Bored of slaving in the gym? Time to train in the wild…
Outside exercise encourages natural movement. Away from weight machines and treadmills your body is free to adapt to the environment. This allows you to train in a way that not only builds muscle, but also develops balance, grip, coordination and reflexes. Climbing a tree or doing pullups from a branch engages multiple muscle groups and conditions your body in a natural way.
Our original primal ancestors would be bemused by many modern training methods. The hunter-gatherer would move freely and effortlessly around his surroundings. Without tension he could climb rocks, bound through a forest and lift himself up onto a good vantage point. This full body workout was great for his physique. He also benefited from more exposure to sunlight and the joy of being in a natural surrounding.
The outdoor fitness movement began with French Naval officer Georges Hébert in 1902. While stationed on the Caribbean island of the Martinique, a nearby volcano erupted violently. Hébert coordinated a rescue which saved hundreds of lives. This experience led him to believe that athletic skill must be combined with courage and a concern for others. On his return to France he developed his own training method know as the Natural Method.
“Being strong to be useful” ~ Georges Hébert
The Natural Method was an amalgamation of influences. His approach combined modern functional training, gymnastics, Graeco-Roman ideals and Hébert’s observations of indigenous tribes he had met on his travels. The end product was a training regime based on 10 fundamentals:
- quadrupedal movement
- equilibrium (balancing)
Performed together, this primal workout gives you a routine not available in any gym. Hébert recommended a duration of 20-60mins performed over distances of 400m to a few kilometres. The goal is to transform a non training environment into a limitless playground. Be imaginative with the objects in a nearby park or trail.
These exercises can all be performed outdoors as a random routine or on a obstacle course. Many cities and towns have urban gyms and adventure courses which provide a great environment in which to practice these skills. The modern sports of parkour and free running have their roots in the obstacle courses (parcours) that Georges Hébert favoured. The MovNat fitness system also favours exercise that is in tune with our primal heritage.
If tackling your local jungle gym seems daunting you can start by just taking your regular workouts outdoors. Try walking and sprinting combined with body weight exercises. Attempt to carry kettlebells up a steep hill or do squats on a fallen tree. Take a trek to your local beauty spot. Being out in the elements will not only benefit your body; exercising outdoors has been shown to improve mood and happiness. Combining your natural environment with primal fitness is a great (free!) recipe to getting in shape and feeling good.