Earlier this month my friend Chris initiated an online challenge. Simple but powerful: Climb a tree.
I was thrilled to read it because I’ve been climbing trees during my runs for some time now. And I’ve found the rewards to be significant.
Here are my top 6 reasons for climbing trees.
1. Body mind orgy
Often we spend all day trapped in a disconnect between our bodies and our minds. Our bodies are in one place while our minds are wandering elsewhere. But when you’re climbing, your mind and body are working in unison. Everything is pulling in one direction: UP.
I climb trees barefoot, but you don’t have to do that to get a strong body mind connection. There’s something about scaling a tree in bare feet that stimulates all my senses. The rough bark under my toes. Pushing my body up against gravity. Leaves brushing against my face and arms. That doesn’t happen at the gym.
2. Hardcore core work
Climbing trees is harder than it looks. It requires the use of muscles that aren’t normally isolated in mainstream strength workouts. I like to consider myself a fairly fit person. I run a lot, I cross train, and I lift weighs. But after a day of climbing trees, I am sore for 3 days. I am sore in places where I did not know it was possible to be sore.
3. Childlike bliss
Much like sprinting through a dewy meadow or rolling down a hill, it’s impossible to climb a tree without laughing or grinning. It doesn’t matter if you’re by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you scrape something. 100% giggle-friendly.
Funny things happen. The last time I scaled a tree, I sat up there quietly and watched a man and his dog walk towards me. The man didn’t notice me (nobody ever looks up!), but the dog picked up on something strange. He sniffed around a bit and … looked up. Then he started barking furiously at the foot of my tree. The man looked and I know he saw me, but he pretended not to. Best to ignore the strange human in tree. It was awesome.
4. Growing balls
You don’t have to have a fear of heights to reach a point up a tree where suddenly your mind catches up and you feel scared. Maybe you glance down. Maybe you realize that you have no idea how to get down. Or you see a big fat spider. Whatever the reason, at a certain point you feel a tingle followed by a rush of scary.
This is often the point where I climb back down. But I come back another day. I’ll climb the same tree again, and this time I go a little further. Sometimes I’ll do this over many days. Until I’m not afraid anymore. And it feels awesome.
5. Better Balance
Looking to improve your balance? Climbing trees is just as good as yoga. Perhaps better, since the stakes are higher. I’m very motivated to focus and improve my balance when I know that a slip isn’t going to land me on a cushy yoga mat. For me, this adds to the rush. It forces me to be careful and teaches me to move with precision.
Love nature and it will love you back. For me, climbing trees is about learning to move in my natural environment with grace and strength. At first, I’m clumsy and awkward. But over time I slowly learn to slip into a tree more naturally. I learn how to grab the bark, wrap my legs around the base, and shuffle up. Then shuffle down. I’ve spent a lot of hours in a gym, and bottom line: Nothing compares to this.
Go ahead, give it a try!
You don’t have to climb high or go far. Just give it a shot. Have fun with it and take a picture. Send it to Chris at The Run Smiley Collective and maybe he’ll post it on his blog. And leave a comment to let me know what you did! Happy climbing!
What is your favorite reason for climbing a tree?