Man, I wish I had a house where I could set up a Gym.
An Ancient Roman Campus Martius I would build! Full of big Rocks, and Ropes, and Wooden Posts against which to practice the arts of inflicting bodily harm upon one’s foe! Wooden Horses to vault, and poles for running vaults and jumping, with a Pool for swimming after the exercises are done!
Unfortunately, my Vegetius based gym and PT Plan must wait.
But, I do have one thing I can do: March.
That’s right: I can March. I can Make Like the Infantry. Agitate Gravel. Crunch Mud. Beat Feet. Burn Leather. Dance the Cobbler’s Delight.
And, I can do it for free! That’s the best part! Frankly, I want to Thru-Hike the Long Trail next year, but I have to be in good enough shape to do that. So, I’m Adopting a Roman Army Training Plan, based on that described in Vegetius.
I’m not going to jump right into the idea of 18-22 miles in “5 Summer Hours”, 3 times a month. In Fact, I’m going to go more for about 12 miles to start out, but carrying my full expected kit for the Long Trail. I think I’ll find a 6 mile Trail out-and-back for this, and start with once a month. Then I’ll work up until I can do the Roman thing.
This sounds a bit ambitious to me, but it might not be. The old Army Song refers to “40 miles a day on beans and hay/ in the Regular Army, Oh.” That’s not impossible, just damnably difficult. You have to start Early, and keep moving at a fast pace, and ditch all additional weight. A good example of it being done in the modern world in the “Maryland Challenge” on the Appalachian Trail. Food is easier to carry in your stomach than your bag. Water is the same. The only Meals you eat are a cold Breakfast and a Cold Dinner, both in the dark. Lunch is eaten on the hoof, and in the modern world, you have the advantage of MREs, First-Strike Rations, power bars and any number of other light-weight food options that will still provide the necessary fuel. Historically, you’re mostly talking about not stopping to eat anything more than Tasty, Tasty Hardtack (Which, its critics be damned, is delicious. Just ask Jack Of All Times).
But, I’m not going to need to go 40 miles in a day. It’s just not necessary, in any way shape or form. So I’m likely not going to try it, unless I get bored, and really fast on my feet for a long period of time. We’ll see how this goes, but at the worst, it’ll just kill my knees, and make me figure out what I won’t be bringing along on my hikes anymore. Once I hit the Long Trail, however, It’s business time. I make no guarantees as to how many miles I’ll cram into a day just to say I’ve done it.
I will, unfortunately, have to skip the more Martial parts of the training described in Vegetius, such as the exercise of the Posts, Spear-Throwing, Sword-Work, Wrestling, Boxing, and Fencing. Well, I do Fence, but that’s another matter, and I don’t do so with weighted weapons, as he describes. Vaulting is also out for the moment, but would be a good thing to practice.
Working with a friend, we were discussing the issue of Martial Culture in History, and the Fitness Activities which have been pursued since Vegetius’ time have been used until very recently in the Martial Classes. I would be fascinated as to how they factor into the ability to fight and perform in Historic Martial Arts. If anybody’s interested in helping with this project, they should let me know. It’ll be like a historical CrossFit, but more awesome, due to the swords.