If you're under 25, start now and outlast us all.
Over 30? It's time to get serious.
Over 40? Here’s a recap of everything you already know. Nod your head. If you're still in the game, you’ve probably already mastered most of these.
We don’t need to tell you that working in trades can be tough on your body. With physical demands like heavy lifting, awkward sitting positions, and constant kneeling, it’s crucial to adopt strategies that protect your health and prevent injuries. Here are insights from those who have walked this path before, sharing valuable tips to help you avoid becoming "a broken old tradesperson" in the future.
Mind Your Weight
Keep an eye on your weight; it can creep up on you. You likely burn off several hundred or more calories per day than your desk-jockey friends, so take advantage by supporting your output with decently healthy foods. Don’t like to cook? That sucks, because even a basic menu of a few meals can be a gamechanger for helping you feel and perform better (on top of saving you money on eating out and buying pricey processed foods).
Start by preparing yourself one basic meal once a week (e.g., rice, meat, vegetables, or egg and potato burritos). Add another one the following week. The key is to make something you can eat often but have enough variety to not burn out. Invest in a cooking disk (for tacos), a grill, or an InstantPot to add variety and make cooking easier and more fun.
Choose Your Footwear Wisely
Don't skimp on shoes or boots! Poor footwear can lead to irreversible foot problems. Comfortable, supportive shoes are an investment in your future mobility. Invest in the best and get a new pair as often as needed.
Lifting Techniques and Ego Checks
Lift intelligently, not just because you can. If there’s a tool or machine that can help, use it. You know why the old guys always tell you to pay attention to this? Because it’s a struggle to do basic things like putting on your socks if you don’t. Learning from the experienced older generation can save you from future back problems. Do as they do.
Alcohol has been normalized, but it’s still a poison. Moderation is key. Don’t keep it in your house if you don’t want to drink it. Hit the gym with a buddy instead of the bar. Endorphin highs beat hangovers every day of the week.
Know Your Body and Family History
Pay attention to your body's signals and your family's medical history. If you have a predisposition to certain conditions like knee problems, take extra precautions.
Stretching and Exercise
Incorporate stretching and basic strength training into your routine. Activities like yoga or Pilates are excellent for strengthening supporting muscles and improving overall body resilience. But you're probably not going to do them because it’s Pilates and yoga. Instead, consider strengthening and limbering up in the morning, and doing a few light stretches at night while watching TV. 5-10 minutes of bodyweight exercise with an app like Streaks Workout is an easy way to limber up and combat stiffness and weakness. It can also make you a lot stronger over time. We’re not talking about bodybuilding here, but it’s a good start to feeling good and bulletproofing your body against the physical demands of trade work.
Drinking ample water can have a significant impact on your physical well-being. Start the day with a full glass of water. Drink a glass of water with each meal. Set a reminder on your phone to drink throughout the day.
Always use safety equipment, no matter how uncomfortable or uncool it might seem. This includes safety glasses, knee pads, and gloves. Peg legs, canes, and eyepatches are for a pirate's life.
Avoid Risky Shortcuts
Don’t bypass safety controls for convenience. Adhering to safety protocols can prevent serious accidents.
Remember, your mental health is as important as your physical health. A healthy mind contributes to a healthy body. Think of one thing you're thankful for every day.
Get Enough Sleep
Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. It's as vital as any other health practice. If you're routinely still staying up past 10 pm, it’s time to rethink that.
If you’re working outdoors, don't forget about sun protection. Regular use of sunscreen or UV protective clothing can prevent long-term skin damage. If you haven’t started thinking about this, it’s because you’re young and naive. Start early.
Bonus: Ditch Your Bulky Tool Belt
Not everyone can swing this, but everyone can rethink the way they carry and use their tools daily. Don’t stop looking for ways to become more efficient at your work. Customize your tool carry to fit your job and task at hand. Only carry what you need when you need it. Minimize wasted movement.
Taking care of your body in a physically demanding job isn’t just about what you do at work; it’s about a holistic approach to your lifestyle. From what you wear to how you lift, from what you eat to how you deal with stress - every choice matters. Listen to those who’ve been there, learn from their experiences, and most importantly, listen to your own body. Your future self will thank you.
Stay strong, stay safe, and stay healthy so you can work light and fast for years to come.