Getting in shape for the great outdoors is serious business, and not many of the regular exercises or even the trendy new ones are of much help, so you can consider this column as sort of an introduction into real outdoor fitness.
Many of us remember (with fondness or annoyance) the various calisthenics from our grade school days, although I am not sure if youngsters even do those these days - all the various pushups, situps, bends and stretches.
In Army basic training back in the 1980s I was introduced to another wide range of exercises, but if the truth be told and as I will explain, these were all a piece of cake for me.
My fellow privates would ask me, as they were suffering through a series of grass drills or guerilla drills in the 100 degree heat and humidity that is typical of central Missouri in summertime, “Freeman, how come none of this seems to bother you?”
“Aw shucks,” I would reply, as we rolled left and then right over the razor-sharp, chipped flint landscape, “These little exercises ain’t nuthin.”
We had a whole series of workouts we perfected stomping through the hills and bottoms of southeastern Ohio, I explained as we squat-thrusted our way to Arkansas at the gentle, loving insistence of our personal trainer who for some strange reason insisted we call him “Drill sergeant.”
I would occasionally explain some of these exercises to the other recruits during the rare pauses while we sat and plucked rock slivers and goatheads from our knees and elbows, of course I had to be discreet less I attract the attention of our overly enthusiastic personal trainer.
In the spirit of brevity I have selected only a couple of my favorites, which for some reason were totally foreign to my fellow recruits whose only experience with the great outdoors was avoiding gum-tree balls, chestnut burrs, or the dreaded kitty cigars in the sandbox of their local park.
The first exercise I will describe is an old standard called the Yellowjacket Flail. This exercise works muscles I will call the manups.
You dedicated outdoorsmen are no doubt familiar with this exercise, but for the uninitiated it goes like this: from a standing or walking start, begin to immediately flail your arms from left to right, rapidly slapping your body in random locations, jump up and down, and continue this exercise while yelling and running until out of breath - while generally covered in moving, stinging yellow and black insects.
More advanced exercisers will do this exercise starting by leaping from a riding mower, while the final iteration of this exercise involves returning to the start location to recover your fishing poles, shotgun, push mower, etc.
For a more intense workout, try to find a stray dog to dig into the yellowjacket nest immediately before you start.
Back to basic training… as we were directed to crawl through and beneath of coils of concertina wire in the dark, my fellow recruits marveled at how I seemed to shrug off the hundreds of cuts and scrapes.
“Even the gunfire doesn’t seem to bother you,” they observed as a pair of M-60 machine guns opened up, firing live tracers which flew over our heads looking like laser beams from our perspective.
“This is nothing,” I replied, noting to myself they had obviously never done the Multiflora Twist.
Simply wade into a patch of multiflora rose (blackberry or greenbrier may be substituted) until you come to a stop, twist your entire body to the left and right, and continue approximately 100,000 times until you exit the bush.
Advanced variation incorporates a stomping motion as if attempting to smash the briers flat. This exercise strengthens and conditions the suckituptoids. Try adding some poison ivy for an extra long-lasting effect.
I think on occasion I have even combined the Yellowjacket Flail and Multiflora Twist.
As for the gunfire, well apparently they had never been caught corning cars on a Friday night.
I explained to them that the 13-mile road march while wearing full gear really didn’t compare to hiking with fishing gear, wet clothes and boots containing 20 pounds of water. They were in awe.
It’s not too late to start your own outdoor fitness program.
Of course there are numerous other outdoor exercises like the Tree Stand Shinny, 100-Foot Sleeping Bag Dash, the Tick Bend, Reach and Pull and Electric Fence Vertical Leap, but for starters this will have to do.
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and his column generally appears every other Sunday. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at email@example.com