Defining the "Wild Athlete"


It’s the last Friday email of 2023! Dan and I wish you all a wild, adventurous, healthy, and happy 2024. Consider joining us and so many other wild kin for our 300 Workout Challenge this year starting on January 9th!

One of the concepts Dan and I have talked about the last couple of months is the idea of the “Wild Athlete”. Often we hear the word “athlete” and we think about Pat Mahomes or Simone Biles or Courtney Douwalter. They are epic, Wild Athletes for sure. But we (wild gym) believe that the term “athlete” is the natural state of human fitness that we need just to go through daily life. It’s something we all need to reclaim for ourselves and define what it looks like to each of us. 

For me, the pinnacle of being a Wild Athlete is exploring in the wilderness. Unfortunately, I can’t do that every day, and so the days I am not out there climbing over fallen trees and scrambling up rocky cliffs, I still need my fitness to carry me through daily life. We can – and should – bring out our inner Wild Athlete consistently (there is that word again!). On a daily level, Wild Athlete Kim is tossing 30-inch long heavy pieces of wood into the furnace, carrying baskets of laundry up steep basement stairs, and doing everything I can to bring the groceries in from the car in one trip instead of 2. When my fitness is balanced and complete, it keeps me healthy for those tasks, but also keeps me prepared for the more adventurous ones.

I think too often when we consider what we’ll be like when we are older, we have thoughts like, “I might as well go hard now because in 20 years I’ll be stuck in the recliner.” That doesn’t have to be our destiny. Being consistent now means that in 20 years you can still do the things you love, even if you aren’t seeking FKT (fastest known time) records. 

Last week I had an errand to do at a building that doubles as our community senior center. As I sat in the waiting area, a lady who was probably in her 80s walked quickly by. She stopped and said, “Don’t mind me, I am here getting my steps in since it’s icy out this morning!” She and several others were doing laps inside the building. They were all moving well and looking pretty quick on their feet, purposely adding turns and obstacles that they had to step over. I told her I thought it was awesome! She’s the kind of Wild Athlete I want to be 40 years from now.

Increasingly, I see older people refusing to buy into the idea that their age means they should be weak and frail. I see them doing power yoga, hiking, and skiing on trails. There is a 94-year-old man who is doing a section hike of a 300 mile trail near us. Talk about Wild Athlete goals!

The point is that being a Wild Athlete isn’t necessarily about participating in the Olympics or setting records or even competing at all. It means setting up your life, and maintaining a level of consistency within it, to allow yourself to live your life on your terms. To enable you to continue doing the things you love with confidence in your ability to do them.

In his book “Outlive,” Dr. Attia says that everyone should be training for what he calls a “Centenarian Decathlon” which is a framework he created to help people organize their goals around the tasks they want to ensure they can accomplish later in life. For some people, these tasks might include races or thru-hikes. But most of these tasks are thing that are more basic, such as picking up a child from the floor, being able to carry 2 grocery bags through the parking lot, lifting a suitcase into the overhead bin, opening a jar, climbing the stairs and so on. He has a large list of tasks and asks people to choose 10 to focus on that they want to be able to do when they are 90, and then they focus their training on those tasks. The cool thing about it is that whatever tasks you might choose, training for them will keep you well-rounded through all of them. The choice of tasks just gives you something meaningful to focus on when it comes to consistency and discipline.

That is the ideal behind the Wild Athlete. If you are 90 and still taking the stairs, that’s pretty wild. If you are 70 and still going to morning yoga, that is also wild. As is carrying a squirming toddler in one arm and a load of groceries in another. If you are currently 50 and can’t hold a 30 pound dumbbell in front of you, you might not be able to pick up a 30-pound grandchild from the floor. It’s about working on those athletic skills as a means to living a good life. Being an athlete can mean competing, but it’s not limited to that. Effectively, we are all “competing” against time and natural decline as we age. But there is a lot we can do to lessen the impact and enjoy a life that has not only added years, but added quality

For me, some of those tasks I want to be able to do include being able to navigate stairs well. There is no way into our house without using stairs and I intend to live here for a long time. I want to be able to carry a heavy backpack over rugged terrain. I want to be able to sleep in a tent or hammock without hurting the next day. I hope to be like the guy we bought our house from – still stacking and throwing wood in my 70s. Now that he’s retired, he plays volleyball, swims in the pool, walks on the beach, and hunts with his grandkids. His daily activity level granted him a degree of fitness a lot of people don’t have even in their 40s anymore. Who doesn’t want to be living life to its fullest after retirement? The question is, are you willing to do the work now to ensure you can have it? 

Wishing you all a wild and well 2024! 


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