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How Volunteering Became an Unexpected Workout

How I Found a Workout in the Most Unlikely Place

workout from volunteering


When I decided to volunteer for a neighborhood cleanup this summer, I assumed I would do some community service and perhaps meet a few people and that would be that. I had no idea I'd put my body through activities that would push it to the max and find a workout in the most unlikely place.

It all started when my friend and I started volunteering Saturday morning for a neighborhood trash pickup. We'd spend a few hours walking around the neighborhood picking up litter and recyclables off the street to dispose of properly. I assumed all I would get from the activity was a sense of pride for taking care of my community, but after a few blocks with a trash bag draped over my shoulder, I realized I was mistaken. I was in for so much more.

Not only was I continually doing movements incredibly similar to the squats and lunges in my favorite HIIT class, but I was also using upper-body strength in an entirely new way. After two hours of walking, dipping down to collect litter, and filling up my close to 15-pound bag (much more than my typical hand weight), my whole body felt as if it had just been through a cross-training class. What's more, I looked down at my tracking watch and noticed I had walked several miles, elevated my heart rate, and burned more than 400 calories.

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It was then I realized I had a one-track mind when it came to exercise. I had been so regimented with my workouts for so long — sign up for this class, plan this hiking trip, run this amount of miles — that I forgot that challenging the body can come in many forms. Workouts can be found in many places outside of the gym or the track. Pushing your body to do labor of any kind is valuable exercise and can impact you just as much as a fancy gym workout.

Now I hit the streets every weekend. For one, I found the entire experience of cleaning up my own home streets rewarding. But beyond that, I liked the way my body felt after lacing up my UA HOVR™ Infinite 2 UC Running Shoes ($120) and lifting more weight than I do in any of my Zoom workout classes. I liked seeing my strong legs in action after doing squats endlessly for months. I liked seeing my body take me further and work harder than it often does during a run. And more importantly, I liked seeing it do it for a good cause.

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