How can staying in shape be related to woodworking?
Back pain, a pulled muscle, a tender nerve, or a twisted ankle all can contribute to accidents in the shop. And the meds we take to make these ailments can affect our performance in the shop, just like the same meds can affect our driving: They can impair our senses, to the point of making us make a costly mistake.
Fortunately, we won’t get a ticket in the shop if we make a left hand turn at the jointer, instead of making a right hand turn to the lumber rack. But the downside of not being in top shape in the shop can be just as bad as if we made the wrong turn on the road; in the shop we may not hurt someone else, as we are likely to hurt (only?) ourselves… or our shop partner, for those of us lucky enough to have a shop partner (I just raised my hand).
In the last two weeks I have experienced first-hand the meaning of being in less than top shape, so I have had to stay out of the shop. My back was sore for a while before this latest incident, until one day last week it went out and I was unable to lift anything heavier than a spoon.
Fast-forward to yesterday: After several visits to the chiropractor, and muscle relaxants and pain killers over several days, and yesterday I finally was able to lift the remaining bundles of brush left over from the ice storm this past Winter. A huge bundle now awaits for a quiet, no-wind day, to get rid of this bundle. Yes, we are allowed burning in our County.
But not being able to lift, or to bend properly at the waist, or to just plain function normally in the shop, kept me out for a long time. Couple the pain with the pain drugs, and I had become dangerous to myself. I am certain I would have done something stupid. I have been in this situation before, e.g., when I felt I had to do things because I was expected to do them. Little did I know I had actually put not only myself at risk, but others too!
My simple message is this: If you feel you are less than 100%, and if you are taking drugs to relieve pain or some other ailment, do yourself and your family a favor and stay out of the shop! It is not worth doing it. It should be a plain and simple decision.
In my case, back trouble is the first sign that I am not in good physical shape. In other words, it is the first sign that I must get back on the Nordic Track or on the tread mill and get back in good shape. For this, I am grateful to my back. But it can also aggravate me, for I know then I have not been doing my work to stay in good shape.
I wish all happy and safe woodworking year-round!