training, featuring his K-9 personal trainer and constant companion: Moose the black lab.

Up until the last few years, I worked in a city and found gyms to be an efficient way to exercise. Not that I was a gym rat or on the path to being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s twin, but at my age it seemed the best way to keep all my moving parts moving was to move them.

So when I retired to a rural area, workouts at the gym appeared to be a casualty. The closest one was twenty crooked miles away and the inconvenience appeared unlikely to make this part of my routine. But after moving into my cabin, I discovered that rather than being twenty miles away, my new gym was on the other side of the door.

So let me explain. 

At the gym, I would typically split my workout into thirds.  

I’d start with cardio on a treadmill and get warmed up. I would then do stretches to maintain some semblance of agility. Then, I would end with light weights and go find someplace to collapse.

Here’s my new routine at the cabin.


I bought a puppy and soon owned a dog. Moose, a black Lab, came home at eleven pounds and quickly grew to seventy-five. Still less than two years old, he’s in what my daughter calls his T-Rex years. And he loves to walk.

Moose on a daily hike

Here's Moose probably wondering why we've stopped to rest.

Moose has more energy than the bunny with the drum and the strength of a yearling bull.  Maybe his full name should be Bullmoose. I walk him in self defense. Otherwise, I have to deal with all that energy inside the cabin. As we walk, he trains and I exercise. 

On a normal day, we hike about two miles around the mountains and if the weather and my stamina permit, we may add a second walk in the evening. So, in good weather we might go about four miles with considerable ups and downs as nothing here is flat.

The net effect is that I’ve gone from three workouts a week on a treadmill to daily hikes around the mountain. In total, my cardio work has more than doubled.

Stretching and Agility

The plan for living at the cabin was to be closer to fishing and have an opportunity to write about it.  

The streams here sport a few trout and the fish have to be earned. You do that by climbing down banks, snaking through rhododendrons and scaling boulders and fallen logs. 

Imagine ninja training with a fly rod.    

I also do quite a bit of stretching on the trout stream, leaning out over the water to drop a fly lightly behind a rock or in a pocket.

Often I have to reach high into the trees to retrieve a fly snagged from errant casting. And routinely I will slip on the wet rocks and dance my way downstream trying to regain my balance before I commune with the fishes.

Slick rocks

My best stretching exercises, however, are done on the cabin floor after a long walk with Moose. Hot and tired, I will lie on my back and stretch all the parts that don’t stretch so well anymore. Or if I succumb to the coolness of the wood floor and relax too much, I might just take a nap.

Either way, my time stretching has increased from my gym days even if some of it is with my eyes closed.

Lifting Weights

A funny thing about firewood is that it doesn’t stack or split itself. 

Firewood doesnt stack itself

My firewood is stored in large chunks in a dry space on the downhill side of the cabin. These chunks are then moved uphill and split before stacking in a rack within easy reach for stoking the fireplace. In between, I’m hauling wood, swinging an ax and bending and standing to stack it.

It’s a fair workout and Moose is no help. Despite being a retriever, he is more likely to pull sticks from my hand or try to hang on so I also have to pull him up the hill. Add to the weightlifting routine some dips and darts to dodge the dog. 

Moose helping with firewood

The firewood takes care of my weight-lifting routine for the colder months. When it’s warm, I’m more likely to be dealing with landscaping. In my first year at the cabin, I hauled and shoveled almost two tons of rocks. 

The walkways around the cabin had been neglected and eroded over the years. Golf-ball-sized rocks seemed to be the answer to filling in those places that washed away. Though one rock of that size is easy to handle, a pickup load of them can be a bit of work.

Between the firewood, the rocks and the dog, I’ve lifted considerably more weight than I did at the gym.

All in all, I’d have to say my workouts have improved and become more frequent since moving to the cabin. I’ve considered opening a Country Cross-Training business and charging people $25 an hour to do my chores. It might be a good business to franchise.

But then I’d have to find another way to work out so I’m holding off. In the meantime, Moose is in fine shape.

Free Download: How Country Life Makes Children Strong and Resilient

Jim Mize

Jim Mize has written humor and nostalgia for magazines including Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Field & Stream, and a number of conservation magazines, picking up over fifty Excellence In Craft awards along the way. His most recent book, a collection of humor for fly fisherman entitled A Creek Trickles Through It, was awarded best outdoor book in 2014 by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. More on Jim and his writing activities can be found at acreektricklesthroughit.com

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