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Trees and other things for functional fitness (part 2)
Sorry for the long break in entries. Things have been very busy on the working/teaching/family front.

I wanted to post another entry on some of the outdoor fitness opportunities presented by natural objects such as trees, rocks, etc.

Quadrupedal walking up a wobbly log – Excellent for upper and lower body strength
quadrapedal walking exercise
First… the second part of natural fitness using trees. The important concept to bear in mind with this type of exercise is that you create a repeatable yet varied pattern. In other words, something as simple as the incline pull-ups in my last entry. That motion is repeatable, obviously, but it’s not in perfect symmetry every time. Foot position, hand position, body position, and other factors serve to create a little bit different resistance to the muscles involved with nearly every repetition.

This repeatable variety is a good thing because this is how our bodies are meant to function. As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, there is much less benefit in a nautilus resistance exercise (aside from physical therapy) than there is using free weights. Outdoor and primal fitness takes that same concept one more level. The more complicated the outdoor exercise is, the less chance that you may ever do it exactly the same way twice, and that’s excellent. That means that not only are you training your muscles, but you’re training your body and your mind to be more adaptable and flexible to an ever-changing environment.

Run, push off the tree and grab, pull-up. Repeat
tree jumping exercises

For the next step in tree-fitness, I like to find a tree where I have to do a little bit of jumping, grabbing while in motion, hanging and resistance work. You could even think of this as a something of a "primal parkour," but don't look to me for any kind of real information on parkour. My friends over at Parkour San Antonio are an amazing resource for superlative parkour training and instruction. What I'm doing here is just my own flavor of finding repeatable resistance exercises that relate to functional fitness in the woods. Running, jumping, stamina, agility, strength, flexibility... all these things are of great importance to be able to perform well in a number of primitive wilderness skills (trekking, climbing, primitive hunting and fishing, etc).

Keep the wobbly log close to the ground so as not to hurt yourself if you fall on your ass!

balance exercises

Again, there are many trees that work for this type of exercise, but the junipers (mountain cedar, etc) are wonderful candidates for this type of exercise in the San Antonio and Austin region.

Now to figure out some repeatable exercises that take this into account:

Cutting off dead or unhealthy limbs near the bottom can give you some ledges to do your “push-offs” with. Find a set of 1 or 2 points to push off and jump, grab, swing and push yourself up one or more levels on the tree.

Find a few trees where you can practice similar motions with both sides of the body leading. Always train both sides of the body equally in everything you do, in functional fitness. From a practical standpoint, what if you injure an arm or a leg in a wilderness setting? You might still have to have the coordination to perform certain tasks with the other arm or leg (i.e. throwing a rabbit-stick, jumping across a ravine). From a less primitive standpoint, it is just good coordination practice to always work with both sides of the body equally in every drill or exercise you do.

Throw a rock from hand to hand for forearm and hand strength… or…

hand strength exercises

…Find a log with a “handle” on it to throw back and forth

outdoor fitness exercises

Another couple of drills you can do with natural materials are:

1) Forearm and hand strength – Catching rocks or logs. Find a rock that takes some strength to hold. Or a small stump works too, if it has a branch off of it. Make sure there aren’t any sharp edges first, then practice throwing and catching, from hand to hand.

2) Quadrupedal balance, leg and upper body strength. This one doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult, but you’d be surprised how much it can work your upper body, glutes and hamstrings. Find a smooth log. The narrower the diameter, the more difficult this will be. Alternatively you can use a 4 x 4 (more difficult), or 2 x 6 (easier). Put it across balance points that will make it unsteady. For an easier version, you can place it flat on the ground. Now balance on it and walk on all fours. Walking up and down an incline makes it a little more difficult. “Jumping” (releasing the hands and pushing off with the feet) to another log/board is another great addition to this routine as well.

Jump from one 4 x 4 to another, quadrupedally

quadrapedal upper body strength exercises