Most people’s conceptions of exercise fit in nice tidy boxes—cardio, yoga, strength training, upper body, or lower body, and so on. Categorization is very useful for creating a sense of fitness in a world where we’ve become completely disconnected from the body once so vital in ensuring our survival.
Flowing between modalities and using the connection between the entire body is what makes fitness endlessly fun and interesting. The quickly approaching summer weather provides an opportunity for breaking down even more barriers to fitness by taking your work outside.
Take It Outside
Fresh air is good for the human spirit. Ditch the stationary bike for a real one. Break away from that rower for a river and a kayak. You’ll find rejuvenation from hikes, jogs, or just a relaxing walk. But there is more you can do outside. Grab some kettlebells and hit the entire body as you would in the gym. Better yet, challenge and embrace that most primal and important movement skill: locomotion.
We often forget that crawling, walking, stepping up, climbing, and carrying items from place to place are the most natural components of human movement. They combine every movement pattern, from hinging and squatting to pushing and pulling. This modest concept engages the deepest depths of your bio-evolution and connects you with people across all age groups.
Think of all the earth moving that took place as nomadic bands followed herds, constantly resettling and building fires to commune around. As history moved to agrarian based economies, consider how many millions of people worked day upon day collecting materials and manipulating them to build homes and communities?
You are a manifestation of that same capacity and human heritage of locomotive prowess. This summer I encourage you to explore your capacity for locomotion through one or all of these challenges. In the process you’ll rekindle something essential that has laid dormant and discover the enjoyment of moving for its own sake.
The 1 Mile Dumbbell/Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk
This is a gut check, but a fun challenge. The farmer’s walk is a very basic loaded carry variation that packs with it an amazing, total body training effect. Pick up two dumbbells (or kettlebells, if you prefer) and walk a mile. Keep quality form. Put the bells down as many times as you need. I recommend setting a timer and trying to beat your time later.
- Women – 15% of body weight in each hand, rounded down to nearest 5lbs. (Example: a 150lb woman would carry 20lbs per hand.)
- Men – 20% of body weight in each hand, rounded down to nearest 5lbs. (Example: a 200lb man would carry 40lbs per hand.)
The Half Mile Bear Crawl
Sure, you could work up to a full mile, but you might be amazed just how hard it is to bear crawl for 800 meters. Your back should stay flat and your core tight as your knees drive outside of the arms. Each step should be a simultaneous movement of the opposite arm and opposite leg.
The 15+ Mile Hike
Backpacking is a truly wonderful hobby. Start slow and get your feet wet on some short, easy hikes. There is a lot to learn and research along the way. It’s nice to find a more experienced friend whose wisdom you can learn from, but regardless the 15-mile hike is a great challenge to awaken an appreciation for nature and the most human experience of long-distance walking.
Progress and Regress
As usual, all exercise is about progression and regression. I would regress these challenges as much as necessary to meet your current needs and fitness level. The standards given are very challenging. Once achieved, you could progress them further by adding weight, speed, or distance. The point is to break out of the norm and challenge yourself by embracing a movement based goal.