Everyone that goes out into the wild, goes out for their own reasons. Some of us go out for the adventure, some of us just to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. We seek going out into the wild for different reasons, but most of us are out there because of the challenges that outdoor recreation in the wild has to offer. Through these challenges are tangible rewards, we become healthier. Our bodies LOVE the outdoors and exercise. Most of us live pretty sedentary lives, we live in towns and cities and very little time is spent “living and playing hard”. So now, more than ever in our crazy modern worlds, there is a need to go into the wild to be healthy. Just how does going into the wild make us healthier?
For me, my personal health was abysmal. I was close to 400 pounds (nearly 200 pounds overweight). I was ‘sick’ a lot, with stomach issues, depression and anxiety. They all played their part and I was miserable most of the time. I was working full time in a factory, and I was really hating life. So I made some changes. They started small, and they snowballed into a transition from a lazy, couch potato, to a more in shape, lazy couch potato that has a love and zest for the wild. I still find time to veg out and do nothing, but I make up for that with my time spent “playing” hard in the wild.
The first change I made, I started to book mini-vacations with my fiance and I. We would pick destinations we could drive to on the weekends we had off together. We both love fishing so we started to pick places that we knew had prime fishing locations. Fishing locations we could drive too easily with a car since we were both horribly out of shape.
So we started to stay in cabins, the forest service here offers some outstanding cabins for rent at fairly inexpensive rates. They are rustic, without power or running water and require effort on your part for every meal. Meaning no more ordering out, or nuking a meal in the microwave. We had to cook. What we soon found out was, we enjoyed this lifestyle a lot more than what we were living. We got bit by the bug of the great outdoors. Now we both had always had enjoyed being in the woods, hunting and fishing growing up were the norm for us both. However it was not until we started going as out of shape people in their 30s, did we start to really love the outdoors. It started to push us to want to be what we were as kids, happy and in better shape.
Not long after those trips, we were given an opportunity to live that lifestyle full time. We were offered a job as off-grid property caretakers. We were going to live in one of those Rustic cabins we had adored so much. Now the drastic and lasting changes began. We started to fly fish, we were wading in creeks and rivers all day pretty much every day. We were hiking to more remote locations to avoid crowds of people. We were fishing because we loved fishing, but remember how I said there were challenges? We were living off-grid, remote, in the rocky mountains. Going fishing on a creek, with rushing water, slippery rocks, and traveling uphill on trails to get to the choice locations…lots of challenges.
These challenges had tangible rewards, we were losing weight. Soon we started to notice we both were eating less because we were fishing more. We were hiking and pushing ourselves in order to stay out longer and go out further in order to catch bigger and prettier fish. We were seeing wild animals, flowers, trees, birds, I even had a duck swim underwater right next to me. When he took flight it was inches in front of me, and it showered me with water. I was living life on a level never experienced before, and my waistline was vanishing as a result.
So what exactly was happening? Well for one thing eating less played a big role, but the biggest, of course, was exercise. We live, most of us live, a very indoorsy life. We don’t exercise properly, we don’t get fresh air, we don’t get sunshine, and we don’t rest properly. When we are out in the wild, we do all of those things, all day, every day we are out there. We start to look back to a time deep in our DNA to when we lived hand-to-mouth for every meal as hunter/gatherers. We eat light, move fast, and sleep hard.
By being exposed to fresh air and sunshine, we receive vital vitamins that give us an overall better mental health gain. This gain, of course, gives us a feeling of purpose and drive. You have to gather wood to make a fire in order to eat, you have a purpose in that moment to make a fire in order to eat. In order to live. It may seem mundane, and routine but it is much deeper and more meaningful. This purpose, drive and “reason” gives us energy. Energy to push ourselves. Which is where the big rewards come in…by big losses if you are like me and overweight.
Having this purpose gives you self-esteem as well. This will push you physically as well, for me it was born out of competition. I want to be better now, that I was before because I want to catch bigger fish in prettier places. That requires me to hike further and deeper into the wild. Which means I need to be in better shape.
Hiking in the mountains, fly fishing while wading in a creek, carrying a pack, gathering firewood, building a fire, setting up a tent or some sort of shelter, wandering a bit off trail to get a picture, walking to go take a pee behind a rock…literally everything you do is exercise when you are in the wild. When I wade for half an hour in a river, I am working my body at the same level as if I were walking on a treadmill for over an hour and a half. I assure you that I fish more than a half an hour, so you do the math on a 6 hour day of wading and fishing. Not to mention the water is cold, the air is warm…all of these factors make the body burn fat.
Do yourself a favor. Go into the wild, find your love for it and you will be a better person physically and mentally. You will lose those pounds, without the need for a gym membership or personal trainer. The love you have for the wild will be your trainer, pushing you to do more. You will push yourself to do more and this above all is the most rewarding of the tangible rewards.
I now weigh less than I did when I was in High School. I have lost nearly 200 pounds over the span of 2 years. It took a while to get where I am today, but I did not get fat overnight. Being in the wild shows you that patience is essential for everything you do. Including self-improvement.