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Digging for the Connection Between Archaeology and Healthy Lifestyle



Archaeology Health and Fitness


I have found that health and fitness intersects at crossroads with many experiences in life. That is, healthy lifestyle may be the fuel to actually make these same experiences better by allowing you to get the most out of the specific engagement (e.g., less fatigue, mental clarity, peak performance). As such, I was excited to recently experience firsthand how health and fitness aligns with a field of study that I have been interested in exploring for many years… Archaeology!


Call it a mid-life crisis or something, but I have been thinking a lot about what experiences and passions I have not yet pursued in my life. I know life is not forever. I have experienced tragedy in that sense, and, as such, no longer take this opportunity we have for granted. I have been fortunate to have a range of successes in my career tenure (yes, that inevitably come with failures as well). This includes B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science, a 10-yr corporate career with progressive responsibility and influence while also building a home-based business from ground level up to full-time status over 8+ years (last 3+ yrs full-time from home). All of this with significant responsibilities. Family has been a strong WHY for my chosen pathway to date with two young kids at home. However, our youngest will be off to school full-time next year, which opens up opportunities to try some new things while still focused on my health and fitness Team given my flexible schedule!


I have always had an interest in Archaeology and certainly enjoy being outdoors on adventures. And, yes, I love the Indiana Jones movie series, but fully recognize that the field work of Dr. Jones is more “grave robber” than practicing field Archaeologist focused on maintaining/documenting/publishing context, mitigation and preservation of artifacts and sites for historic and pre-historic cultures. With that said, I still love those Indiana Jones movies (especially Temple of Doom)!! After much research, I decided to take some coursework in Archaeology and volunteer for local excavations, field school and Archaeology laboratory analysis. Although more of a hobby at this point, perhaps some day I can help advance understanding in Archaeology by leveraging my unique blend of Science background, practical business experience and motivation. You never know what lies ahead.


I was honored to participate in my first ever Archaeological excavation on a project last week involving an Island that used to be a weekend getaway for locals between 1880s and 1960s (once cars became more efficient most started to vacation North). The Island had a primary hotel and many, many structures for residence and recreation back then. Although there are numerous historic artifacts on the Island from this time period, the project is focused on pre-historic times and artifacts/activity related to the Natives in the area thousands of years ago. The goal is to learn more about the pre-history of the Island and preserve as much as possible before it is converted for recreation. Very interesting, what an opportunity!


Island Archaeology Water View

View from the pontoon heading to the Archaeological site on the Island!


As I mentioned, I did a lot of research and felt that I had a good understanding of what to expect on-site at the dig, but none-the-less I was excited to gain my own perspective. It was an amazing experience that helped me clarify the various connections between Archaeology and healthy lifestyle. Below I will share the crossroads I discovered or confirmed including the physical demands at Archaeological excavations while staying on track with nutrition despite busy and inconsistent schedules. I also believe that I may have connected the potential for Archaeologists to supplement their current income even while on the road (primarily field technicians, often earning limited pay). Let’s get started!


Mike Archaeology Dig Excavation



Archaeology Discovery #1: Importance of Fitness Level


This particular excavation involved a Phase II investigation of the Island, where 1 meter (3.28 feet) x 1 meter (3.28 feet) test pits were dug strategically in locations previously identified in Phase I survey as demonstrating artifacts in shovel tests across the Island and in proximity of city recreation plans (e.g., hiking trails, campground). Once the pontoon landed on the Island each morning, we unloaded the gear and equipment before hiking to the sites identified as the “Area of Potential Impact” on the project. This is where we would dig the test pits for further investigation. The hike involved uneven terrain, significant elevation gain and dense tree cover (as well as countless historic artifacts on the ground such as old glass, cans, nails, plates, fences, etc.). Being in good physical shape is certainly a plus in this environment. Conditions ranged from sunny to rain with moderate warm weather (70s deg F) and bugs in most areas. Sunscreen and bug spray worked well.


The field Archaeological work on the Island was fascinating to me, but certainly required some strength and endurance. The excavations involved digging down in the 1m x 1m test pits at 5 centimeter (0.4 inch) levels at a time through the different soil horizons and stratigraphy. This is done at such shallow intervals in order to avoid damage and preserve any artifacts in the process while appropriately recording their provenience for interpretation. All dirt removed from the test pit was passed through 1/4 inch sifting screens that were manually shook back-and-forth by field techs to help pass dirt, small rocks, contaminants or anything else that would pass through 1/4 inch opening while leaving behind any artifacts to be bagged and recorded. A picture of the field screen can be seen in the image at the top of this article (imagine the handles in the front in my hands as I stand while shaking the screen front-to-back). Sometimes large rocks or other unimportant materials get caught in the screens and need to be manually removed. Otherwise, a typical day consists of digging these test pits down at 5 cm level intervals to 50 cm (20 inches) deep or much more. I didn’t have to dig far to realize that this would be a lot of work. If artifacts are found you keep going until you don’t find anything below for several levels. As you can imagine, artifacts deeper in the test pit likely are older in nature (law of superposition). Besides screening, I also had the opportunity to help dig the hole with a flat shovel (5 cm deep at a time) and clean up the levels with a hand trowel. As you get deeper, typically the soil moves from more sand/silt to clay. That is when it get’s very difficult to dig AND screen the dirt for artifacts. Further, the test pits often contain tree roots that may have to be recorded and removed during the process.


Island Archaeology Test Pit 2

One of the test pits I worked that contained pre-historic artifacts.


So what did we find in the dirt in the test pits? We found artifacts including historic glass, bone (animal), metal parts, nails, charcoal (evidence of fires for cooking), pottery sherds and stone tool debitage (waste) from production of tools. Perhaps much more was found in the days after I left the Island.


Island Archaeology Test Pit

Another test pit post-excavation.


So what is my perspective on conducting Archaeological field work? Honestly, I loved the experience and look forward to my next digs on a different local site here in less than a month. With that, there are clear connections with health and fitness. The work can be quite manual and challenging in terms of hiking, digging and screening all while surviving the elements (travel, wind, rain, sun, bugs, unknown animals that make funny sounds, sharp objects on the ground). Besides your upper body, the work can be demanding for your knees and lower back while you dig test pits. Moving and screening dirt is an endurance activity throughout the course of the day/week, which would definitely benefit from developing more upper, lower and core strength/power via exercise. A majority of the field crew working these projects travel frequently and live out of hotel rooms. I have lived the Road Warrior life many years prior when I was an Engineer and in Sales in Corporate America. It is NOT easy and you must be disciplined. I was able to survive/thrive once I found workout plans that would enhance my fitness even while on the road. These can be done in minutes per day in your hotel room and without equipment. I will share more tips below. Ultimately, it is not uncommon for field techs to express concerns related to fatigue, soreness, endurance and injuries. In this profession, your body is your machine that enables you to do the work. Thus, health and fitness is that important. No excuses.


Another example of the physical demands for Archaeology involves Phase I shovel testing. I have learned so much about health and fitness from my workout reviews using detailed heart rate analysis. As such, I decided to track my measurements for some Phase I Archaeology Fieldwork hiking, digging and screening for artifacts. Wow, I was shocked at the results! I split up my tracking into 2 shifts including morning (1.5 hours) and afternoon (3 hours)… almost 2,400 calories burned with max heart rate 164 beats per minute and average heart rate approx. 130 bpm with most of the project in zones 2/3 at 60-80% target heart rate max. Woah! I am a nerd for data so this is so cool to me.


Phase 1 Archaeology Heart Rate Morning Phase 1 Archaeology Heart Rate Morning 2

Phase 1 Archaeology Heart Rate Afternoon Phase 1 Archaeology Heart Rate Afternoon 2


I also tracked and found in a later project that I burned almost 4,000 calories in a full day of Archaeology Phase I shovel testing. Yeah, nutrition and fueling your body is CRITICAL for your success!


Archaeology Discovery #2: Nutrition Planning for Success


Equally, if not more, important than fitness level for an Archaeologist is nutrition habits. Nutrition is FUEL for getting the most out of excavations with enhanced energy and mental clarity to be at your best. This includes proper hydration to stay safe and efficient, especially in the hot/humid/sunny type climates. As mentioned, Archaeology is hard work whether you are doing a ground survey over 30 acres (walking transects to locate surface artifacts or features) or digging/screening/backfilling test pits like I did last week. Healthy nutrition is even more challenging when you are constantly on the road with few options to purchase food and drinks, perhaps even on low budget for many field techs. From my perspective and personal experience, the biggest issue on the road IS nutrition. However, I found on the Island last week that there were plenty of opportunities between digging test pits to drink water with scheduled times to eat a snack during breaks and more time for lunch.


Healthy nutrition does not have to be expensive or painful to prepare. Don’t skip snacks and settle for that bag of teriyaki beef jerky and granola bar for lunch from the local gas station because you feel it is a cheaper alternative (yes, this happened). I usually focus on the basics and avoid dessert, breads and try to limit alcohol in the evening. Favorite meals include grilled chicken salad with oil dressing on the side, Subway grilled chicken or lean turkey sandwich (watch sodium with deli meat), grilled fish and complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato over baked. Lots of veggies and fruits. I like the book, “EAT THIS, NOT THAT,” for restaurant recommendations. Also, you can check menus online in advance if you know where you are eating or simply ask at the restaurant. Take your Shakeology nutrition as a snack or meal replacement on your excavations, this saved me on the road. When traveling you can usually find a local grocery store (and sometimes gas station) to get lean meats, fruits and veggies to pack for breakfast, lunches or dinners. If you can buy in bulk for the week it may be cheaper. Get a cooler. Try to avoid the free breakfast unless you find healthy options… Free does not usually mean healthy or fuel for Archaeology digs. In addition, along with a daily vitamin schedule, healthy snacks travel well for the Road Warrior (see more ideas below).


General nutrition tips include….

  • Focus on a lot of vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, asparagus, celery, onions, mushrooms, green salad, avocado, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, yellow squash and spinach. Watch the sauces, sugars, dressing and creams – even for non-vegetable dishes. Unprocessed, healthy fat oils are typically the best.
  • Some fruit is good. Examples include apples and pears.
  • Lean meats are perfect. Turkey (white over dark if possible) and chicken are great choices. Removing the skin is ideal.
  • Complex carbohydrates over starchy carbohydrates. For example, sweet potato (yams) over baked potato. Limit sour cream, cheese, butter, brown sugar and other additions to manipulate flavor. Watch the casseroles.
  • Unsalted nuts are excellent source of healthy fat such as raw almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts. (Great snack food!). I also like low fat Greek Yogurt and protein bars (Quest is good, I use cheaper Costco version).
  • Unsweetened teas and coffee without cream are recommended.
  • Minimize dairy and breads (complex grain-type is best).
  • For alcohol, I typically focus on red wine or some hard liquor such as rum without soft drink mix. (Remember, alcohol is 7 calories per gram relative to 4 calories per gram for carbs and protein. Fat is 9 calories per gram. Body typically burns off alcohol before fat intake, which can thus enhance fat storage.) For me and many others, beer is a poor choice (yes, even the low cal – carb options). However, my advice here is to drink one glass or bottle of water per drink regardless and enjoy yourself in moderation if you choose. Listen, I WILL have drinks. Also, the fitness recommendations in the link below will cover ways to ramp metabolism to burn calories.
  • Minimize desserts.
  • Watch your salt intake. Excessive salt is unhealthy for many reasons, but you also retain more water as a consequence. I typically recommend 2400 mg per day.
  • In general, taper carbs during the day with less in the evening.
  • Do not overload your plate with food and take your time to eat. Trust me; you WILL consume less this way. Some people choose to take a smaller plate for portion control. Portion control containers also come with many of the workout/fitness solutions in the link below to simplify your food prep.


It is hard enough to maintain fitness and nutrition in a relatively controlled setting at home, however, travel for business or pleasure may result in significant loss of control. Trust me, that is how I gained 20 pounds at a low point in my life. It happens fast if you are not careful. Loss of control for even a short period of time can have consequences on your progression toward identified fitness and well-being goals. Long days may impact your ability to workout or even get sufficient sleep required for proper muscle repair and growth (typically 6 – 8 hrs). Resistance to dessert or alcohol may be difficult. Nutrient timing may be compromised and snacks skipped altogether. Equipment resources may limit your fitness potential. These factors and many more may work against your personal transformation. Disruption of your routine for even one day can lead to a mindset that ultimately accepts failure. You do not need to accept failure even when busy as an Archaeologist Road Warrior. Pack healthy snacks, lunch and lots of water (hydration packs work well). My recommended workout and nutrition plans are below…


Click HERE for more Info on Workouts and Nutrition for Road Warriors (or anyone, really)! => Contact me at or the CONTACT button below to help you select the best solution for your goals while getting you access to my private Team support system



Archaeology Discovery #3: Opportunities for “Side Hustle”


My research on the field of Archaeology led me down a path where I was able to learn perspectives from many Archaeologist voices about career opportunities. Bottom line from my research, especially with those in the area of Cultural Resource Management (CRM), many Archaeologists…


  • Have inconsistent work schedules. Projects are typically time-based and considered over when the project is completed. The company that hired you may or may not have extra work moving forward.
  • Live on the road. This is a common challenge for staying in shape with good nutrition, as discussed. Being a Road Warrior makes it hard to settle down with family and establish your identity.
  • Are not happy with pay. Most Archaeologists in the field are paid per hour, sometimes with a per diem for hotel/food. Hourly rates are considered low given the education and experience required to do the work. Being away from home makes it difficult to build additional source of income or any cushion for investment and retirement planning.
  • Do not work during Winter. More Archaeologists than I expected do not have actual work lined up in Archaeology in the Winter given the weather in most States and projects available. Some opportunities exist, but much fewer than needed.


As such, many Archaeologists are looking for a “side hustle” for income source to supplement their Archaeology career. In fact, recently there were several episodes and blog articles published discussing the need to pursue additional income streams (e.g., CRM Archaeology Podcast). For most Archaeologists this has traditionally involved some sort of blogging, Podcasts, publications, consultation, app development and services. However, many have recognized that the best source of additional income is PASSIVE INCOME that has the potential to build in a flexible way (i.e., while on the road or at excavations) while still doing your Archaeology that you are passionate about at the same time. There are multiple opportunities to make his happen, and that is exactly how I was able to build my health and fitness business to full-time status WHILE working a busy, corporate job with significant travel and demands. If you would like to chat more about how I made this happen, drop me a message. I may be able to help.


Click HERE for more Info on starting a side hustle as CEO of your own health and fitness business (no certs required, training and Team support provided)!



Bonus: Cool Stuff


As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my first field work experience for Archaeology was on this amazing, deserted Island rich in history. It was fascinating to observe historic artifacts and ruins as they were left many years ago and I found myself trying to imagine what life was like on the Island as I (carefully) walked the grounds. The residents of the city are in for a treat once the Archaeology work is complete on the Island and landmarks/recreation are restored for visitors. You better believe that I will be heading back at that time with my family. Below are a few bonus pictures captured during my adventure!


Historic Car Island Archaeology

Old car that was deserted with the Island years ago, likely came over via Ferry or winter ice.


Island Archaeology Historic Ruins

One of many Historic Archaeological building ruins and artifacts on the Island.


Old Playground Set Island Archaeology

Historic playground set (no swing chains remain)!


More Historic Ruins Island Archaeology

Even more historic building ruins.


Even More Historic Ruins Island Archaeology

More historic building ruins overlooking the lake.


Historic Appliances Main Resort Foundation Island Archaeology

Historic appliances as left many years ago near the main resort foundation.



I am excited for my next excavation and certainly appreciate how open/accessible Archaeologists in the field have been to my questions and volunteer opportunities. Dig in!


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Premiere 5 Star Diamond Independent Beachbody Coach, CEO and Founder of TEAM RAGE, Mike Nowak Fitness, and How Do I Get Ripped, LLC. You are about to learn how I went from out-of-shape busy dad with significant travel, 2 kids and a wife to losing 20 pounds, 16% body fat and 7" off my waist while getting paid more income from home than my Ph.D. in Science & Engineering. Retired my Ph.D. career to focus on FAMILY & FITNESS!


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