Archaeology and my emotional health

It’s been a year since I’ve found an archaeology job. For better or worse this has given me a lot of time to think, reflect, and introspect. I’ve finally been able to put into words something that’s been bothering me for a long while. Out of the 6 jobs that I worked in only 2 of them did I feel useful, like I was doing good archaeology, and not stressed to my breaking point. In all other jobs I felt nearly worthless, or worse yet, like I was a burden to my crew. The 2 jobs that I felt useful in were with 2 companies and both were in the same state. So when archaeology comes back into the Midwest region I’m going to try a bit of an experiment and limit my applying to only those 2 companies and see if my mental and emotional health while in the field will be better for it. Until then, personal training and part time work are going to be my bread and butter.

Life post-uni is definitely not working out as I had planned. But that’s life and we just have to adapt and trudge ever onward.


Arbeiten und Autos

It’s been nearly two and half months since I got back from the East Coast. In that time I wasn’t able to find an archaeology job that was reasonable for travel for my beat up old car, but i did get my personal training certification and started up my little side hussle to bring in some money for instances exactly such as this. So while there’s no joy on the Archaeology front for me I have started down a new endeavor for the time being.

My parents and I were also able to find a used car that fit my rather short stature as well as being within some general mileage/money guidelines. So I do have a new-to-me car that will be able to take me far in the arch season to come. Until then I’ll simply do my best with the new endeavor God has for me in the personal training business.

Heading West

So, a couple of weeks or so ago I was pulled off the project I was working on. I went into the field dealing with heat stress for 4 days, on took the next day off. The day after that I went to a walk-in clinic and tried to go back to work afterwards, but only made it about half an hour or less before feeling absolutely horrible and having to duck out after only 2.5 hours of work. Consequently I only worked 5 days of the 8 days session. And that was the second time I got heat stress on this project. The conditions were pretty gnarly: outside the corn the heat was generally in the 90’s or upper 80’s and that was without the heat index. I completely understand the company’s decision- and they were nice enough to mention that it was not only for the good of their project, but also for my health. They also made sure I knew that I was good archaeologist and a hard worker and they’d like to work with me again if another project comes up with different conditions- a project in cooler weather or not in corn. I guess being in the corn in the heat/humidity here was not something my body was prepared for and just couldn’t handle.
Admittedly, I’ve been on a project before where when things got too tough instead of asking God for guidance and strength I made the decision to bail. I didn’t want to make that mistake here so I had every intention of going back out into the field and finishing out the project. It’s best for all involved though that I’m not there. I’m not slowing down their project and being a liability in the field, and I’m not pushing myself further than I should. Though I do regret that even though I gave it everything I was and was willing to give it more, it wasn’t enough.
I do appreciate that the company gave me the opportunity to work on the East Coast; and that I was able to find out my limits under a company that cares for not only their projects, but the techs they employ as well.
After a week of being out of the field I finally got over all the symptoms and have since been able to really hang out with my brother and his family. The experiences out here have been good and I was blessed to be able to work out here. Now to head back west, look for a new project, and get my certification for personal training. I’m excited for the road ahead.

Training on the Road

Training and staying in field condition when not on jobs can be difficult for some techs, and I’ve noticed for me, it gets even harder to maintain my training schedule when I’m on a job.
When not on a job I’m very consistent with my training. I train with free weights (a barbell and dumbbells) 3 times a week, I do some kind of martial arts training (usually at least 30 minutes to an hour) pretty much every day but Sunday, and conditioning work (sprinting, jumping rope, or running) 2-3 times a week. When I’m on a job, however, most of that just gets put on “maintenance mode”. Since, both in and out of field work, I sleep poorly; and on a job I’m always sore, exhausted, probably at least slightly dehydrated, and always hungry it can be hard to keep up with training. As always I try to keep in mind the inherent physicality of the job we archaeologists do. We’re walking or at least on our feet usually for 8-10 hours a day and over varying and rough terrain for pedestrian surveys, we usually have to dig and screen a lot too whether for shovel tests, Phase 2s, or Phase 3s. And all of this in whatever weather conditions the field presents- heat, humidity, rain, or cold. So if I’m feeling really run down- like today, I had to take off everything due to heat exhaustion yesterday- I try not to feel too bad about not training, and/or altering a workout. I do think it’s good to try and at least get a little something in a few times a week before or after work though.
So on to programming.
• I schedule strength and conditioning in an alternating fashion.
Ex. Mon- strength, Tues- conditioning, Wed- strength, etc; Sat/Sun (or just Sun)- off
For my purposes I train martial skills on all days that I train strength/conditioning. It may only be 15 minutes, but it’s something.

With strength workouts I always have a push (chest), pull (back), legs, and core stability exercise- a pretty basic, bland, and standard hotel room/bodyweight only type of workout. If there is a gym at the hotel or I’m able to bring my kettlebell on the project then I add other “assistance/bodybuilding” type exercise to assist in those movement patterns. If I’m able to add exercises than I’ll probably switch the split from a full body workout 3 times a week to an alternating upper/lower split.
My lower back has been giving me trouble for a year or so now, so I follow a lot of the advice of Dr. Stuart McGill. He and his team have found that the back, especially lower back, has only so many cycles of bending before things start going wrong; and that the core musculature is mainly designed for stabilization. So he recommends not doing normal sit-ups/crunches, but focusing mainly on stabilization movements like stir the pots, side lying hip raises, and bird dogs held for 8-10secs max- with rep increases to add endurance instead of time increases. A simple Google search will bring up these exercises. With so many archaeologists with back issues I highly recommend reading some of McGill’s work.

For conditioning I alternate between programming more endurance type stuff- jumping rope or running, and intervals- sprints outside or stair sprints in the stairwell.
*I don’t program long distance endurance conditioning/strength training reps as I don’t want/need lactate build up and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) during work. So “long distance” conditioning is only 15-20 minutes of moderate speed, and reps for strength work are no more than 10 if using dumbbells/barbells (though if the hotel only has really light weights I usually up the reps to 12-15 which won’t cause DOMS for me if the weight is light enough). For bodyweight movements, I’m actually trying to up my push/pull numbers so the volume is higher on those, but for lower body exercises like lunges and pistol squats, I keep the numbers sub-15 reps; mainly to spare the knees as much as possible.

For sprint conditioning I keep it simple and just do intervals of 50 and/or 100 meter sprints with a minute of rest in between each bout of sprinting. For stair sprints I’ll run up a flight or two depending on the length and also rest a minute between each bout.

Ideally for me a week would look something like this:

basic schedule

*AMRAP- as many reps as possible- if you can do a lot put an arbitrary cap of maybe 30 reps for time/DOMS purposes
**3×15 is 3 sets of 15 repetitions
No training on or off a job is, or needs to be, set in stone. Things can always be altered and if you’re totally not feeling it, just skip it for the day and do it the next day when you’re feeling more rested. Better a good workout when you’re well recovered than a sub-par workout that increases your recovery time and makes work that much harder.
In this industry you have to be willing to hustle everyday in the field, and though training can be tough, and on the road with a physical job it can be even tougher, with flexibility, a smart training plan, and the right mindset I think it’s very achievable.

Self-exploration: Are you in the right career as an archaeologist?

I was born 3.5 months early and I’ve spent a lot of the time wondering if this some how resulted in my impatience- something I’ve always struggled with. Martial arts helped fight my “inner demons” sure, but by uni and throughout I still wasn’t as patient or as tolerant of unexpected schedule changes and ‘annoyances’ as I would’ve liked to have been. When I first got into the field 6 months ago I questioned whether or not I was in the right field, or more accurately, if I could hack it as an archaeologist away from family and the familiarity of home and my comfortable schedule. I’ve found some struggles I didn’t expect while I was going through undergrad- Continue reading “Self-exploration: Are you in the right career as an archaeologist?”

Practice makes perfect

There’s a Japanese word that I love, kaizen, which means to constantly pursue perfection. It won’t be reached of course, but that doesn’t mean striving for your best isn’t a noble and good endeavor in its own right. I’ve done martial arts for a little over a decade and when I was going through the ranks my Senseis (instructors) always said that in order to get better we had to practice our skills on our own, and not only did we need to practice, but we needed to practice well- perfect practice makes perfect. While that isn’t always the case, practicing well can never hurt.

While there isn’t necessarily a right, wrong, or perfect way to do archaeology, I think it’s a skill that needs to be practiced to get good at. I’ve been in the field of CRM (cultural resource management) archaeology as a shovelbum (low-level techs that move from place to place a lot) for about 6 months and aside from being out of Arch work for a few months over the winter, I’ve had a pretty good stint of 3 jobs in the last 3-4 months. Let me be the first to admit, I’ve a lot of practicing to do.

Lately I’ve been reading several articles from William White’s, Succinct Research. It’s an archaeology blog and he mentions about the need to practice not only archaeology, but also writing skills in order to become a better writer for Archaeology reports. That’s my main motivation for starting a wordpress blog. A few professors at uni suggested the same thing, but I did well in nearly all of the writing assignments during school so I didn’t put much thought into writing in my off time. Especially when I could be doing something I deemed more fun and productive like reading, training martial arts, or working out.

My Dad has suggested I buy a website- actually that was for personal training that I’m trying to get under my belt as well, for when Arch work is scarce. I don’t think I’ll do that from the get-go though; perhaps later on when I get better at writing and have more cash from shovelbumming- and hopefully my soon-to-be-under-way side hustle of personal training as well.

While perfect practice may not apply in the case of something as subjective as writing, I think it’s definitely a skill that needs to be used and made better. So, here’s to kaizen.