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.
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.
You’ve probably seen people tossing medicine balls in the gym. The equivalent of that in the Woodsman Workout is boulder tossing. Tossing heavy boulders is a full body workout. You work your back, chest, legs, arms, shoulders, and core. Best of all, it’s fun to throw heavy things around in the woods.
Walking Lunges With a Log
We worked our quads with the front squat, so now we need to hit our hammies and glutes. Lunging through the woods with a log hoisted above your head will do the trick.
I first learned about the lumberjack press from Canadian AoM fitness contributor Chad Howse. It was only fitting that I include an exercise called the “Lumberjack Press” in the Woodsman Workout. The lumberjack press is a great shoulder exercise. It also activates your core muscles in order to keep the log straight and balanced during the lift.
A Woodsman Workout wouldn’t be complete without a session of wood splitting. Splitting a stack of wood is a tremendous workout. You work your arms, back, and core swinging the maul around. It’s also a great cardio workout.
Photos by Deborah Johnson-Surwilo