097. Kyle Koch: Training, nature, and tracking

Episode summary

Kyle Koch LINK (250)
Kyle Koch

Going to a gym doesn’t cut it for Kyle Koch; His movement is guided by being in nature and responding to his environment. He recounts his movement journey from beginnings to rediscovery, and explains his current training. Kyle shares his insights on learning to interact with the environment, and seeing others begin to train outside. He discusses the nervous system, the importance of training in nature, and his inspirations.

Kyle Koch is a former IT software technician turned nature nerd. He has been facilitating transformative experiences in nature for almost a decade: inspiring youth and adults to connect to their gifts through exploration, play, and curiosity. Kyle is always expanding his practice through the study and application of: functional neurology concepts, traditional strength training, martial arts (Systema), and meditation and breathing (Wim Hof Method). When not teaching or facilitating, you can find Kyle exploring ways to deepen his connection with himself, others, and the Earth.

Highlight [0:00]

Kyle (00:04):
So I think that the sit spot is exactly that. It’s just going outside and being curious and seeing what draws your attention, and then asking more questions, “Oh, that tree is interesting.” Question I might ask is, could I climb it? And if I can climb it, will I climb it? Or I see all these trees that I can’t yet climb, but that’s the motivation.

Introduction [0:31]

Childhood role of movement [2:13]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Previously talked on Art of Retreat’s podcast
  • Large role, unconscious of the importance until later
  • Constantly outdoors, night games; Moving to the “suburbs,” running through woods, catching frogs
  • Losing movement in early adulthood; no longer a priority, not a practice
  • Re-introduction to natrual-ish movement at Monkey Bar Gym in Milwaukee
  • Changes at work brought him back to nature; attended Anake Nature school
  • Realized he couldn’t move the way he wanted to, and went to make a change

Mental Gym Switch [9:01]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Knowing what to work on at the gym
  • Working only outside, trying to learn by doing… resulted in overuse injuries
  • Tanner Walker designed strength and mobility routine with Kyle’s specific goals
  • The gym as a conscious tool

Challenges and resources [11:49]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Resting squat, perpendicular bar balance
  • Working on both skill and strength
  • Finding a mentor and coach is a key to growth; difference between the two
  • Find out who’s the best, then find who they learned from
“ I think we live in this incredible age where you could just Google anything. And maybe that's good or bad. There's a lot of trash out there. But yeah, I think finding people and having a coach and having a mentor, I think is one of the best things that anybody can do in the nature connection space. I was mentored in this way, that's that distinguishing quality of a coach, I feel a coach is kind of telling you what to do, and a mentor is drawing out your own insights. They're kind of leading you. They're helping lead you down the path, but you're doing the work. ”

Kyle Koch

Interacting with the environment [14:51]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Walk around, notice, outside and get curious
  • Ask questions… could I? Will I?
  • Making the attempt, getting started
  • Society and public perception of your practice; inspires and causes mindfulness
  • Being a role model, showing what’s possible, staying aware of perceptions
  • Damaging trees and property, feeling remorse and respect; learning from it
  • Leave no trace is impossible; Make your trace positive, use skills for good

Craig (18:16):
We invariably bump up against society to a lesser or greater degree. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are about when you’re encountering other people? Are you able to continue doing what you were doing? Or do you find that you have to choose between, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, or I’m going to modify this because I’m now touching society, “Oh, here comes somebody.” I’m just wondering how that works out for you, the contact with society and how that affects what you’re doing?

Kyle (18:49):
Yeah, it definitely affects me. And I actually have with this current situation that we’re in, the majority of my practice takes place in city parks, and is this interesting balance. I mean, it totally affects me. So sometimes it inspires me to do something bigger, cooler, to impress or kind of feed my ego. And yes, sometimes it encourages me to be really mindful of what I’m doing because of the perception.

Kyle (19:25):
So especially kids, when there are kids at the park, and they’re watching me, I’m stoked. I want to inspire them. I want to show them what’s possible. And it’s interesting to see the reaction of the parent, for sure. It definitely depends on the age of the kid. If the kid is too young to try and really interested the parents are stoked, but if the kid is old enough to actually act on the things that I’m doing, the parents are usually… sometimes give me a disdain to look like-

Continue reading…

Craig (20:03):
I know, you’re instigating.

Kyle (20:04):
“Why are you on the playground? This is for the kids.” Yeah, so I want to role model healthy adults that play. I also want to role model… when you’re climbing a tree, you can damage the tree. And so I want to role model that. And I’ve had people yell at me, “What are you doing? Get down there? You can’t do that, you’re hurting the tree.” I’m always torn between how do I respond? Do I educate them, and, or offer my perspective on how I’m actually providing value to the tree?

Craig (20:51):
[crosstalk 00:20:51] with them, right. How do you…

Kyle (20:54):
Yeah. And so that’s definitely a tough place to be in because I have broken branches. And I have damaged trees, and I don’t feel good about it. And I’m super bummed. And if I do that, and someone sees it, it creates this image. Same in parkour, there’s a headline, whoever damages some…

Craig (21:16):
[crosstalk 00:21:16] Damages a railing. You’re right.

Kyle (21:19):
Yeah. It’s, I just, I wish they could see or feel my remorse when that happens.

Craig (21:28):
That’s a good point. I hear what you’re saying about the remorse when you cause damage. I saw… make sure I tell the story, so it can’t be identified. I saw a coach at an event once demonstrating being playful, wipe out a lamppost. They swung around it, and the lamppost just went, “I’m too old for that.” And came down. Came down really slow, and nobody got hurt, but the light definitely broke, and it certainly fell over. And I’m, “Yep, that’s irreparably damaged.” To fix that they’re going have to… that’s a major repair.

Craig (22:03):
And not much was said about it, and we basically just left it, because what were we going to do. But I don’t know, I didn’t talk to the coach about it, because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. But I felt bad in the remorse sense, not, “Oh my God, we broke a light.” But I hate when this thing that we all love, so much causes any damage at all. Not because I want to be a, “We leave no trace.” But just because that is so not what any of the people that I train with are ever intending to do. We don’t mean to rip a branch off, we don’t mean to wreck a light post. But when it does happen, it’s [inaudible 00:22:38]

Craig (22:39):
A railing comes loose from pulling on it, because those anchors, and the bricks are meant to be, not pulled. But when those things happen, you’re torn internally. And I actually think that’s really good for anyone, each of us to experience that. It’s really good for you to grab on something, break it in public, and then go [inaudible 00:23:04] Because that’s an important emotion, because that gives you a frame of reference for how much you valued the thing that you were hanging on. Might not have thought about it when you went to swing on the tree, but you really value that tree. And then when you break one once in a while, it really, not resets as it changes, but shows you how much you value that.

Craig (23:22):
And the one you mentioned that, the remorse for… it’s just a tree. 20 years, you can make a new one, and there’s 1000s more just like it, but the remorse shows to yourself that you really do value those moments, those times, those trees, those experiences.

Kyle (23:38):
Yeah, and that connection, and not to say that manmade things, people don’t have deep connections to them. But yeah, there’s something about a tree branch that I’ve swung on… I broke a branch a few weeks ago, and it’s a branch that I used to get into the tree. And so it’s that access point for me. And I’ve played on that branch for four years. And I broke it. So I was, “Man,” I felt so bad. And I know enough about trees to either remove the branch or support the tree in a way that it can heal and it’s not going to overall affect the health of the tree.

Kyle (24:26):
But yeah, it is making me so much more aware on every tree I will climb from here on out. And I think that’s the thing. It’s not that these things are bad or… it’s an opportunity when you fail, to create awareness to move forward on a better path and to have more awareness. Because the whole, leave no trace thing, I have a problem with it, because it’s impossible. It is an absolutely impossible standard to not leave a trace. In the nature sense, the mycelium responds to every foot-

Craig (25:10):
Print, right.

Kyle (25:13):
And everything that we do, we have impact. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And I want to be in a place of creating more positive stories.

Outdoor beginners [26:38]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • More people working out outside is good, no matter what they’re doing
  • Go outside, remain; start of the journey
  • Thoughts on giving advice

Nervous system and nature [30:22]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Katy Bowman, visual range of motion indoors vs outdoors
  • Eye and brain connection, regulating the nervous system
  • Using the physical to affect the mental, natural therapy

Training practices [36:23]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Training specific for parkour, not enough people doing it
  • Efficiency principle in training; 20/80 method, training that benefits many things
  • Nature vs gym, natural stimulus gives you more
  • Ryan Ford from Strength and Conditioning, Rafe Kelly from nature
  • Versatile ways to use body weight, transferring skills

Kyle (36:44):
When we were talking about the gym and parkour, and how there seems to be a big separation in between those. And then, just in my experience, I feel a lot of the parkour athletes I see training in the gym are not sports specific training in a way, and it’s been interesting. I’ve been talking with and following a lot of Ryan Ford’s work. And he seems to be one of the only people in the space that’s really utilizing these concepts, so I see. And I’ve worked pretty closely with Rafe Kelly at Evolve Move Play, and we’ve been talking about this efficiency principle in training.

Kyle (37:33):
And there’s so many things to train, but how can I kind of… what’s the 20% of the things that I can do, that’s going to give me the 80% of the things. What are the free gains I can get? So I’m really interested that, that perspective from both a strength and conditioning perspective. An example is, by working towards your one arm chin up, you can increase your weighted chin ups, you can increase your dips, you can increase your bench press. All these things that you get for free, but none of those things will help you get a one arm Chin up.

Kyle (38:18):
And then that similar concept in nature is, I’m balancing on branches and jumping from trees and moving in this chaotic, dynamic environment. Jumping over creeks and walking on rocks that are moving. And when I do that, it’s hard and I have to pay attention. But then when I move into a gym space, it’s so safe and solid, and I feel… again, that gives me this, but this doesn’t necessarily equate to that. And so that’s just the big question I have.

Current inspirations [42:28]

Contact and further info

You can follow Kyle and his work on his website (trottingsparrow.com), and his instagram (@trottingsparrow).