The Gym Up My Street

 

            I don’t have to ask. I know how excited you all were this week when March turned into May. I know that you got outside to whatever it is you haven’t been able to do for the last four months. You walked, you ran, you started work in your garden and you wore silly grins the whole time.

            Even though I’m a fool for winter, I have to say that I put on my happy face on Wednesday morning. I escorted our dog Jasmine on her morning walk. When we left our house, I grabbed a 36 pound kettlebell as we headed up Crown Street. About a football field from our home is a pie-shaped piece of preserved woodlands. Jasmine and I turned down from Crown Street to a path for our morning workout. She walked around and sniffed. I started climbing trees, lifting a big rock overhead, jumping over a log, walking up and down a path and lifting my kettlebell. I’m using my outdoor gym. That morning I was thinking of a guy named Erwan Le Corre, who has more fun than a five-year-old when he works out.

Me holding a 36 pound kettlebell

Me holding a 36 pound kettlebell

            Erwan Le Corre has been called the world fittest man. Le Corre’s workouts never take place inside a stuffy gym. The world’s fittest man always exercises outside doing what he calls natural movement (Have some fun and check out his website: https://www.movnat.com/).

As Erwan Le Corre watches people he sees how far removed we are from our ancestors. We are far less fit and unable to do basic tasks that humans once did naturally, easily, and daily.

            So when Erwan Le Corre works out with others using natural movements or MovNat, he takes the athletes out of the gym or specific sports like tennis and puts them into the wilderness where they will sprint up hills, climb trees, crawl through brush, carry boulders, balance on logs—all the skills our distant ancestors had to have in order to survive back when survival depended more on physical fitness than on 401(k) returns.

Le Corre has a name for the condition he’s lamenting. He calls it the “Zoo Human Syndrome,” a physical, mental, and spiritual funk brought on by overspecialization and a general disconnection from our natural selves. “Specialization in sport and in life is a domestication process. It’s resulted in the human zoo, with specialized workers in a square room who trade their square office for square gyms and treadmills,” Le Corre says. “We all suffer from this zoo human syndrome. It disconnects us from our true nature, from the beautiful human [creatures] we are. We now live in an environment that is unnatural: the office, the gym, the home, the pollution, the car.” In short, human beings been fully domesticated, and we’re miserable because of it.

There’s a good bit of science to back up Le Corre’s philosophy. One in five Americans will suffer from severe depression at some point in their life, and more psychologists are recognizing the role of “nature deficit” in clinical depression. Separate studies performed at the University of Illinois and England’s Essex University suggests that outdoor exercise is a more effective treatment for depression than pharmaceuticals. Forget depression, take a look at the obesity rates and rising instances of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and you might come to the conclusion that our society has strayed too far from our natural, physical selves.

            So let me invite you out into the beauty of God’s creation that is found in such abundance in Bucks County. If you’re not into the idea of becoming Tarzan, a brisk walk along the tow path or at Tyler Park will do. God didn’t make us to sit in front of computers all day.