Already twice this month, I've read a handy little free book for guys called Semper Virilis: A Roadmap to Manhood in the 21st Century (ladies, just forward it to the dude in your life).
It was written by Brett McKay, a guest on today's podcast and founder of the Art of Manliness, a website which I religiously read. In one section of Semper Virilis, Brett introduces Theodore Roosevelt. This struck close to my heart, since Roosevelt was one of my favorite Presidents (and from a physical virility and workout standpoint, in pretty stark contrast to this guy).
But before getting to what Brett has to say about president Roosevelt, here's a quick flavor of my favorite workout this week. This will get you inspired, and show you how to exercise outdoors while still tapping into some of the big “P's” Brett and I talk about in today's podcast…
-Easy warm-up bike ride 3 miles to park with Jessa and my six year old twin boys…
-Bear crawl 100 yards forward and 100 yards backwards, 25 yards left, 25 yards right for dynamic warm-up..
-Handstand pushups against tree (kids just try to hold a handstand)…
-Sprint 25 yards to fence, balance on fence for 60 seconds of fence walking (kids stand on one foot with eyes closed while Jessa and I do this)…
-Sprint to monkey bars at park, go across monkey bars and finish with 5 pullups (kids just do the monkey bars, no pullups)…
-Sprint to park bench for 10 spiderman pushups (kids just do regular pushups in grass)…
-Put kids on back, sprint 100 yards, turn around and bear crawl back 25 yards, then stand and sprint final 75 yards…
-Recovery jog to picnic table for 10 box jumps (kids just do jumping jacks)…
-Repeat for total of 3 rounds…
Fun, eh? By the way, I log each and every workout that I do every day for members of my Inner Circle. You can click here to get instant access to all that for a buck.
And now, let's see what Brett has to say about good ol' Teddy….
“…Theodore Roosevelt was born to a wealthy family in New York City. The Roosevelts enjoyed comforts and conveniences in their 19th century brownstone that most Americans wouldn’t see until several decades later. When the Civil War tore America apart, Teddy’s father had more than enough money to pay for a substitute and thus avoid a draft into the Union Army.
If you were to judge the trajectory of TR’s life based on the first ten years of it, you’d probably guess that he’d end up as a smart and capable, but physically weak, natural history professor at some Ivy League university. Roosevelt could have easily settled into a life of cosmopolitan comfort.
But after a stern talk from his father, young Teddy chose a different path for himself.
He chose the hard way. What he called “the strenuous life.”
In Teddy’s time, the standards of male honor largely revolved around virtues like integrity and industry – being a good man. And Roosevelt kept this code to a T. But he didn’t want to just be a good man, he wanted to be good at being a man, too.
It was a goal he actively pursued.
His adolescence was spent exercising and building up his once frail body. He took up boxing in college and became a competitive fighter. During winter breaks in school, he’d go up to Maine and hunt with the famous guide and timberman Bill Sewell. After his wife and mother died on the same night, instead of wallowing in grief and despair, Roosevelt headed out to the badlands of the Dakotas to take up cattle ranching. Despite being a four-eyed “dude” from back east, Roosevelt quickly earned the respect of rough and hard cowboys by showing he could pull his own weight and wasn’t afraid to jump into the fray: he cleared out stables himself without complaint; he captured a posse of horse thieves after tailing them for 3 days in subzero weather; he knocked out a gun-wielding loudmouth with 3 dynamite punches.
By striving to live the hard way in his younger years, Roosevelt armed himself with the fire and fight he needed to succeed in the political, social, and intellectual challenges of his later life. Even as a middle-aged U.S. president, Roosevelt didn’t let up on his dedication to testing himself and living the strenuous life; he took part in judo and boxing matches in the White House and punctuated his schedule with hunting, skinny dips in the Potomac, and brisk hikes. He stayed ever ready for whatever adventures and exploits might await him.
And what exploits they were. Roosevelt served as police commissioner, governor, assistant secretary of the navy, and president (the youngest ever to assume the office). When war broke out with Spain in Cuba, Roosevelt put together his own volunteer unit and led them in a charge up San Juan Hill. He was a devoted husband and father of six children. He read tens of thousands of books and penned 35 of his own. After his days as President were over, he set out on an expedition to explore an uncharted part of the Amazon River and nearly died in the process.
All throughout his life, Roosevelt had the choice to reject the masculine code, but he never did. He sought to ever challenge himself “in the arena” and to always “carry his own pack.”
Some historical commentators chalk up Roosevelt’s obsession with the strenuous life to a symptom of the “male anxiety” that many 19th century urban men faced in America. It was the age of machines and steam and a man’s place in society was being questioned: What was the use of masculine strength when new machines could do the work of twenty men? With the frontier closed, what use was there for the old pioneer qualities of ruggedness and self-reliance?
Roosevelt and other men of his time ignored the hand-wringing and deliberately chose to live by the code of men even though it wasn’t demanded of them.
I think that’s why I and so many modern men admire Teddy Roosevelt. He showed that it’s possible to live in our modern world of luxury and comfort, but not be softened by it. He showed us that you could proactively choose to be good at being a man even when your surroundings or culture aren’t conducive to exercising your innate masculinity.
In short, TR showed us that it’s possible to live in civilization but not be of it…”
You know, this is the kind of writing that inspires me to go do more sandbag carries, car pushes, tire flips and sledgehammer swings on a giant tire – which new research shows gets you just as much results as sitting around pushing heavy weights on the fancy Nautilus machines at the health club (and let's face it – working out Teddy Roosevelt style is way more fun).
So go read Semper Virilis to get more. And if you have questions, comments or feedback about today's podcast, the 3P's of becoming a man, exercising outdoors, or anything else, leave your thoughts below!