It's Time to Evaluate My Strenuosity

I am a member of The Strenuous Life (TSL), founded by Art of Manliness creator Brett McKay. If you do not know what TSL is, to put it simply, it is "a platform for those who wish to revolt against our age of ease, comfort, and existential weightlessness."

To put it more simply, we choose to "do hard things."

COVID took the wind out of our sails and left us stagnant for over two years.

I joined the program in April 2019 and was 100% bought in. I flew through the twelve-week boot camp and then knocked out the next year, completing every challenge before me. After the end of those 52 weeks was about the time COVID took over our lives, and I essentially withdrew into my shell for the next two years. I sputtered along, trying to help hang on to our region and subregion, but I wasn't alone when it came to falling off and out. I felt like I was alone in a ship, with no wind in the sails, no rudder to steer me, and a broken oar barely propelling me forward.

That changed this past summer. A trifecta of goodness happened: I felt a compelling call to re-engage; the founder called on me to guide a new cohort of members; a couple of members in my subregion got active to help us get out of the dark and come back into the light and get strenuous.

The stars aligned!

However, I am in bad shape. The analogy I use to describe myself is an idle locomotive. The furnace was cold, and the pistons and guide rods were locked in rust. The Engineer (me) was off doing nothing. However, I'm back in the cab and have lit the furnace. Coal is producing steam, engaging the pistons to start to break free of their rusted constraints. It freaking hurts because I let myself go, but I have been working slowly. I feel like Phase 1 is coming to an end, so now it's time to evaluate where I am so I can begin Phase 2.

This weekend is our inaugural Texas StrenFest (Festival of Strenuosity.) We are expecting around 10-15 members to meet and camp in a "dispersed" location where we are going to work on different skills such as fire building, "glassing" (using binoculars and spotting scopes to search), blade sharpening, etc. I'm also taking my camera to work on outdoor photography. I'll share some photos when I get back next week (assuming that at least one turns out decent.)

The most enjoyable part is that I need to pack strategically for this trip. Usually, I load up the truck with everything and book a campsite. On this trip, we had to park and carry our items about a mile over an earthen dam, across a creek, and through a heavily wooded section to get to the site we chose. It's not the smoothest terrain, but at least it isn't rocky and hilly.

I have a large duffle from my AF days I still use, but I had to dump it so I can repack it with everything I need. For example, I'm taking a hammock with a bug net instead of a tent. I have a hatchet and shovel, water, food, a cooking pot, and other things I may need. I have to pack clothes for an unpredictable weekend (High in the low 90s, lows in the upper 50s, greater than 50% chance of rain.) It's not quite the show Alone, but it's something I haven't had to plan for like I am in a long time. As for the bathroom, it's hike a mile and a half or dig a latrine.

"Choose wisely": Part of the challenge is packing the items I need and leaving behind the items I won't need.

To be honest, I need this. As I have started re-engaging with this group and confronting my pathetic fitness level, I now understand how much I have destroyed myself physically and mentally over the past two and a half years. Thankfully I am not depressed or anxious, but I can see that I set myself back a long way. I feel like I am a shell of myself and far away from who I should be.

TSL has a motto that is "do hard things." I can tell this hard thing will catapult me to the next phase of my life's reconstruction. It's time to evaluate my strenuosity and take the next step.


If you feel you need a push to break free from the overly-comfortable lifestyle we live, check out

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