I took away two big lessons from a my hike through Macugnaga…
1. I don’t get out in nature enough.
2. I don’t do steady state distance exercise enough.
If this creates a vision of me, hiking in the Italian sunshine, breathing deep and taking in all the natural beauty, well then you’ve nailed it because that’s exactly how this hike went.
This is a different kind of fitness.
When you’re in shape for a sports specific activity it’s easy to think you can tackle anything and come out on top. I love slinging barbells, and grappling on the mat and so my bodies adapted to become quite efficient at them. If you’re a beginner in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you’re going to get tired before me, I don’t say this to brag, it’s just efficiency.
However, thinking that this transfers over to climbing mountains in the thin mountain air is where I went wrong.
You can call it sport specific fitness, or general athleticism, but I think for a travelling martial artists such as myself I should be ready to take on any challenge such as this.
The lessons I learned here though fits perfectly in to the surroundings. Why is it so nice to be surrounded by nature? Large natural structures, the green, the air?
I think it has a lot to do with how much we centre our own worlds around ourselves in this modern age. Life has become so condensed and fast paced. We hunch over on to phones where are whole world exists. Our communication, our entertainment, even our relaxation takes place centred around a small device. Our world get’s very physically small but almost impossible to keep up with psychologically.
Now, contrast that with nature.
Huge spaces that are hard to take in. A naturally slow pace. Seeing no one for miles. No wifi in the air. The need and want to breath deep and stretch your chest out, to take it in.
It’s almost an exact opposite to the lives we’ve adopted with technology.
I’d recently listened to a podcast on Theodore Roosevelt and he delighted in these natural spaces. He was an outdoorsman first, and fully embraced the difficult and strenuous life. Struggle was something to be chased not avoided.
It’s a strange thing, whenever you’re not in nature you almost forget about it’s effects on you, so contained in your own world. As soon as you immerse yourself in it, you wonder how you ever went this long without being out in it.
My personal lesson of needing to expand my idea of fitness fit perfectly with needing to get away from machines. The idea that I can take on any task without training for it, makes as much sense as thinking I can understand what life is all about while sitting behind a screen.
The days immediately following this hike?
I found days of productivity, more motivation to work, more motivation to train.
Shutting yourself away to get a tonne of work done sounds appealing when you want to smash a project, but it’s not how we’re built to work.
Taking days off, breathing in the mountain air, swimming in the open lakes, and actually taking the time to unplug and stare at the mountains rather than the screen for even just a day is one of those things that everyone agrees is a good idea, but rarely practices.
When you consider the positive effect it has on work, on life, it might be that getting back in touch with these wild roots, living more inline with how our bodies are designed is the greatest life and work hack that no one is fully taking advantage of.
More nature. More days off. More unplugging.
It’s counterintuitive, but it actually means more results, more health, more flow.