3 Lessons Fitness Enthusiasts Can Learn From Modern Hunters

Discover three important lessons you can learn from a modern hunter—lessons that you can take with you into the field to maximize your success, even if you’re not a hunter yourself and have no desire to be one.

Ben Greenfield
6-minute read
Episode #324

Think of the old-school, good ‘ol boy traditional American hunter. What comes to mind? A redneck in a tree stand over some corn feeder? Perhaps someone sitting for hours on end in some kind of roughly constructed camouflage blind, occasionally tapping away on Candy Crush on their phone. Or maybe somebody driving a big truck with a gun rack on it, windows down, peering out into the field for some game to shoot.

True hunting the way our ancestors would have fended for their nutritional needs is far different than what we think of when we think of hunters these days. Fortunately, many modern hunters are now embracing the concept of enhancing their nature and sensory awareness, wilderness tracking and survival, and they’re now incorporating impressive amounts physiologically appropriate hunt training, breathing techniques, and heart rate control.

In this article, you'll discover three important lessons you can learn from a modern, fit hunter—lessons that you can take with you into the field to maximize your success, even if you’re not a hunter yourself and have no desire to be!

1. Natural Movement, Functional Fitness & Agility

In my recent podcast interview with Kenton Clairmont, founder of a modern hunting fitness movement called “Train To Hunt,” Kenton describes how hunters are now incorporating natural fitness movements into their training routines: movements like squats, lunges, pushes, pulls, mobility, and beyond.

This concept of using natural movement to get fit is actually not a new concept, and was pioneered by Georges Hébert, a French PE teacher and fitness instructor, way back in the early 1900s.  

While an officer in the French Navy prior to World War I, Hébert was stationed in the town of St. Pierre in Martinique. In 1902, the town fell victim to a catastrophic volcanic eruption, and it was Hebert who coordinated the daring escape and rescue of nearly seven hundred people from this disaster. This experience had a profound effect on him, and inspired him to learn how to combine fitness and athletic skills with courage and altruism, eventually developing this into his personal motto, “Be strong to be useful."

After this experience, Hébert traveled throughout the world studying the physical development and movement skills of indigenous peoples who moved naturally. In Africa, he found tribes who had amazing bodies and were flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, resistant, but had no gyms or personal trainers—just gymnastics-like movements in nature, such as climbing trees, swimming, sprinting, throwing rocks, and wrestling.

When he eventually returned to France, Hébert became a physical instructor for the French marines, where he began to design his own system of physical education, which he called the "Natural Method," a form of movement influenced by Greek gymnasia, German Prussian gymnastics, and even French dancing, and most importantly, a form of movement primarily executed in nature and surrounded by trees, rocks, water, logs, and other “obstacles.”

The Natural Method promotes the physical qualities of natural, asymmetric forms of resistance, such as awkward rocks and logs, combined with muscular coordination and speed, being able to walk, run, jump, move on all fours front wards, backwards and sideways, and having the physical capability to climb, to keep balance, to throw, to defend yourself, and to swim. These skills are combined with the mental qualities of courage, coolness under pressure, respect, willpower, and the ability to overcome obstacles, such as the fear of falling, fear of jumping across distances, fear of plunging into cold water, fear of walking on an unstable surface, etc.

So if hunters (along with a growing number of Parkour athletes, gymnasts, obstacle course races, and beyond) are now tapping into the Natural Movement principles, there’s no reason why you can’t do it too! Here’s a recent article I wrote about the “Perfect Workout For 2017” that will give you plenty of ideas to get started.

2. Forest Bathing

There’s no denying that hunters spend plenty of time in the forest and steeped deep in nature, and an emerging body of research demonstrates that there are distinct health benefits to be derived from this practice, especially when combined with the mindfulness and awareness necessary to track an animal or find wild edibles, watch tracks and game trails, pay attention to wind, and notice the tiniest details of the landscape that can give one clues into where game is traveling or living.

For example, one article entitled “Natural environments, ancestral diets, and microbial ecology: is there a modern “paleo-deficit disorder”?” highlights research from as early as the 1960s that shows early-life experience with microbiota and other bacteria found in outdoor situations, along with environmental stress, can actually positively influence longevity and health outcomes. The author highlights the co-evolutionary relationship between microbiota and the human host and points out the fact that there is lower health, more anxiety and depression, and increased incidence of immune-related disease in developed nations that have become too sanitized—specifically too sanitized with respect to not being outside around dirt, trees, animals, and other natural areas of “microbial ecology”.

In addition in a 2010 Japanese study of shinrin-yoku (defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere, or forest bathing”), researchers found that elements of the environment, such as the odor of wood, the sound of running stream water, and the scenery of the forest, can provide relaxation and reduce stress, and those taking part in the study experienced lower levels of cortisol, a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

This should all really come as no surprise. Scientists have long known that sunlight can lower depression, especially depression from seasonal affective disorder. One 2007 study from the University of Essex found that something as simple as a walk in the countryside reduces depression in 71% of participants. These same researchers found that nature therapy, also known as “ecotherapy,” and spending as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, can improve mood, self-esteem, and motivation.

In my podcast episode, “Forest Bathing, Sleep Hacking, Cell Phones & Water: The Underground Guide To Lowering Cortisol When Nothing Else Seems To Be Working," my guest and I discuss the amazing research that shows that things as simple as spending time in the trees, walking in forests, exercising on nature trails, and hiking outdoors exposes you to tiny particles and phytochemicals that plants release, and this in turn helps decrease salivary cortisol, depression, and anger.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.