Making time for fun can be hard work — especially when it comes to the “serious” business of working out. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Abby Clark, a Level 3 MovNat trainer and team instructor. Get ready to be transported back to the carefree days of your childhood with this playful, fitness-focused scavenger hunt.
Besides encouraging fun, the workout focuses on natural movement, which is something we did all the time as kids but often avoid as adults.
“To move naturally is to efficiently and effectively move the way you were born to move, in response to your environment,” Clark says. “It’s about being adaptable rather than specialized — not just being able to do a pull-up on a metal bar, but being able to pull yourself up and over a tree branch.”
Certain traditional fitness moves — jumping, lifting, carrying, and climbing — are considered natural. But moving naturally is not about setting a personal record on your deadlift or executing as many box jumps as possible. The MovNat philosophy on which this workout is based emphasizes mastering skills and performing them with grace, control, and fluidity — while also increasing speed and strength.
Clark’s scavenger-hunt workout offers the opportunity to perform a variety of natural movements in your outdoor surroundings. Between moves, you’ll walk or jog to help your muscles recover. Try this workout somewhere with ample trees, such as a forest or an urban park.
Anytime you find yourself in an uncontrolled environment — in this case, the woods, a park, or city streets — be aware of your surroundings and make safety a priority. We recommend doing this workout in daylight, avoiding unfamiliar areas, and bringing a workout buddy or two. (See below for tips on buddying up.)
Follow the Leader
Appoint one person in your group to be the leader as you begin the scavenger hunt. The leader is responsible for choosing the first obstacle. After everyone has completed the obstacle, the leader goes to the back of the line and the next person in line becomes the leader. Between obstacles, the leader may also incorporate locomotive moves, such as skipping, hopping, or crawling, which the rest of the group imitates.
Break your group into teams of two and compete to see which team can complete all the obstacles on the course first. Both team members must complete each obstacle.
Prepare for this workout by warming up in a dry, grassy area with space to move.
• Start in a seated position on your sit bones with your knees bent and feet on the ground in front of you. Rotate your torso and both knees to your right, allowing the knees to come to the ground; then lean to your right and reach with your right arm. Slowly rotate back to center, then rotate knees to your left. Repeat five times on each side.
• Start in a tall kneeling position and shift your hips to your left, slowly lowering them toward the ground. Rise back up to the starting position, then shift your hips to the right. Repeat five times on each side.
• Stand with feet at hip width and swing your arms across your body as you rotate your torso to gaze behind you. Keep your hips squared forward and rotate from your upper back.
Once you’ve completed all the items on the list, return to a dry, grassy area to cool down.
• Lie on your belly and stretch your arms overhead. Lift one leg off the ground and cross it over the other to initiate a roll to your side. Roll three times in one direction. Then roll three times in the opposite direction to return to your starting position.
• Lying on your back, bring both arms out to your sides in a T. Bend both knees and allow them to drop toward one side, aiming to keep your rib cage in contact with the ground. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat two or three times per side.
• Lie on your back, close your eyes, and bring your attention to your breath. Take 20 deep breaths, letting your rib cage expand and belly rise with each inhale and feeling your belly draw in with each exhale. As you breathe, draw your attention to the rest of your body, noticing how each part of you feels from your head to your toes.
The following exercises can be performed in any order.
• Facing the log, place your left hand on it and bring your right foot up high and wide to place it on the log in line with your hand.
• Stabilizing with your right foot and left hand, begin to reach your left leg through the space created by your foot and hand. Continue reaching your left foot through to land on the ground in front of you, on your left foot. (Beginners: Step your left foot onto the log, then jump down, landing on two feet.)
• Repeat, this time using the opposite-side hand and foot.
Why it works: Challenges and improves shoulder stability, hip mobility, core strength, and coordination.
Make it urban: Use a bench with no backrest or a similar surface (beginner), or a low wall or railing (intermediate).
Boulder Lift and Carry
• Stand over the object with feet hip width apart. Hinge your hips and bend your knees to lower your hands toward the object. Your shins will stay vertical.
• Grab ahold of the object and begin to stand up. As it clears your knees, squat to receive it on top of your thighs and fold forward so you are holding the object between your upper legs and upper body.
• Adjust your arms around the object to get a solid hold and then stand up with the object close to your chest.
• Carry the object about 20 feet in one direction.
Why it works: Strengthens your entire posterior chain — hamstrings, glutes, and back — plus your core muscles.
Make it urban: Deadlift and carry for 20 feet whatever object you can find — a potted plant, a stranger’s groceries, a bicycle, your child, etc.
• Jump up or reach your hands overhead to grasp the branch with an overhand grip.
• Engage your lats by drawing your shoulders down and away from your ears (imagine you are putting your shoulder blades in your back pockets). Drop your ribs so your body is hanging in a straight line.
• Hang for 30 seconds or as long as you can. Beginners can keep their feet on the ground if necessary.
Why it works: Strengthens your back, shoulders, arms, and gripping muscles, and prepares you for more challenging pulling movements, such as pull-ups, chin-ups, and traversing.
Make it urban: Instead of hanging vertically, practice leaning sideways from a pole. Stand close to the pole and grip it with one hand. Lean away from the pole so that you are “hanging” sideways. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch arms.
• To crawl up the hill, start on your hands and knees. Then lift your knees so they hover above the ground, making sure not to round your back. Start moving your opposite hand and foot together to go up the hill.
• Once you reach the top, flip over and descend the hill in an inverted-crab position, face up and feet first. Keep your hips lifted.
• Move opposite hand and foot together, alternating sides until you reach the bottom of the hill.
Why it works: Crawls build core strength and full-body coordination. The inverted crawl helps open up the front of the body and improves shoulder mobility.
Make it urban: Practice these movements on a ramp or, if you can’t find an inclined surface, on level ground. Aim to travel about 20 feet with each type of crawl.
• Facing the tree, reach your arms up and wrap both hands around the trunk.
• Bring both feet to the bottom of the trunk and press the insides of your legs against it, using your inner thigh muscles to keep a tight grip.
• Lean away from the tree with your upper body, allowing your arms to straighten while continuing to grip the tree with your hands and feet. For a greater challenge, bring your feet higher up on the trunk. Hold for as long as you can.
Why it works: Builds full-body strength, emphasizing muscles of the inner thighs, arms, and chest.
Make it urban: If you can’t find a tree, do this exercise on a lamppost or other type of pole.
• Carefully step one foot in front of the other to walk the length of the log, engaging all the muscles of your stabilizing leg with each step forward. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides. Breathe.
• Once you reach the end, step your right foot in front of your left and then lift both heels slightly to pivot toward your left 180 degrees. Allow your heels to return to the log.
• Too easy? Walk backward on the log to one end, pivot to reverse, and then walk backward to the other end.
Why it works: Improves balance and coordination.
Make it urban: Perform the same movement on a narrow curb, railing, or low fence.