There’s a good chance you might know Tim Ferriss as the author of best-selling books such as The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) and The 4-Hour Body. He’s become well-known for his minimalist approach to life and his ability to study an activity and hack it, using his “meta-learning philosophy” to reduce it to its most important elements for a more elegant, effect and time-saving approach. Ferriss is also a big fan of the outdoors and has partnered with Merrell on a new program called “4 Fundamentals of Outdoor Fitness.”
Starting in May, Merrell will be holding free outdoor fitness classes, nationwide, in an effort to get people to leave their screens for a fresh air activity break.
Being an outdoor enthusiast myself, as well as someone who struggles to stay fit despite working at a computer all day and the parent of three kids who I’m trying to ensure stay physically fit, I’m supportive of campaigns like these. I had the opportunity to ask Tim Ferriss some questions about the “4 Fundamentals of Outdoor Fitness.”
Brad Moon: Why is reconnecting with the outdoors important?
Tim Ferriss: Because humans aren’t built to sit in chairs 8+ hours a day. For well-researched health reasons (and psychological reasons), getting outside of walls is the cheapest “pre-hab” and therapy possible.
Moon: Is getting outside, into the fresh air, beneficial and better than, say walking on a treadmill?
Ferriss: Definitely. There’s even neuroscience research that demonstrates how exposure to natural environments improve mental performance. The treadmill is better than nothing, certainly, but it’s not as holistically beneficial as getting outside.
Moon: As part of your Outdoor Fitness Fundamentals, you promote four exercises (the Cat Crawl, etc.). How important is it that an outdoor fitness regimen incorporate these exercises as opposed to simply getting on a trail and walking?
Ferriss: It depends on the goal. There is outdoor “exercise,” intended to improve certain performance markers, and then there is outdoor “recreation,” which is principally meant to be enjoyed (e.g. hiking). Of course, there is a lot in between, somewhere on that spectrum. The 4 Fundamentals are a good combination of results-oriented exercises that hit the most checkboxes (warm-up, mobility, strength, muscle groups, etc.) in the least time.
Moon: Is the “4 Fundamentals of Outdoor Fitness” program designed to replace a traditional gym fitness program, or supplement it?
Ferriss: It can do both or either. No mutual exclusivity necessary, but it’s definitely sufficient by itself. I can demolish any athlete with enough blurpees or pistols.
Moon: Are those of us who don’t live 10 minutes away from a major outdoor recreational site — a national park or mountain trail, for example — at a disadvantage when it comes to outdoor fitness? Do urban options offer the same opportunities?
Ferriss: Similar opportunities. I’ve done parkour training on concrete in SF and derived great benefits. I first learned the “cat crawl” from Brian Orosco, a pro freerunner, and we did it on asphalt and urban grass. Gotta work with what you have and not use it as an excuse.
Moon: What frequency of outdoor activity would you suggest, in general?
Ferriss: 2-3 times per week for the 4 Fundamentals. I like Monday and Fridays, personally, with a longer hike on Sundays for pure enjoyment.
Moon: Is regular outdoor activity any more important for children than for their parents?
Ferriss: Equal. That said, parents tend to be less in touch with nature, so the benefits can be seen quickly. The best option, of course, is for parents to introduce their kids (and therefore themselves) to cool phenomena, places, and things outdoors. This is what my parents did.
Moon: Merrell is a sponsor of the program — is there any specific tie-in with the company’s athletic products?
Ferriss: I’ve used Merrell shoes and gear for years. I feel that their unusual combo of minimalism and durability is perfectly aligned with my own “less is more” ethos. I’ve never done a partnership like this before, and I’ve been approached by many companies. This was the first one that made perfect sense.