Hangin’ With the Big, Strong Men

Witness Protection Program? Nope, flood relief.

Yesterday I worked my first Hands On Nashville volunteer shift with the flood relief effort. It was a very rewarding experience and I encourage my Middle Tennessee peeps to try to carve out some time to volunteer. There will be plenty to do in the months ahead.

But this is a fitness blog so I’ll make a connection between yesterday’s shift and my fitness journey. Here goes.

I signed up for a 2:30-7:00 p.m. shift. Volunteers were to meet at a gathering place and from there we were to travel by bus to our assigned house. Just in case Nashville hasn’t gotten enough rain, a storm complete with lightening arrived promptly at 2:30. Organization officials advised us they were unable to transport us if lightening was present and we would need to wait about an hour and a half to see if the storm would pass.

Several renegades decided to carpool and travel on our own to our assigned house. My work crew consisted of four men and two women. Our task was to remove flooring down to the subfloor and drywall to one foot above the watermark. The men went right to work and while no one said anything, I picked up a distinct vibe that suggested the women were in the way. I knew no one on this work crew, and I was uncomfortable checking out my theory. The other member of the delicate gender and I went to work hauling to the street the materials removed by the big, strong men-folk. On my first trip out of the house I had gathered what felt like a pretty decent armload of stuff. It was more awkward than heavy. Before I could get out the door, one of the big, strong men placed more stuff in my arms. I wasn’t trying to be overly sensitive, but it felt like he was testing me. I smiled and thanked him and trotted out the door.

After about 30 minutes of junk hauling I was about to come out of my skin. The activity seemed like a waste of my strength and stamina. So I picked up a hammer and cruised over to a wall no one was working. I confirmed with one of the big, strong men the correct height to begin hammering. I saw a few looks of “what does she think she’s about to do?” Undeterred I started hammering away. The drywall had in front of it a layer of veneer paneling, meaning a little more bicep action was required. But in no time I removed a huge section of the wall. “Pam!” exclaimed one of the big, strong men as if he was thinking, “Girlfriend’s got demolition cred.” I just smiled, which couldn’t been seen because I was wearing a nose and face mask. I almost said, “I forgot to mention I’m a half-marathoner and triathlete,” but that would have just been tacky.

Other male and female volunteers, those who waited on the storm to pass, joined us about an hour into our shift and by the end of the day, we had removed all of the contaminated drywall and floor boards. I felt accepted and affirmed by the big, strong men. I had some nice conversations: I gave one guy a Twitter tutorial, I learned  another pastors a church near my home, and I found out one of the volunteers is friends with my boss. Cool stuff.  I also met the homeowner, an elderly woman whom I got the sense was widowed. I met her daughter as well. They thanked us profusely and while I didn’t volunteer so that I’d get kudos, meeting them made me feel more connected to the project.

When I returned home my clothes were drenched with sweat and I fell into bed shortly after my shower. I expected to wake up this morning feeling sore, but I’m fine. In fact, I don’t feel as though I exerted myself at all yesterday.

In regards to being in shape, I’m certainly not where I want to be but I’m a long way from where I once was. I know I could not have accomplished all that I did yesterday if I didn’t follow a fitness plan. I hope I was a good representative of  the sisterhood.

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