Bodyweight training is all about mastering your own body. Learning to have control over each part, each muscle and joint. I am realizing as time passes that this is a lifelong journey and as with all journeys it’s the trip that matters, not the destination.
Another thing I have started realizing is that bodyweight training involves a spiritual and inner aspect. You do not only attempt to get in sync with yourself physically, but also mentally. It is no secret that disciplines like yoga are grounded to a big degree on just that. And since the mind controls the body, then learning to control your mind is what will ultimately allow you to master your own body. That is a big issue and deserves each own post.
Since I mentioned yoga, let’s take a look at what location yoga is performed in. Now, I am not a practitioner although many of the stretches I do come from yoga, but everyone in fitness has a basic understanding of what it requires: peace and tranquility. Yoga and meditation go hand-to-hand so it comes as no surprise that places which offer quiet and stability are often preferred. Places like the top of a hill, the side of a lake, a quiet spot in a big park.
I was training at the workout station on the hill near my place yesterday. Whenever the weather allows for it I like to go up there and let off some steam. This is what it looks like.
Pullup bars, dip bars, poles, steps. Benches of course are made for sitting but a Calisthenics enthusiast has plenty more use for them. Rocks and grass. Trees. The real earth.
I fully understand why yoga practitioners like to exercise in such surroundings. How can training in such an environment not trigger the spiritual aspect of training?
Everytime I train outdoors I feel like my training is more “real”. More connected to the original reason it was made for, to make you strong in order to deal with the environment you live in. Isn’t this why our ancestors needed to be strong? It wasn’t to look good, put on a performance or because it was fun. It was because man needed to be able to cope with anything nature would throw at him. It was because man wanted to survive.
Apart from the “profound” aspect of training outdoors, it makes for a more pleasant experience as well. Breathing in fresh air while listening to the sound of the leaves, birds or the steps of the passerby is invigorating. Having the breeze swipe off the sweat of your forehead. Landing on soft grass. Even though I like going to the gym I have to admit that it cannot offer this experience.
Then there’s the minimalism. No clutter, no stuff lying around. This is the only stuff I pretty much carry with me:
Gloves are optional.
And then there’s play. You’re at the park, probably a place similar to the one in your child neighborhood – if not the same for those living where they grew up. And you are doing what? Running, climbing onto things, pushing stuff around. Throwing things maybe. Falling down and jumping back up again. That’s bodyweight training. But, that’s also playing. How close does it resemble your childhood afternoons at the park? I didn’t think of it until yesterday, but it does bring back memories. Yes, you become a kid again. Suddenly you’re not exercising to hit a PR, grow a muscle or get stronger. No, you’re only playing. Having fun, being carefree. Enjoying life.
I ended up staying up there for nearly 3 hours. No, I was not intensely training for 3 hours. But the inspiration I got from the place just wasn’t letting me go. I wanted to try this and then that and why not another thing. I was deep into exploring mode, experimenting and testing where I stand right now. How much can I really do?
But training is training and as such it should be effective. When it’s all said and done, I went up on that hill for a reason – everything else that comes along is a pleasant bonus. So how does training outdoors rate against training at the gym when it comes to progressing?
The answer is it depends. When you do bodyweight, you don’t really need much so equipment does not play a big role. It does play some though. Exercises are probably harder done outdoors compared to the gym. Yes, the surfaces are rougher to hold on to. Or their state might not be ideal. I was doing bridges yesterday and my hands were slipping slightly on the wet grass. I tried the road and the dirt, it wasn’t the most convenient. But it doesn’t have to be, in fact it probably shouldn’t be. Training to get stronger means adapting to any given situation. We are adaptive creatures, we adjust to the conditions around as and grow along with them. Same goes for temperature and weather. It might be cold outside. Or very hot. It may be raining.
Of course I am not suggesting to abandon all logic and train outdoors no matter what. I live in a place that gets very cold in the winter and I usually train right after I wake up. I would be setting myself up for injury if I decided to go hardcore.
But whenever the conditions are favorable, I want to be out there doing my pushups and hanging from that pullup bar. Trying to see if I can perform a “Closed umbrella” on the bench or jumping on top of that big rock. And then topping all that with a beautiful stroll on the way back home.
It looks like it’s good weather again today. I think it’s time for some mobility work up on that hill.