Jun 17, 2019
Tony Riddle: Introducing REWILD
Tony Riddle seeks out ancient, yet socially extreme practices to reconnect us to our ancestral selves and unlock our natural human biology.
Introducing REWILD is the first of a four-part Tony Riddle series. We’ll post a new article every few days, so make sure to check back regularly. Part 2, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Children and Education can be found here.
Whilst traveling in the Philippines a few years back, I stopped by a beachside fruit hut which was strewn together with a few skinny tree branches. I asked for a fresh coconut, and as I watched the hut owner climb barefoot more than five storeys up into a coconut tree to select a ripe one, something inside me ached.
My yearning for that ability to climb so effortlessly is a microcosm of our modern culture’s generational amnesia. The lifestyles of our hunter-gatherer ancestors were far more in tune with nature and human physiology than the Western cultural norms of today. The padded sneakers we wear are sensory deprivation devices, compromising the adaptability of our feet. We spend the majority of our day in an artificial office environment, sitting in chairs and rubbernecking at screens. When we do decide to move, we line up on treadmills and yoga mats all in a row, going through linear, predictable and repetitive motions. It is a privilege that Western culture has modernized to the point where we have opportunities to work in air-conditioned offices and not out in the fields, enduring back-breaking labor, however, that luxury comes with a downside. We’ve become domesticated primates, trapped inside zoos of our own design.
As humans, we are the ultimate adapters of the animal kingdom, and unfortunately, we have adapted to a desk-bound sitting culture that has atrophied our postures, our immersion with nature, and our connection to our primal selves.
“Sitting in chairs isn’t natural. Period. We are not designed to sit in chairs.”
Tony Riddle is leading a “rewilding” paradigm to connect us with our natural human biology and the lifestyle of our ancestors in rebellion against modern social norms. Breaking away from a culture that continually seeks out comfort, Tony challenges his clients, and all of us, to adopt practices that may seem extreme compared to our cushy daily routines, such as cold water immersion, wild swimming, barefoot running and removing all chairs from the home. Tony’s ideas are at once avant-garde and ancient.
“I’m a descendant of some pretty awesome beings, and that makes me awesome too!”
As a natural lifestyle coach, Tony encourages people to abandon today’s sedentary sitting culture for the ground-living lifestyle of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Rewilding our movement starts with natural resting positions and progresses to more advanced movements that hunter-gatherers used every day to survive – from kneeling to squatting, to brachiating, or swinging through trees, to running in bare feet.
“Inside all of us is this tree climbing, cliff jumping beast.”
Tony will be testing the beast within on his 874-mile barefoot run traversing the whole length of the island of Great Britain. During the entire month of September, Tony will run 30 miles per day from Land’s End, at the southern cliffs of England, to John o‘Groats, the northernmost village on the Scottish mainland. Tony will interview a different sustainability expert each day along the run to raise awareness for environmental sustainability. The route consists of a growing network of long-distance footpaths, bridleways, river banks, and trails that pass through villages. As an incredible example of human physicality, Tony hopes to influence his growing tribe on the benefits of barefoot running, ancestral movement, and the importance of re-aligning ourselves with nature for emotional, social, spiritual, and physical health. The Outdoor Journal will continue to cover Tony’s preparation leading up to the run as well as the run itself.
As Tony will tell you, our movement is a better indicator of age than the number of birthdays we’ve celebrated. Old age is characterized by a gradually weakening body, with a spine that hunches over and an ever-shortening gait. But do we lose mobility as we grow older simply due to the number of years we rack up or do we lose mobility because we are cultured to move less and less? As we encounter injuries, aches, and pains through our advancing years, our bodies get locked in a vicious cycle of limited, faulty movement that avoids pain and inhibits our mobility. Through rewilding, we can increase our vocabulary of movement to more closely align with our ancestors. A key facilitator of expanding our range of motion, and something that Tony encourages in his coaching, is play. Play removes the barriers of fear that we’ve internalized to avoid pain in the first place. It makes us forget our limitations and, before we realize it, we can unlock a deeper range of motion. Through rewilding practices, we can reverse-engineer our motor-skill milestones to turn back the clock on aging.
“You will die of old age, but I’ll die of climate change.”
The human foot is maybe the most underappreciated work of functional art in the natural world. Its intricate skeletal structure, composed of 26 separate bones, can sustain incredible forces that are many times a person’s body weight and can also endure repetitive stress over a lifetime. Its nerve endings receive feedback from the ground to aid our proprioception in an unconscious skeletomuscular symphony. So then, covering our feet with shoes when we walk or run makes about as much sense as covering our tongues when we eat. Although Tony was born with a foot condition that forced him to wear painful plaster casts connected by a bar as an infant, through rewilding practices, he has transformed his feet back to the way nature intended.
The Outdoor Journal connected with Tony to discuss his motivation for running barefoot across the island of Great Britain, the foundations for rewilding our bodies, how we internalize behavior from our “tribe of influence,” daily practices for building the body into a “superstructure,” how he moved past childhood trauma and stepped into his power, and how we can all lead a more natural lifestyle that is aligned with our DNA.
Stay tuned for our REWILD series featuring an in-depth discussion of Tony Riddle’s socially extreme, yet biologically normal practices.
To connect with Tony, visit tonyriddle.com
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