Updated: Nov 29, 2021
Father of the Fitness Trail
It's 1902 on the beautiful island of Martinique. A volcano has erupted and hundreds of lives are saved thanks to the efforts of one man... Georges Hébert. Inspired by the good that resulted from his own physical aptitude, this French naval officer would go on to champion the value of physical education and strength training.
Hébert was an early advocate for women, harshly criticizing the constriction of corsets and encouraging women, young and old, to pursue an active lifestyle. He believed that women had the same physical capabilities as men and (after being wounded in the first world war) trained exclusively with women.
Through his work, in and out of the Navy, Hébert developed what he called the la méthode naturelle (Anglicized as The Natural Method).
What is the Natural Method
The Natural Method states that virile qualities are obtained through the execution of difficult or dangerous exercises that require the use of these qualities. Basically, the only way to become a stronger climber is to push yourself to push the body to its limits while climbing. It seems like common sense to a modern audience living in the age of crossfit, but this was revolutionary stuff in the early 20th century.
One crucial element of this method was the parcourse, sometimes par course. Derived from the French parcours (also the roots of parkour), this is just another term for an obstacle course, which laid the foundations for the modern exercise trail.
Station-Based Fitness Trails
The average fitness trail is broken is broken up into roughly 10 stations, each catered to a different aspect of physical fitness. Park workout stations are marked with signs detailing calisthenic instruction and safe exercise tips. It's not uncommon to find chin-up bars, stepping posts, balance beams, and posts to facilitate various stretches, but some sites are paving the way with adult playground fitness equipment to ensure a safe, guided workout.
In the modern era, these fitness centers have found their way beyond the old confines of public parks and hiking trails, to urban blocks and even college campuses.
Benefits of Fitness Trails
Experienced health nuts can tell you that the more you work out, the more your body adapts to a routine. The best way to to continue building stamina is to add variation to your workout. This is where fitness trails provide a great service to even the most refined athletes. One station works your leg muscles, the next station strengthens your core, then the third station focuses your upper body. By maintaining a light jog in between stations, you pattern each rotation with a good dose of cardio and the work of organizing your workout regimen is done for you.
This variation also helps to break up the monotony, so you don't burn out on the same challenge in the same spot. It's not just a change in exercise. It's a change in scenery. It's a workout and an adventure rolled into one fluid experience. Additionally, If you've done a course before, you can do it in a different order for an entirely different, and more challenging experience.
May of these stations are incorporated to begin and end with stretches, to help the less experienced or disciplined excercisers acclimate to the physical tests ahead. This keeps muscles and joints limber while reducing the threat of injury.
Fitness Trails as Adult Playgrounds
We've one on and on about the benefits to parcourses and fitness trails, but we'd be remiss if we didn't zoom out to talk about adult playgrounds. These locations, popping up all over the world, offer grown-ups an opportunity to release energy and get in shape without paying for a gym membership. It's also a fantastic way to meet like-minded people. There's no under-selling the social component of physical fitness. Working out in a group helps many people push themselves harder than they would by themselves. Throw in the benefits of being outdoors, and adult playgrounds are looking more and more like a paradise for health-conscious parents of the 21st century.
Check out our selection of adult fitness equipment at playgroundequipment.com. There's no reason play should be reserved for the kids. Learn more about physical health and fitness with these excellent resources: