Freak Factor

19 06 2012

“OMG! Did you see that crazy Leopard running barefoot down that rocky hillside?  Doesn’t he realise how dangerous that is and how easily he could step on a rock, or root and hurt his foot, or trip on a branch, or miss time a foot placement and go tumbling down the hill?  You’d never catch me doing something stupid like that. What a freak!”

Most people would probably agree that a Leopard careering down a hill after it’s prey is an entirely natural behavior and poses little real threat to such a capable creature.  It does this kind of thing every day and has grown up preparing itself for just such an activity through play and practice.  So why is it so different for us?  Surely we humans, one of the most capable and adaptive creatures on the planet should still be able to run barefoot down a hill at speed?  I’m confident in saying that we all could, in theory, but sadly most of us stopped the natural progression of play and preparation we commenced as children and no longer move naturally.  And because we don’t, we can’t!

Substitute “Leopard” in the opening statement for some of the nicknames I’ve been given at my office and you’d be hearing some of the conversations that happen every now and then in my office I’m sure.  I’ve been nicknamed “Rock Boy” and “Captain Caveman”, but I also get confused stares as I venture out of the building barefoot and take off up an adjacent hill running.  Looks of confusion then turn into almost pained anguish when I return covered in dirt and grass from crawling, rolling, sliding and climbing through the scrub or lifting and carrying rocks and logs.  People look at me with genuine astonishment and wonder how it is that I am actually working in the same building as they do.  I’m an agile capable human animal that is seen by most of its kind as a freak!

At least once a week if possible I venture onto a small nature reserve behind my office building and leave the office woes behind me as I lose myself in nature.  I walk, I run, I climb trees, I balance on logs, I lift stones and logs, I stalk birds or kangaroos, I dig up roots with a stick, I imagine hearing a predator and sprint off, I scurry under branches and through scrub, I leap over fallen trees and basically move the way I would have moved everyday in a natural setting.  I return literally zinging with energy and feeling more alive than at any other time of the week.  I only wish I could do it more often.

Aside from the obvious physical benefits these activities provide I’m also training my mental capabilities far more than most people realise.  Rather than just running on flat ground with no obstacles or dangers to manage, running barefoot through the bush means I need to be constantly aware of what I’m doing, totally in the moment, else I face the very real likelihood of serious injury.  It also means that every run is different because I never take the same path twice.  I don’t run on trails, I literally run through the bush.  This means that I’m constantly challenging my body and my mind with changing stimulus and in doing so implement continuous adaptation.  The beauty of this natural method is that I don’t need to assess and modify my work out every 4-6 weeks because the changing stimulus is constant and provided by nature itself.  Change is the default situation.  This was recently covered by a quick blog here by my good friends at the Tengeri team.

So am I concerned that people think I’m a freak for what I do?  Well yes, and no.

YES because I’m truly saddened by the fact that the vast majority of people associate what I do as such a foreign activity that they literally struggle to come to terms with it.

But NO because I know just how beneficial and important what I do is to my physical and mental health and quite frankly I don’t give a shit what people think.  Never have.  I also know it’s entirely natural and the feeling of freedom you receive from training this way, particularly with an element of playfulness in your mind, is addictive.

I’ve always felt a lot like a caged animal and as a child I hated being told to stop climbing something (everything), or to sit still, or to leave things alone and not explore how they work.  I just hope that one day the bell curve shifts back to a place where the ability to move naturally, to live freely and to embrace our instinctive aptitudes is average behavior.  Normal. Everyday. Expected.

Until then, call me what you will but I promise you, it won’t stop me getting my freak on!