Keeping fit in the bush

Most of you must think it’s lovely to live so wild and in nature and that everything must mean a healthier lifestyle.  The reality is that being in remote areas and amongst wild and even potentially dangerous animals means that there are a number of concessions to be made.

When it comes to fitness, during my previous city lives in London, Singapore and Sydney, I used to initiate myself into new groups of friends by joining a sport. In London I played basketball, football, touch rugby and even tried the ever weird korfball  (it was the closest sport to my first home), and I kept up with touch rugby in Singapore and Sydney also.  I also learnt to do yoga with friends in Singapore and Sydney and most recently tried boxing in order to work on my arm muscles.

Here in Africa,the longest we have been in one place has been 6 weeks so it’s not been the best circumstances to join a club and commit to regular training and matches.

On top of the logistical issues, running in areas where snakes, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino and elephant roam free, is perhaps not the wisest of moves. Lions especially love to chase their prey so will instinctively chase something they see running that’s within a certain proximity.

What is one to do?

We thought ahead well before our move here and researched different activities to help keep us fit. We decided on kettlebells and yoga.

Luckily through my wonderful friends in Singapore I had done a few yoga classes and continued in Sydney so had learnt a few flow routines which I try to keep up here. I also downloaded a number of apps to help make sure I do the postures correctly and can relearn the ones I didn’t enjoy doing so much or did less frequently.   Below are the apps I’ve tried and the one I rate the most is Daily Yoga because there are a lot of basic routines for free which is great for new people and you can download the videos and keep them offline which is super important when you don’t have a permanent internet connection  (something we definitely took for granted back in “civilisation”).

Kettlebells was something Quin found online after much researching and they are mostly known as the regime used by Russian gymnasts so it must be pretty excellent. We signed up to Steve Kotter’s online kettlebell university which has great videos and sets suggestions for different outcomes (e.g. strengthening or weight loss etc). It’s been excellent however we found it was quite limiting as we can’t download the videos so can only learn new ones when we have decent cheap wifi. 6 months ago I started with a 4kg kettlebell and have since upgraded to a 6kg.  The main reason for these strengthening exercises for me was to enable me to pass the Advanced Rifle Handling (ARH) course we had to complete as part of our training. After trying so many exercises over the last year in preparation, 2 weeks before the ARH course the instructors sent us basic exercises to help us prepare. All we needed was a brick in each hand and to do these lifts at shoulder height. It worked totally different muscles to what boxing, planks, push ups and kettlebells had been working on!! Meanwhile we have definitely felt the benefits of doing kettlebells and have continued to do them since. If you do try, please make sure you learn the correct technique as I can well imagine the injuries you can get from lifting these weights incorrectly!

Out in the bush in our jobs we can’t afford injuries as it’s only the two of us and there’s no one here to relieve us of our duties. Our jobs are funded by donations (through Air Shepherd and WWF) so we can’t afford to fly people in and out at random.

After almost a month of holidays in Botswana and South Africa and then a month in the new job, I’ve been pretty slack on the exercise front so started again today with a new tool to help me keep fit: the humble skipping rope. The one I bought isn’t the best… its too lightweight… The last time I used a skipping rope was when I was a pre-teen and I’m sure it was plastic and heavier. But being now on a very tight budget, I’m going to make do!

Thanks to spotify premium we also got some decent tunes to play during our workout sessions.

The biggest drawback for me with our new lifestyle is that I love team sports because I get to make new friends and this is not so easy to do now. The parks guys do play football though so if we get to stay in Zimbabwe longer next time I will try and attend the games but I am guessing they probably wouldn’t let chicks play. Only time will tell!

So all in all, our keeping fit routine just about works for this new lifestyle. A lot of concessions have to be made to fit into the new environment and luckily we’re engineers who can adapt to anything!

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