The Home Gym: Why Doing Things Yourself is Good for Your Self-Esteem, Your Confidence, and Your Health.

Going through a career change or any life change can bring feelings of uncertainty, inadequacy, and uselessness. You may also feel that have less energy and less interest in life in general.

Home projects during these periods can be hard to start. All the feelings and loss of energy during challenging life changes can reduce your motivation and make you feel physically restrained from taking physical action on anything.

Yet finishing a home project provides immediate, visual results.  You can see what you have you have accomplished.  These visual results can create energy and rebuild your self-esteem,

If you have not seen the movie Karate Kid, the following discussion will be a bit of a movie spoiler.

Kesuke Miyagi, a martial arts master,  agrees to help a bullied kid learn karate. When the student shows up for his first day of martial arts training, the student is surprised that, instead of doing martial arts moves, the karate master assigns the kid a long list of exhausting chores at the home of the karate master: sanding floors, painting a fence, waxing cars, painting the house. After days of long hours of chores, the frustrated student rebels against the karate master’s use of the kid’s time to work on for free instead of following through on the commitment to teach the student karate.

As you may recall if you saw the movie, Mr. Miyagi was using do-it-yourself projects (cleaning, painting, waxing cars, hand sanding) to train karate techniques to the kid, build strength, and develop muscles memory to prepare the kid for competition.

Fitness training offers many benefits: cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, strength building, and body shaping.

However, for an understanding of how exercising for fitness compares to plan old DIY, I did a comparison of calories burned for an hour of various activities.  Here are the estimates based on calculations from

Washing a car – 300 Calories
Painting/carpentry – 350 Calories
Yardwork – 500 Calories
Mopping floors – 330 Calories
Pool cleaning – 400 Calories
Playing with kids  – 330
Walking – 330 Calories
Weight lifting – 400 Calories
Stationary Bike – 330 Calories
Spinning – 400 Calories

I enjoy being a do-it-yourself kind of guy.  I had installed my own sprinkler systems in the front and backyard.  I had built the wooden deck in my backyard.  When my wife and I had a pool built in the backyard, I reinstalled the sprinklers in the backyard.

I personally put in hand-mixed concrete curbs.

As my business grew and my kids got older, I felt challenged but not overwhelmed to continue the do-it-yourself projects.

Not because of affluence, but because of the type of development in the area where I live, there are gardeners in this area every week.  The monthly costs are negligible, especially in light of the fact that employing a gardner eliminates the cost of gas to drive to a gas station to buy gas for my own equipment.

So for years, I had a gardener for my yard and eventually added pool attendant to service my pool.  I took my car to the drive-thru car wash.  I often ate meals purchased at the drive-thru restaurant and ate them in my car:  Eyes on the road, left hand on the wheel, and hamburger in the righthand.  Cup holders were designed for people who eat while driving, right?

The following figures are disappointing to realize. During this time, I drove to a health club, where I burned 300-400 calories per session for a total of 1500 to 2000 calories per week.

A few years ago, I reduced the number of services I used.  My kids were grown.  I was no longer involved in coaching their sports teams, participating in parent organizations, and hanging out with them in public or around the house.

I realized that in using the gardener I had lost sight of the condition of my yard.  The shrubs had become trees and the once beautiful blue grass was full of crab grass.  The deck I built had built had begun to crumble with aging.

One afternoon, I decided to wash the family SUV that my wife and I had used to for years to haul kids to college and family trips through the Sierra snow.

I had to find the sponges and solutions I had used years before.  As I washed the car, I became aware that I was not as fit as I thought I was.  In reeling out the hose, I discovered that the 100-foot rubber hose was not that easy to handle in the tight spaces along the walkway to the car.  During the squatting and the standing,  the bending and the reaching, and the physical aspects washing the car with the sponge, I began to realize that washing a car can take a bit of exertion.

I brought out a ladder and washed the top of the car.  Once I had washed the car and toweled it dry, I realized that I had been through every bit of a good workout at the gym.

I looked at the car and I felt good.   I had rediscovered what I had lost through the years of drive-thru service.  There is a sense of pride, a sense of the accomplishment, in doing things yourself.

Somewhat sadly I released the gardner.  He usually arrived early and had become a person I greeted for years.  Less personally I released the pool service that simply dumped chemicals in my pool and left the cleaning to the pool sweep.

I rebuilt my deck.  My fantastic wife and I garden again.  I wash my own car, which in California is not necessary very often.

So if you are going through a career transition or any other stressful change in your life and have perhaps become a drive-thru addict, you might find that DIY can be terrific therapy and excellent source of physical conditioning.