I climbed a sand dune this past weekend. It was big. I also chopped the rattle off a rattlesnake with a machete, which validates my masculinity and adjusts my PSR to 9.9.
Sidenote: It was already dead and a grade school girl who loves science wanted to add it to her collection. I’m supporting the future of girls in math and science, so go away haters.
Back to the dune.
I think the last time I climbed a dune was back in 6th grade when me, my brother, and Andrew Smith went with his parents to Sleeping Bear Dunes. We climbed to the top of the first dune and decided, without telling Andrew’s parents, that we were going to walk to the other side.
Being kids, we were idiots and thought that Lake Michigan was “just over the next dune”. It ended up being two and half miles away and our twenty minute hike turned into 3 and half hours of slogging through the Sahara Desert of northern Michigan.
On the way back, the people we passed kept saying things like, “Hey! Are you Phil, Andrew, Matt and Nick? Wow, your parents are pissed.”
Andrew was grounded for something like three weeks. I was safe – his mom wasn’t my mom and I can dismember dead snakes with a knife so she didn’t want to mess with me.
When I got back to my tent after climbing the dune this past weekend, I was thinking – that was cool.
Being able to do things is….a blessing.
It was, in one sense, a test. Either you can climb a dune or you can’t. But it was more a test of the ability to create experience through physical action.The root of fitness is being able to do things. I was able climb a dune, which seems insignificant in the world of competitive fitness where humans do superhuman things all the time.
But it was an experience that my fitness allowed me to have. I don’t know how many people climbed that dune, but considering the world’s 7 billion people, not many. It was the first time I had climbed it. It was sandy and we were in bare feet, we used trees and roots as hand holds, at the top there was a great view of nature shared with good people…and I was able to say I climbed up a big ass sand dune.
It was fun.
One of the beautiful things about the gym is its relentless objectivity. Math doesn’t lie. You lifted more. You lifted less. You went faster. You went slower. Your fitness is quantifiable and it will let you know, black and white, where it stands.
This objectivity can be a bitch, though. 5 pounds less? 10 reps fewer? A minute slower? It’s necessary, this sharpening evil known as The Truth. But if we’re not careful, it can become oppressive, turning something beautiful and necessary into burden and negativity.
If this describes where you’re at with your fitness, you might need to test yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self.
I think the beautiful thing about untrained for, real world “tests” is that they’re less about tests and more about experience, less about objectivity and more about function – and that experience and function can lead to a greater participation in the world. Dune climbing, swimming, yard work, slow pitch softball; all those things contribute to our lives because of the present, positive experiences they create.
Pick a test. Here are the rules:
1. You can’t train for it.
2. It’s outside.
3. It’s with people.
4. It needs to be something you haven’t already done.
Do an obstacle course race, a sprint triathlon, build a garage, roof a house. Throw a weighted backpack on and hike a trail.Go canoeing. Pick up a big stone and carry it around a farm field.
Just be present, and have an experience.
No score, no objectivity.
No emotional baggage, no standards, no judge.
It’s just you, doing things.