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Pulling weeds, Body Pump & use it or lose it
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I live in a house that has an alley. That means every year in order to beat the Manteca Fire Department weed inspection — it gets under way this Sunday — I head out the back gate with both of my city-issued 96-gallon green waste carts and start pulling weeds.
I know, I know. Most people use a lawnmower. I haven’t owned a lawnmower for nine years. It’s not that I use a lawn service. I took out the lawn in both the front and back yards. I replanted  it with ferns, a bunch of shade loving maples and various shrubs and plants that got me what I wanted — a fairly low maintenance front yard that I can water by hand in 10 minutes three times a week.
The back yard I jammed in 24 trees — don’t ask — plus 27 good sized shrubs that get by with hand watering twice a week. The ground is left bare save for some bark. It requires that two times a year I take a weed whacker to areas were clumps of grass have managed to survive my efforts to remove them. I do not miss the weekly ritual of eating lawn mower fumes and watering grass.
I will use the weed whacker on the alley but not before I pull up as much weeds as I can from the 60-foot long and 3-foot wide gap between the fence and the edge of the asphalt. Passing over what’s left with a weed whacker — mostly grasses that are problematic to pull by hand efficiently — I make sure that it is as close to the ground as possible. Unless we have April showers that rival March, the temperatures heating up will dry out the weeds and they won’t grow much higher than two or so inches. The end result is I do not have to weed the alley until next March.
If that sounds a bit crazy, consider this: I had a blast weeding the alley Monday. I’m not talking about begrudgingly acknowledging the fact I finally got around to crossing weeding the alley off my stuff to do list where it has lingered for a month. My enthusiasm came midway through it when I realized I was going to finish it in half the usual time, my back wasn’t hurting, and I felt I could still hop on the bicycle and ride to Knights Ferry and back.
I am doing this as someone days away from turning 62. Thirty years ago, even after I started exercising on a daily basis, I’d be channeling Dr. Smith of Lost in Space fame — “oh, the pain, the pain, the pain of it all” — after pulling weeds for just 30 minutes. And that was certainly the case last year when the City of Manteca’s weed abatement deadline rolled around.
What changed? I took my own advice that took years for other people who knew better than me to hammer into my head. It’s never too late to step your game when it comes to your physical week-being.
That may sound laughable given I’ve missed less than a dozen days of exercising in the last 32 years and that includes ignoring doctors’ advice after two hernia surgeries and being strapped twice to back boards for rides to an emergency room after spectacular bicycle crashes.
But based on my preferred exercise choices I’m more of a cardio junkie. It’s not that I didn’t use free weights. They are part of RIPPED — by far my favorite group exercise class — and I hit my free weights at home twice a week for 10 minutes on days when I only go jogging.
About three months ago I started taking Body Pump classes while tossing in Zumba and U-Jam classes for good measure. No, I can’t dance and a lump of clay has more rhythm than I do. But it gets your heart rate up. It goes without saying I put my own spin on the moves. It really doesn’t bother me if anyone laughs at me because I’m already laughing at myself.
That said, I had tried Body Pump when it first came out and didn’t like it. Now I’m kicking myself for what I’ve even missing. In the last three months I’ve strengthened my overall musculoskeletal system to the point hiking for 12 miles with a backpack no longer fatigues my back and the once brutal repetitive motion of bending over yanking weeds non-stop for an hour feels great. And, no, I was not hit in the head by a flying pebble kicked up by the weed whacker although my legs got a few dings.
It is never too late to improve your health. Granted there are limits but in most cases you can improve your stamina, lower your heart rate, gain strength, and improve flexibility.
I’m still a klutz at 61. I’d be happy to one day get a one-pack.
The human body was designed to move. There’s a lot of truth in the “use it or lose it” adage.
You can lose weight. You can feel better. You can improve your health. You can improve your outlook. You can reduce stress. And the common thread to doing all that is exercise.
That said, a man wiser than I — Al — is right. I need to start taking his 8:30 a.m. Monday yoga class at In Shape in East Yosemite that’s right before Body Pump. Lord knows at almost 62 I can stand to be more limber and flexible. After all, it is never too late.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.