Tara Wood is the founder of Wildfitness, a company organizing fitness vacations geared at getting us reconnected with our true nature as human beings. Here’s a brief excerpt taken from the official Wildfitness site: “Tara founded Wildfitness in 2001 as the natural expression of her passion for the outdoors and belief in the potential of the human body. Tara was brought up in Kenya and found that being outdoors, active and eating well can flip your mood and boost your health like no medicine can.
Since this time Tara has been consistently developing the courses with expertise drawn from people at the forefront of the natural and evolutionary fitness field.
Here’s a recent interview I conducted with her. Read the Vital Juice LA article about me and Wildfitness, as a companion guide and article, as I put their senior editor through a Wildfitness oriented routine.
Philippe Til: Ever since I discovered your company and took part in your Wildfitness Coach training in London in May 2008, I’ve been “preaching the Wildfitness gospel”. Would you mind telling us, in a nutshell, the philosophy behind it and how you came to start it all up?
Tara Wood: The Philosophy in a nutshell: What is true human fitness? Look at tribal humans in nature:
“[Their] bodies are splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resilient and yet they have no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature”. (Georges Hebert)
Wildfitness believes that looking to nature and our evolutionary origins provides the most upstream and useful guide for how to eat, move and live to achieve our natural human physical potential. Unfortunately, many of us have been separated from nature for so long we have lost our understanding of what is ‘natural’ – we no longer know how to eat, move and live in a natural way and as a result our health is suffering.
A Wildfitness course provides the physical experience, expert coaching and time to help modern city dwellers rediscover their true natural physicality and vitality. You’ll learn to choose the right foods among the dizzying array of modern food stuffs, to move skillfully and harness natural forces to get lean, flexible and injury-free and to understand the role that your body’s natural rhythms of rest and recuperation play in achieving health & vitality for life.
I started Wildfitness just after leaving university. There was no question about doing anything else – it was an expression of my passion and belief that nature knows best. Learning to live naturally I have always believed is the most sophisticated health and fitness plan the world knows. I also had the good fortune of having a family house in what I think is the most beautiful place in the world (Watamu, Kenya). Wildfitness was a way of keeping the house and sharing it and its healing qualities with lots of people.
Besides the like-minded feeling and connection I had to train with your people, my Wildfitness training also constituted something that is very important to me: continuing education. I learned Pose, natural movement patterns, the “Wild diet” and since have become kettle bell certified (RKC, through Pavel Tsatsouline) after Lee Saxby correctly introduced me to these training systems. How do you expand the breadth of training knowledge in your system? What changes/additions do you bring to keep Wildfitness “sharp”?
Keeping Wildfitness ‘sharp’ is an ongoing process, we will never know all the answers to nature’s mysteries in full, but we get closer all the time. We are in the great position to have the best minds in evolutionary fitness to draw from: Lee Saxby, Dr Nicholas Romanov, Frank Forencich, and Erwan Le Corre. We also have our Wildfitness locations as an actual arena to test out our coaching techniques on real people whose entire experience we create over several weeks. Translating theory into practical coaching is a real art – particularly when you deal with human beings! So we are constantly re-visiting the latest insights into evolutionary wisdom and constantly getting feedback from and evolving our courses. What we find, as we get more understanding and further ‘upstream’ insights into how our bodies and nature work, is that our courses actually get simpler.
What do you look for in terms of locations for your Wildfitness vacations?
Firstly it must be Wild. It must also be accessible and safe, but above all it must be a place to experience pure nature without noise and light pollution. We look for awe-inspiring natural environments where you can challenge yourself in a variety of different ways. We chose simple but comfortable and beautiful accommodation for up to 18 people. We look for places that operate while considering the environment and there needs to be a source of local organic food nearby.
What are the biggest perceptual challenges your clients face when they start training and discover a way of moving that seems to go against 3 decades of established “gym fitness”?
Some of the biggest perceptual changes that our clients go through are:
– That being fit means so much more than looking slim or muscular. We aim to inspire people towards new fitness goals – instead of focusing on what your body looks like, focus on what it can do. Aim to have a body that is useful, skilful, efficient, resilient and that can perform the wide range of different movements which it was designed to do in nature. Appreciate the beauty of graceful movement itself and you will find a beautiful body is the natural result. The other natural results are energy, health and being able to do all sorts of useful things.
– That fitness is not in reality split into the categories that gyms split it into: speed, endurance, strength, co-ordination, flexibility etc. Natural movement contains elements of all these qualities and by doing a variety of natural movements you gain the ability to be fast, to endure, to be strong, to be skillful and agile all when you need them. Indeed, to do a movement effectively you always need all the elements of fitness at the same time in varying degrees. A good example of this is that your ability to lift something heavy is about your speed, flexibility, co-ordination and speed, more than it is about your muscular strength.
– The other major perceptual change is that moving is fun! If you train in a punishing way, you actually don’t get the results. Rest is the other half of fitness, there isn’t a linear relationship between exertion and how fit you become. Sleep, fun, inspiration, and balance are vital to getting fit. We see many of our clients getting in such good shape (often having failed to before) by building in rest to the day as religiously as building in movement.
What is perceived as exercise today is actually counterproductive in many ways to how we’re supposed to move, but the media continue to promote the “establishment”. At the same time, at every corner, a new fitness gimmick seems to pop (at least in the USA, I don’t know about the UK). How would you argue that Wildfitness is not an ephemeral trend?
Are our teachings a fad? Well yes, in a way. Many of the things we do, believe in and live by are temporary. We are continuing to evolve, continuing to understand who we are, where we came from, how we should live. To say we have answered these questions, for anyone to say they have answered these questions is labeling yourself as limited and a bit silly. But I do believe that looking to nature, looking to what we know of our origins is a rich and lasting place to look for these answers. And I also believe that looking to nature and our evolutionary origins is a philosophy that gives a fruitful focus, more so than scientific enquiry that tries to make sense of our physiology and biomechanics outside of this context. Our techniques will change, but what separates us from ‘gimmicks’ is that our philosophy does not. Fundamentally our philosophy is a search for the real nature of ourselves and our world.
Thank you so much for your time! I believe you’re in Kenya right now for a Wildfitness Convention, correct? What’s the best way to get in touch with you or any member of your organization?
Yes, the whole Wildfitness team were out in Kenya at the beginning of the year discussing all things Wild. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or our website is www.wildfitness.com .
Thanks Philippe – I hope you will come and join the tribe out here again soon! We hope to have a location nearer to the States sometime soon, until then keep spreading the Wild messages over there across the pond. Thanks!
(All photos were taken from the Wildfitness web site Kenya Gallery. For more pictures and additional Wildfitness locations, please click here. You can also download a free “mini-workout” which acts as a teaser/warmup, but engages your body in one of the many ways to get fit through Wildfitness modalities by visiting Exercise TV.)