I’m only in my early 40’s, but I’m starting to feel the effects of getting older. Maybe it’s not age as much as very hard work. I’ve always worked rough, tough physical labor all my life. When I was a kid, my body seemed invincible. Now, however, I hear it complain from time to time. It’s not very loud complaining, but my body is hinting to me that it’s not as supple as it used to be. So I’m starting to pay attention more often.
Renovation is hard work. That’s why I love my power tools so much. It’s great to build muscles the size of cantaloupes, but it’s harmful to abuse your body for the sake of a renovation. Here are a few tips for taking care of your body– no matter what your age– that I have learned along the way.
1. Don’t forget to eat. And eat healthy foods!
I’m a tad obsessive when it comes to big projects. I tend to focus very narrowly on that one goal, even to the point where I skip meals or eat “fast foods” so I can get back to work. When I was younger, my body could cope with such abuse. But not anymore. With our living room renovation in 2007, I stuck to a rather rigid schedule of working on the house for 6 hours a day, then cooking dinner for the family. And I rested every night.
When we were working on the kitchen, it was a much larger project with many more things involved (wiring the entire house, replacing the plumbing system, etc). And I was on a time schedule. I HAD to finish the kitchen before the kids began school in the autumn.
I felt rushed and figured I could work and work and work. I skipped meals and lost sleep and also was working my writing jobs at the same time. It was really too much for my body. I lost some hair (it’s growing back as white), I gained weight (I never lose weight, ever), I was exhausted. Looking back now, I could kick myself. I just didn’t take care of myself like I should have.
So if you have a very physical job ahead of you: eat regular meals (no heavy meals); take your whole-food vitamins, as your body absorbs them better; eat healthy foods like fresh vegetables. Increase your protein intake, too. Nuts are good. Fish is good. Red meat and chicken are good, but I didn’t like to eat heavy meats every night, as they are more difficult to digest.
It really will make a difference!
2. Use safety equipment, when it’s safe to wear them.
This is another area where I tend to fail miserably. I wear glasses, and I just can’t stand the safety goggles! When it’s a hot summer day and I’m at the power tools, the goggles fog up. The plastic lenses are cloudy and blurry and I can never see clearly with them. How can it possibly be safer to wear those things?? My opinion is that it is not. I don’t wear safety goggles unless I’m working with caustic liquids.
I do use ear plugs, now. I didn’t during most of the renovation, but the piercing screams of the circular saw really started to bother me. Ear protection is important, use it.
Dust masks are indispensable. I forced the kids to use them at all times. They were a real pain, especially when it was very hot and humid, but they are necessary. Unfortunately, most of the dust masks available are for men– that is, they fit large faces. I am thinking of petitioning companies to consider women and teens when they make masks– we work, too!
Another little-mentioned safety tip is to use braces. Boy, these came in handy! Going up and down stairs, carrying buckets of bricks and plaster and stone… crawling around in crevices trying to wire the boxes…. my son developed a knee injury from all the activity, so we got him a knee brace. It worked wonders and he wears it whenever we do heavy physical work.
3. Create a quitting time and relax in the evening.
As mentioned earlier, I tended to want to work obsessively until the job was done. It was like my mind was on overdrive but my body was in neutral (and in reverse, sometimes!). I am aware that this is an area with which I’d still struggle if I was still renovating.. and I’m going to have to really force myself to cool my jets when we gut the upstairs of the house. But I do realize how important it is to rest after a hard day. Not only is it good for the body, but it helps your mind to recuperate, too.
4. Keep the worksite clean.
I learned this from walking into my son’s room while he slept at night. When he was younger, he used to leave his Lego pieces all over the floor. Oh, those things are nasty when your foot finds them at 2am!
So when we created a few workbenches and brought in all the tools from the garage, we HAD to clean up everything before bed. No tools left around! If something like a Lego feels so awful, I could only imagine what it would be like to slam a toe into a pipe basin wrench! Oooo! >.<
Having a place for the tools also makes it easier to find what you need during the job!
5. Get someone else to do the gardening. :-p
Don’t overwhelm yourself with a zillion other projects during this time. I did the spring planting before we started the renovation, and had the kids manage the garden during the renovation. Toward the end of the season, the garden was filled with weeds, but I didn’t care. Don’t sweat the small stuff.