Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed was compelling in her description of the toll that low-wage work (she worked as a waitress, a dietary aide, a residential housekeeper, and a hotel maid) takes on her middle-aged body.
I was reminded of that book this week.
The cleaning schedule at work changed a couple of weeks ago and I was tasked with a job that requires a lot of bending (cleaning the bases of cardio machines, if you must know).
I have a relatively high level of physical activity in my life. I run and lift weights, among other things. And I do experience aches and pains. But those aches seem very different to me than the nagging lower back pain that I have been feeling this week every time I bend down to swipe a cleaning cloth across the base of a treadmill.
I think that's because the aches and pains I get from working out feel like they are making me stronger, while the lower back pain feels like it's sapping my vital energies and causing damage (lower back pain has that effect on me; it always seems more debilitating than, say, the ache in my pectoral muscles that comes from bench-pressing).
Luckily, in an unrelated conversation with a co-worker (I wasn't whining, honest), he reminded me that the better the physical condition you're in, the easier it is to do those daily tasks without pain. Alrighty then. In lieu of getting a job that doesn't involve cleaning college kid sweat off exercise bikes (that will come soon enough), I will do some core strengthening exercises to protect my lower back. Hyperextensions, planks, crunches, and the like should do the trick.