Last week, I was invited by Oliver Selway to experience one of his Woodland Workouts in Oxfordshire to get a greater understanding of his philosophy and ideas. And after Olly picked me up from the train station, we joined four of his clients near the woods of Kirtlington for the workout session on this warm and sunny Monday morning. And with all honesty, I had very little idea of what to expect.
We started off with a little stroll through the forest eventually coming down to a very a large field amongst the surrounding green valleys. Then we continued with exercises such as stepping through the empty spaces of a long fence, walking up a steep hill, crawling back down again and even pulling our own body weight upwards while holding onto the back of a leaning tree. But even after the first exercise I was already thinking, how is this ‘working out’? Why is it better than doing intense cardio or lifting weights in the gym?
Olly has always been interested in the general philosophy of fitness and how us as humans evolved to do natural movements outdoors. He believes we were never made to workout inside stuffy gyms doing exercises that aren’t natural or nearly as effective. ‘Humans today aren’t doing enough movement or exercise out in the open environment just like our ancestors were doing hundreds of thousands of years ago,’ he claims.
In every Woodland Workouts session, he teaches effective exercises that consist of no pain, trauma or exhaustion but ones that are enjoyable out in the open air. ‘I wanted to get people working outdoors, enjoying nature in the natural environment and doing real genuine human movements that are normally absent in a typical gym routine.’
Olly’s philosophy is part of a movement concerned with raising awareness on what health and fitness really is about and raises some questions about the government and the fitness industry advice that has been fed to us through science and the media.
His key advice for living a healthy life and being fit is twofold: relaxing and fun outdoors exercise and eating foods that come from the natural environment.
‘As well as the movement and fitness side of things I’ve also got a completely, I like to call it, a re-revolutionary approach to food and eating,’ he remarks.
‘The reason we have terrible health problems in this country such as obesity, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, cancer, and various auto-immune diseases is that we are eating in a very different way than we evolved to. These deceases weren’t such a problem even 60 years ago.’
In his book, Olly claims as many as 1 in 3 deaths this year will come from heart diseases while 1 in 2 men will get cancer at some point in their lives. And one of the biggest reasons behind such numbers is because of the way people eat today.
The way food is produced now is highly responsible for the high levels of bad health, according to Olly. He claims companies are ‘in the money’ by producing processed foods with special catch phrases like ‘low fat’, which can often deceive people into thinking it’s healthy.
‘The food companies in particular manage to convince us that we need to avoid things like fat. As a result, we are eating a lot more processed food, we are also eating a particular sort that we have been convinced that is part of a healthy diet when it just simply isn’t. Grains, for example, are one of the most harmful things that we consume especially when it’s mixed in with processed food,’ he remarks.
He strongly points out is that fat is not a harmful but a natural substance to eat. ‘In the UK and in the United States we’ve been told that our problem is we are fat because we eat too much fat. And you can see there is a certain amount of logic there. “Eating fat then makes you fat.” But that’s based on bogus biology. Fat is an absolute crucial substance that we are evolved to eat,’ he says.
According to Olly, this natural and healthy source of energy has been ‘vilified in the national consciousness for last half century.’ In 2008/2009, the UK population consumed the lowest amount of saturated fat than ever before, a trend that has grown in the last few decades. However, rather than being slimmer or healthier, the UK population faces increasing obesity problems and is more prone to heart disease than ever before.
Another particular ingredient that is found in processed food everywhere is vegetable oil, which contributes more to cardio-vascular diseases more than any other factor. This is now being acknowledged by the British Heart Foundation.
‘I’m not trying to say I’m the only one right about these things when it comes to health and fitness. What I’m trying to do is create awareness of where I think things have gone wrong with our exercise and eating habits. I want to help make a change in people’s lives,’ he concludes.
Not only have Olly’s methods and philosophy to health and fitness made a real positive difference to the lives of many of his client’s but they have certainly changed the way I now perceive healthy foods and fitness. I came away from that session with one of the most inspirational bits of advice I could ever have:
‘Regain control of the animal instincts that served your ancestors so well – eat like a king, play like a child and live your life to the full!’ – Oliver Selway
See more at instinctive-fitness.com