A Call for Adventure

“I have a surprise for you, we’re going on a sunset snorkeling cruise!” My girlfriend Katie said this to me last year as we left the resort we were visiting in Costa Rica. At the time I think it was the best surprise she had ever pulled off, and she was thrilled.

I, on the other hand, was horrified. Snorkeling? At sunset? Clearly she was planning on feeding me to the sharks, because that’s exactly when they feed. I know what you’re thinking. “Harold, there are no sharks near a snorkeling spot in a bay in Costa Rica.” Au contraire, my good marine biologist.

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There were sharks in the 4 foot deep water I swam my first laps in. There were sharks in the dive tank when I learned to backflip off the 3m board. There were sharks in that lake we kayaked across in Massachusetts. There are sharks everywhere.

That’s what made that snorkeling experience such an adventure. Sure some of my excitement was from my completely irrational fear of sharks, but so much of it was being able to jump off of a sailboat and swim through tropical waters. We followed groups of rainbow fish as they zigged and zagged through the water, darting in and out or rocks, and generally doing fish like things.

So what, at one point I saw an inexplicable shadow, dropped my GoPro, and sprinted back to the boat. It wasn’t the painful sprinting I felt as we finished swim practice in 8th grade. It was so much more, it was an adventure!

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I believe I’m coming out of the rabbit hole of the strength and conditioning industry. In the world of deadlifts, FMS deep squats, and self-myofascial release, we often lose sight of the rest of the world. That means getting outside of the gym and experiencing some self-discovery.

Is it truly fulfilling to only exercise at the gym?

Okay, so I’m aware that for many, getting to the gym in the first place is a challenge. It’s a challenge to adhere to a schedule of exercise that we find boring, uninspiring, and tedious.   Of course that’s a challenge!

What if, rather than a thrice weekly sufferfest of not enjoying our workouts, we instead approached them with a sense of adventure? What if, rather than slogging along on the treadmill until it beeps that you’ve done 30 minutes of work, we seek out exercise experiences that feed our minds and how we feel? Our deepest selves are calling for adventure. Feed that call!

I’ll use my current favorite physical activity, mountain biking, as an example. Here’s a loose list of “adventure” that I made for bike riding.

  • Solo stationary bike (Oh god shoot me.)
  • Spin class (You almost had me fooled. Almost!)
  • Pavement riding, flat (Riding down the Hudson is ehhhh.)
  • Pavement riding, less flat (Central Park Loop, I’ll take you!)
  • Cross country (Oh YES, this is so good, I’m in nature!)
  • Trail Riding (Sprain Ridge, Graham Hills, you’re real fun!)
  • Downhill (Mountain Creek Bike Park, I love you!)
  • Backcountry epic (I’m not sure yet, but…)

Here’s a video that Diamondback bikes put out with Mike Hopkins that absolutely shares the sense of adventure that I’m interested in.

To me, being able to disappear into the wilderness and spend an entire day pedaling up then bombing back down a mountain sounds like an incredible adventure. The opportunities for adventure of that magnitude are limited for all of us, but we can certainly find more adventure in our own life.

Adventure may be paddling a boat around your local river or lake. It may be taking your jog from the pavement to grass or a trail. It may be trying a new activity for the first time. One of the reasons our brains evolved into the greatest processing units ever is so we can experience movement. Are you really taking advantage of that with a few push-ups or goblet squats?

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Let’s consider some of the in-gym workouts that have become the most popular. Think about Crossfit, Soul Cycle or Flywheel, even Snatched in Six Weeks at MFF. Each of these programs creates a sense of adventure for their participants, which is why the communities involved become so tightly bound. It’s why when you question the usefulness of Olympic Lifting, hand weights on a indoor bike, or the burpee, people become defensive.  That’s because they have ownership of their experience.

Ownership of a experience isn’t guaranteed.  It happens when that moment of movement comes with feelings of success, accomplishment, and adventure.  In-gym workouts can be perfect for experiencing those emotions, and for preparing us to get outside.

That in-gym experience is essential for our long-term development.  After all, everyone needs to deadlift.  Once we take care of that there is literally an entire world to explore, to move through, to find adventure in.

I’d love to move towards more adventure, to more unique and diverse movement experiences.  I believe the experiences we seek and create can be far more fulfilling that way.  Please, join me on this call for adventure!

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