That’s right; you’ll find me in the trees. Curious? Stick with me. If you follow me on Instagram, this is probably no surprise to you, as some of my fondest photos are either from high atop or down below some of my favorite trees. I spend as much time as I can, rain or shine, outside. The outdoors are my happy place. My muse. My stress relief. My therapy. Though some weeks are especially busy, and it gets hard to find time to get out as much as I’d like, I always always, no matter where on earth I am, get at least one good chunk of tree climbing in a week, and I think you should too. City dwellers, farmers, nature lovers, conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between can benefit from a little time each week spent in the trees. And I’ll tell you why….
It goes without saying that the physical exertion of moving your body from branch to branch as you move up a tree is a great workout. It requires pulling, pressing, swinging, stabilizing, and balancing. It builds mobility and grace. It’s something humans have been doing for as long as humans have been doing anything, and it’s about as natural a form of movement as there is. CrossFit’s functional fitness has built a base for me that has allowed me to find quick success in tree climbing, and I love the balance that the two together provide, and a new challenge outside the gym. Climbing trees for me now means less time in the gym and more time in the nature I love. It provides a challenge (it’s f*cking hard), and it constantly keeps me wanting to try higher trees, new routes up, etc. Also, one of the great things about climbing trees is that it’s free. Can’t afford a gym membership? Go climb a tree.
Climbing trees is also very powerful and healing for the mind and soul. Reaching new heights builds confidence and empowerment. Thinking about your next move develops critical thinking skills and strengthens thought processes. You must trust yourself and learn the way your mind and body work together. Having your head literally in the branches of these life-giving organisms provides oxygen and positive endorphins. Being amongst the trees has also been proven to combat mental illness. In fact, there is something called “Nature Deficit Disorder,” coined by Richard Louv, describing the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. One way to cure this? More outside climbing trees. Additionally, studies support the link between urbanization and growing rates of mental illness. With urbanization, trees have become more scarce, but just because you live in an urban environment, does not mean you can’t connect with nature. Trees grow everywhere, but we often walk right by them. So what if you get a couple funny looks? Maybe you inspire someone in the process, and you will certainly feel better from having climbed a tree, moved your body, reconnected with what it means to be hum, and most likely made a passerby smile. Feeling bummed, stressed, overworked? Go climb a tree.
When you climb a tree, you get dirty. It’s a fact. A fact that can actually save you the headache (literally) of getting sick this season. A recent study found that germ-free mice had exaggerated inflammation of the lungs and colon resembling asthma and colitis, respectively. This was caused by the hyperactivity of a unique class of T cells (immune cells) that had been previously linked to these disorders in both mice and humans. Basically, the more you avoid dirt, the more likely you are to get sick and/or suffer from autoimmune conditions. While it’s best to experience this dirt from a young age, it’s never too late to boost your immunity by getting dirty daily. Sick of getting sick? Go climb a tree.
If more people climbed trees on the regular, this world would be a more sustainable place. We might care more about the trees that are so life giving. Loving trees could lead to a more fervent effort to save trees. Protecting the trees results in helping to save the environment. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. Planting and loving more trees can help combat climate change. And there’s more; here’s something I bet you didn’t know about trees…. They have been shown to reduce violence. Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear and the violence that results. This allows for more sustainable communities with less instance of volatility and hostility. Feeling angry or hostile? Pissed about the current environmental state? Go climb a tree.
So what now?
My journey started as a kiddo, climbing fences, trees, ladders and rooftops. I spent all my free time playing outdoors with neighborhood friends and hopping our back fence to play and chase chickens at the neighbors’ farm. I preferred trees to playgrounds and the woods to Disneyland. Though my love for the outdoors never wavered, somewhere along the way, I forgot to climb trees; until recently that is. I have my friend Rafe Kelly of Evolve Move Play (check out his awesome events) largely to thank for reigniting my love for climbing over the past year and for bringing to light a grownup perspective alongside a childlike wonder for the trees that surround us: city blocks, neighborhood parks, your favorite trail. Each surrounded by trees. Each a playground or gym (depending on perspective) waiting to be explored, climbed, and appreciated.
You don’t need permission to climb a tree. All you need is a place to start, and that place is most likely right outside your front door. Hang from a branch, find your footing, take small steps at a time. Take off your shoes, feel the branches beneath your feet, and breathe deeply. When I’m not barefoot, I wear my Earth Runners all summer (use coupon code: MYRADICALROOTS10 for 10% off), and I wear my Lems Boulder Boots pretty much the entire rest of the time because they are super cute and so functional with plenty of room in the toe box for foot freedom and all kinds of mobility. Plus, they’re super durable too (full review write-up coming soon). The more minimal the shoe the better (but I’ll save that for another post). Take a break. Get outside. Find a tree, Give it a try. Now, this is where you’re supposed to be; even if it’s just a moment each week. You’re home. You’re free.
Let me know what you think. Tag me in a photo of your tree climbing adventures. Comment below. Love hearing from you guys! Cheers, and as always, Live Rad my friends.