We had spent the morning climbing up to ‘the dojo’, a flat patch of grass about halfway up the mountain. Along the way we had our first conversation in person. I’d only ever known him through his books, and talking to this man in real life was a bit of a fanboy experience for me.
Frank—or as I knew him, the Exuberant Animal—had been a mentor of mine long before we met. There was a beauty in the way he saw the world, and as a young coach I was hungry for a framework that would help me make sense of things. I knew that there was more to human health than strength training and cardiovascular work. I had all the ‘fitness’ I could want, but I still felt like there were pieces missing. I found them in his view of ‘the long body’—person plus habitat plus tribe. It hit me why I had felt so disconnected for so long. I was living a life wholly foreign for a human animal.
This longing to get back to my roots led me to Frank’s Exuberant Animal training in Leavenworth, Washington. I flew across the country on a hunch, broke and without a clear idea of what I was getting into. But I knew in my guts that this is what I needed.
That first day on the mountain Frank asked me: “Well Chandler, are you up for a bit of sparring?” Bare-chested, barefoot, I felt like I had stepped into a paleo version of Fight Club. We started out light, testing our reach and getting a feel for openings, and before I knew it he laid into me with a “Kiya!” that echoed.
I staggered back, and two thoughts flashed through my mind:
- This guy’s a friggen force of nature, and
- I’m home
The rest of the weekend flowed by timelessly. In ongoing cycles of movement, meditation, presentations, and communal meals, Frank brought to life the very real connections between people and places. And he did it with humility and ease. He crafted a visceral experience of what vigorous health feels like, and I was left feeling more human than I ever had before. For the first time in a long time I felt at home both in my skin and in the world
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Deb Hultgren