Farmer’s Walk, or Pick the Ruddy Thing Up!


Assembly League July…running a little easier


Like many urban runners, I try to avoid busy pavements, crowded concourses or wherever I am likely to irritate other pedestrians. But even when I’m not running, my own irritation levels reach crisis point when, hurrying through city streets, I get stuck behind meanderers. In my head, I’m screeching at the slow moving wall of humanity in front of me:

‘Don’t stroll three abreast at snail’s pace!’


‘Stop looking at your sodding phone!’

and, lastly, and perhaps most harshly

‘Pick the ruddy thing up!’

That last imperative is what this blog’s all about. Wheelie suitcases. The kind that are, apparently, compulsory on ‘The Apprentice’ and, increasingly in all walks of real life. I’d have them banned. Unless the user can cite an actual injury, old age or illness that necessitates their having their luggage trundling along behind them. Then they’d have to have a special licence that they show the inspectors I have just dreamed up.

Obviously this will never happen, and obviously I am intolerant and quite possibly unhinged. But everyone who has ever fallen headlong over a wheelie while trying to run for a train might have a shred of sympathy for my cause. Why are able-bodied people now incapable of picking up their cases?

What makes this sudden universal inability to lift weights in normal life I even more laughable when you consider the posturing that goes on in the gym, where people are apparently proud to show the world what heavy things they can lift.

There’s even a weight training exercise called the Farmer’s Walk, which, in fact, I was advised to practise years ago when I consulted trainer to the stars Rob Blair for some help with the pain I was suffering from a herniated disk. It’s all fine now, the back. I think it’s because I carry my own suitcases.

The Farmer’s Walk is a fine exercise for engaging many different muscle groups. It helps to stabilise your core as you work to stay erect while being pulled down by the heavy weights you’re carrying. You’re improving your grip strength in wrists and hands (and after 50, you need to work on this). Your upper back helps the shoulders and chest stop sagging, the legs are propelling you forward with the weight and your heart beats faster with all the effort. That’s ‘cardio’ to people who think that ‘exercise’ is somehow unrelated to daily life. A full workout! You can either do this with a couple of 10kg dumbbells in the gym….

Or you can pick up a couple of suitcases and walk across the airport arrival/departure lounge.

Or you can carry full shopping bags from a local store.

Or you can use your body to transport sacks loaded up for the charity shop.

Last week I was contacted by a new MeetUp group called The Carry Crew. They told me:

‘We’re not a running club. We aren’t training for a 5k, 10k or marathon. We don’t know our PB times. We love carrying heavy objects for distance. It makes us stronger! What does The Carry Crew do? We meet at Firs Farm N21 on Saturday mornings at 08:30 and walk a lap (roughly 1 mile) while carrying weights and other random objects. Simple not easy.’

I do hope members of this crew also pick up their own sodding suitcases.

Today I learned Giles Coren is man after my own heart – in this respect at least. In his Times column he redefined a few well-known terms for those readers who are sceptical about Wikipedia. Here’s his definition of ‘suitcase’; it was a bit sexist so I changed it where I could:

‘A box with handles for transporting clothes, which an adult with any sense of personal dignity carries in [his or her] hand, rather than wheeling along like a little old [lady/man] on [her/his] way to the pound shop.’



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