The New Year marks a time of change and self-betterment. Every year in January something incredible happens: millions of people make the courageous decision to get in shape with a gym membership. And every year in February something equally incredible happens: millions of people “forget” they’ve made this health commitment. So this year at 50 Campfires, we wanted to find a way to stay in peak performance for the summer weather to come. We thought there was no better way to get in shape than to follow in the footsteps of a true outdoorsman: Paul Bunyan. Who wouldn’t want to emulate the friendly, giant lumberjack of the Northwoods, anyways?
As we can all imagine, Mr. Bunyan is a private man, so finding a workout worthy of this logger’s approval can be tough. We set out to find Paul Bunyan’s Secret Workout and we even tested it ourselves. Since not everyone has access to an axe and a blue ox named Babe, we’ve included the outdoor workouts you can do next time you’re trying to channel your inner Paul Bunyan. If you do happen to have an axe and blue ox named Babe, we recommend starting the workout with felling your own tree and a brisk walk up a mountain with your blue ox on your back. For the rest of us amateurs, here’s the outdoor workout that would make Paul Bunyan proud. If you’re feeling really burly, shoot for the Paul Bunyan status!
Tree Branch Pull Ups
A true outdoorsperson will look at the wilderness as their jungle gym. Finding a strong branch a foot or two above eye-level will make for a great pull-up bar. Standing closer to the base of the tree will make a much sturdier area to do the pull-ups. To work both back muscles and build boulder-sized biceps, practice using a front grip and reverse grip while grabbing the branch. Pull-ups make for a great bodyweight exercise. If you can’t stick with Paul’s recommendation of 100 pull-ups a day, it’s a good alternative to do 2 sets of as many pull-ups as you can do.
Mortal Routine: 2 sets of pull-ups to failure
Paul Bunyan Routine: 4 sets of pull-ups to failure
If you were one of the over-achievers that decided to chop down your own tree, then you’re a step ahead for this workout. If you’re like most that walk through the forest and didn’t happen to bring your own felling axe, then keep your eyes peeled for a down log. Make sure to be safe and choose one you feel confident lifting. After all, our goal is to look like a young, strong Paul Bunyan—not Paul Bunyan hunched over a cane from throwing out his back.
Once you’ve picked out your log of choice, lift it into your arms and bring it up over your head to rest safely on your back. Once stable, flex your core, and slowly squat down until your quads are parallel with the ground. A bodyweight squat workout alone is great for your lower body, so adding the weight of your log will make for an even better workout. Doing 3 sets of 8 reps will get you to where you want to be: hiking mountains and karate kicking angry brown bears with ease.
Mortal Routine: 3 sets of 8 reps
Paul Bunyan Routine: 3 sets of 10 reps
Decline Push Ups
If there’s one physical feature about Paul Bunyan that most people recognize him by (besides his obviously oversized body), it’s his massive chest. So now it’s time to work those pectoral muscles. Next object to search for in the wilderness is a stump or down tree that sits fairly level with the common chair. Once you’ve spotted one that will work, get down in push-up position in front of the object. Once down, flex those core muscles again and lift both feet onto the stump or log. Your goal is 40 total push-ups. Make sure to take your time and break them up however you feel comfortable. If you stand up and can no longer see your toes, don’t be alarmed. That’s either your new massive chest muscles or a newfound sense of pride that you’re halfway through Paul Bunyan’s Secret Workout.
Mortal Routine: 40 total push-ups
Paul Bunyan Routine: 60 total push-ups
Remember that log you made feel like a number 2 pencil? It’s time to prop it back up on your back for log lunges. Once you’ve safely rested it on the back of your neck, take one step and lunge forward until your front leg is parallel with the ground and your back knee is almost touching the ground. Without resting, lift yourself back into a standing position and feel the burn in your front quad. Once you’re standing at attention, lunge forward with the opposite leg to equal out both sides. Repeat this exercise until you’ve done 8 reps with each leg. That’s one set. Since you’re trying to turn your legs into tree trunks, you’re going to do three sets. Brutal, we know. But Paul Bunyan doesn’t complain.
Mortal Routine: 3 sets of 8 reps per leg
Paul Bunyan Routine: 3 sets of 15 reps per leg
Log Shoulder Press
That log has now destroyed your lower body twice with squats and lunges. Now it’s your turn to manhandle it. Lift it into a safe resting position on your chest with your arms holding beneath it. To ensure you keep your lower back straight, flex those core muscles. Take a deep breath and slowly lift it straight up until your arms are locked straight, then bring it back down to your chest. Do this for 2 sets of 8 reps. Your shoulders and biceps will be burning, but you’ll strut your massive pythons afterward just like Bunyan would do. The only difference between your shoulder press and his? Legend has it he shoulder pressed Babe the Blue Ox. Daily.
Mortal Routine: 2 sets of 8 reps
Paul Bunyan Routine: 3 sets of 8 reps
Tree Branch Ab Raises
You’ve made it to the home stretch, Campers. Good for you. Last muscle group to destroy is your core. There’s an old folktale about Paul Bunyan that he could grate cheese on his rock hard abs. Well friends, that’s a true story. And he started with Tree Branch Ab Raises. Go back to the branch you used for pull ups and grab hold. From a hanging position, slowly bring your knees to your chest. The key here is to do them slow. It’s cheating if you start swinging your body. And Paul Bunyan never cheats. Ever. Since you’ll be taking this workout slow, aim for 3 sets of 5-8 reps.
Mortal Routine: 3 sets of 8 reps
Paul Bunyan Routine: 3 sets of 15 reps
And there you have it, folks. The never-been-published-before Paul Bunyan’s Secret Workout. Don’t let the folklore fool you, campers. Sure, Paul Bunyan may be doing these exercises with a hundred year old Red Wood tree and lifting Babe the Blue Ox, but if you commit to a fun outdoor workout like this, you’ll see a much healthier you. Not to mention getting to do this workout in the great outdoors, rather than a sweaty gym. The trick to sticking with your New Year workout is finding an activity that you enjoy doing that doesn’t feel like work. Maybe with a little practice, Paul Bunyan’s Secret Workout will turn into a new favorite for you.