INDIGENOUS FITNESS SPACES
 

1. EARTH GYMThe best place to exercise is outside in the natural world, amongst the elements. Everybody has access to the outdoors, and it does not cost a penny. Working out outdoors is a refreshing alternative to a crowded, noisy, sterile gym. As we know, Native lands are some of the most beautiful and accessible places to us: many of our communities are located in wide open spaces, free of unwanted attention or bad energy from unfamiliar people.

Different types of outdoor settings offer different benefits. For example, trees in forests provide plenty of clean oxygen for our lungs, and clean oxygen for our lungs means exerting a greater physical output. Running through rough terrain on a mountain works all kinds of different muscles that wouldn't be reached on a flat track or treadmill. Strong wind in the plains creates added resistance and forces our bodies to work harder. In any and all outdoor settings, natural beauty and temperature extremes and the existence of the elements brings our minds to a healthier, clearer place. 

On this land, one has the freedom to be creative by utilizing, tree logs, stumps, rocks, and whatever else is available. Utilizing pieces of the earth as fitness equipment comes with its challenges: there is no easy way to go about it. There is no instruction booklet or manual explaining how to use it. The earth does not provide convenient handles to conform to comfortably to our hands, or flat surfaces to stand on. You must adapt - just as we do when we are faced with real life situations. Our mother earth has a way of showing us love in these challenges. It might seem harsh, but this is how she helps strengthen us. These peaces of earth should always be respected and replaced back where they were found. Indigenous cultures across the globe still seek spiritual strength from, rivers, lakes, trees, plants, animals, mountains and other creations by mother earth. Training with the land leaves no ecological footprint. 

Thosh Collins using drift wood for weight resistance while visiting Alert Bay, BC, Canada.

Thosh Collins using drift wood for weight resistance while visiting Alert Bay, BC, Canada.

2. GYMS / FITNESS CENTERS: Even though gyms tend to distribute sterile, mechanical energy, they have their benefits in that much of the equipment found within the gym is useful and can offer an outstanding variety of strength and conditioning options. Sometimes, fitness centers are the safest option for those of us who live in freezing cold climates. Today, many Native communities on reservations have their own health and fitness centers, and most are free to attend for tribal members. This is an excellent option that we should all take advantage of. 

3. REZ GYMS: 'Rez Gym' is a term for hybridized fitness areas using our yards, fields, or other outdoor settings on our reservations where we can find makeshift equipment and put it together to create unique and fun fitness routines. Many reservations are in rural areas, and many of our homes are surrounded by agricultural equipment. If you live in a rural area, you can often find tires, bricks, ropes, hay bails, cement blocks, logs, telephone poles and various sized of scarp metals and many other things that can be put together as fitness equipment for exciting and interesting circuit training free of cost.

Doug Yazzie's home gym on the Navajo Nation

Doug Yazzie's home gym on the Navajo Nation

We often use the term "rez" to describe something in a negative way. (For example, "gahh you seen those windows all duct-taped up? so rez!") Well, in this situation we are intentionally using the term ‘Rez’ in a positive way because we believe there are many good things that come from and happen on our reservations. A Rez Gym is one of those. It's an indication of our ability to be creative and adapt to our environment. We should take pride in the unique setting of our homes. We should recognize that these type of fitness areas are something special which required innovation to create. A Rez Gym is eco friendly, leaving little to no ecological footprint, because we are making use of materials that would otherwise be discarded. This is congruent with real indigenous values.