Last week, my family and I went on a much needed vacation to our adopted home of Montpelier, Vermont. Kate and I have been going there about once a year since we’ve been married, and we even lived there for six months after I graduated law school. Vermont’s natural beauty really renews my man spirit. I try to get out and enjoy the Green Mountains as much as I can during my short visits. One of my favorite places in Montpelier is Hubbard Park — it’s 134 acres of nothing but beautiful Vermont woods and perfect little trails for rambling.
While Montpelier has a small, not-so-great gym, most Vermonters stay in shape like Kate’s uncle, the famous Uncle Buzz, does — by doing household chores and walking their ubiquitous canine companions. While I don’t own a VT homestead that needs tending, I was able to stay in shape using only things I found in the woods of Hubbard Park (and a trusty maul). Exercising outside with simply the equipment found in Mother Nature’s Gym pushes your body, boosts your manly vigor, and, as you can clearly see in the pictures below, aids you in growing a really sweet mustache.
Below I share my Vermont exercise routine. So wolf down your flapjacks, put on your flannel shirt and boots, grab your axe, and head outside. It’s time to do the Woodsman Workout.
Begin your Woodsman Workout with some deep breathing exercises to clear the mind and oxygenate your blood for the vigorous activity you’re about to take part in. A proper breath originates in the diaphragm. Slowly breathe in the fresh forest air through your nose. As you inhale, imagine your lungs filling up from the bottom to the top. Exhale through your mouth. Imagine the air in your lungs emptying from the top to the bottom. You’ll know if you’re breathing correctly if your belly moves in and out and your chest and shoulders stay still.
Take 20 deep breaths. Focus on the sound of your breath and the bubbling brook beside you.
Hiking serves as the foundation of the Woodsman Workout. In between the various exercises, we’re constantly moving because we’re constantly hiking. During my stay in Vermont, I tried to hike about 5K every morning in Hubbard Park. Keep a brisk pace while you hike, but make sure to take some breaks to really soak in the scenery. Perform each of the exercises below whenever nature moves you to do so, and as soon as you finish an exercise, start hiking again immediately.
Front Squat With a Log
As you’re hiking and taking in the view, be on the lookout for logs for hefting and hoisting. I found a fantastic log from a white birch tree on the side of one of the trails in Hubbard Park that was perfect for lifting. It weighed a good 75 pounds. If you can’t find a proper lifting log, earn extra woodsman points by felling a tree and bucking a log.
Squats are a great way to develop the lower body strength needed for powering through long hikes and putting unruly moose in leglocks. While the back squat (with the weight on the back of your shoulders) is the best squat exercise to activate all the muscles in your lower body, I opted for a front squat in my Woodsman Workout because 1) I didn’t have a squat rack and 2) I wanted to focus on my core and quads, which the front squat does.
Hoist your log from the ground and into your arms. The log should be resting as high up on your arms as it can.
Slowly squat until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Because your hamstrings are less taut during the front squat, you’re actually able to get a deeper squat with less strain, so feel free to “break parallel” if you want. While you’re squatting, focus on keeping your torso straight. Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting a minute between each set. Overhead Press With a Log
The shoulder press is one of my favorite exercises; it’s even awesomer when performed with a giant birch tree log. The overhead press works your entire body: shoulders, upper-chest, core, and legs. The log’s girth makes the lift a bit more difficult because you have to activate different muscles to maintain hold of the log during the lift.
Hoist your log to the top of your chest. Grip the log about an inch or two outside shoulder-width. Feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Look straight ahead.
Press the log over your head. As you lift, exhale. When the log passes your forehead, shift your torso forward and continue lifting the log. Lock your elbows when you reach the end of the lift and hold for a second. Slowly lower the log back to the starting position, inhaling as you do so. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting one minute between each set. Bear Crawl
I harnessed the power of my animal spirit guide, the noble bear, by performing bear crawls through the woods. There’s nothing much to them. Just get down on all fours and crawl like a bear, making sure your knees don’t touch the ground. Perform the bear crawl in one minute spurts whenever you feel like it during your hike. Shoot for 5 crawls during your hike.