Be a Human, Carry a Human

Shane Trotter


Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development


It’s summer—that magical annual cycle that reminds us that there is more to life than punching data into spreadsheets. Engulfed in nostalgia, you leave work early, take long weekends at the lake, and even pull yourself away from responsibility entirely for a week of hiking and fishing in the mountains with your three best friends.


It is one of those perfect getaways. Nights by the campfire, days free from the ping of an email or the stress of chauffeuring kids. You can’t help but question the rat-race lifestyle you’ve somehow fallen into. Something about the sounds of birds and streams—the fresh air and primal living patterns seems to call you towards a more harmonious, free existence.



You’re all feeling this when you decide to hike up to the point—a hard, infrequently trafficked, while ruggedly beautiful, 11-mile day. It is known as a test of hiker skill and, while some of your buddies certainly haven’t been taking care of themselves, you know your fitness is up for the challenge. You yearn to try. This sort of test is what you live for. In a very real way, it is what we all were meant for.


The day starts out beautifully and, pulled by a steady stream of jokes, insults, and collective enthusiasm, you make it to the point by lunchtime. It is gorgeous—worth the burning of legs and lungs—the sweat, leg cramps, water crossings, and other harsh elements.


This transcendent experience could never be captured in a pretty picture. As magnificent as your feeling of deep connection is, you know it is impermanent. There is no bottling it up for a rainy day and no way to convey it to loved ones back home.


After being on your feet all day, your crew finally hits the ground for lunch. It hurts so good. Exhausted, everyone eats ravenously—a renewed curiosity and appreciation for each nourishing bite, as if you can feel the food going to work on your battered system. Against your will, an hour flies by and the crew begins collecting themselves for the journey back. Y’all need to go if you’re going to get the campfire rolling before dark.


The return is uneventful—rugged, beautiful, and full of stories—until Andrew makes a bad jump while crossing a stream and trying to get to dry land. His ankle breaks clean. He sits there cursing, fully aware that there is no way he can support himself.



“I have a band-aid,” Jason jokes. “We’ll be back in the morning,” adds Bret. But everyone knows what needs to happen. Each of them picks up an extra pack, yours and Andrew’s, and you squat down to lift Andrew over your shoulder. With night fast approaching, you’ve just inherited 200 pounds of cargo. Four miles to go.


Could You Do It?

Could you do it? Could you rise to the occasion? Before bodybuilding and the explosion of the globo-gym, questions like this drove most training. “Be strong to be useful,” as Natural Method founder Georges Hebert famously directed. All the way back to the agricultural revolution, our first civilizations toiled under the sun driven by that same question. If necessary, will I be able to rise to the occasion?


A few weeks ago, I discussed Stan LeProtti’s La Sierra High PE program. Far from the watered-down free-for-all most of us envision when we think of PE, Leprotti’s program inspired Spartan warrior levels of fitness across an entire high-school population. It was the physical education every American should have had.




LeProtti, a veteran of World War II, was driven by the notion that a strong nation full of people with strong character could only arise from real physical strength. Everyone, in his eyes, should have the capability and courage to rise to the occasion. Part of that was mastering the skill of the man lift and carry, more commonly known as the fireman’s carry.


For this reason, every test battery required participants to carry a similarly weighted individual for a given distance. The lowest standard was 800 meters. For a very rare, elite few who earned navy shorts, the standard was a 5-mile man lift and carry, or as it is more commonly known, a fireman’s carry.


Be a Human, Carry a Human

The fireman’s carry is done with a simple technique that we should all master. To do it all you need is a good training partner. If you aren’t very close, yet, this will help.



Follow these steps for a fireman’s carry from the ground:


  1. If your partner is on their back, make sure they are facing you and take your hands under his/her arms and around his/her back to bring them to a standing position.
  2. Once there, take your right foot between their legs and take his/her right hand in your left and wrap it around your shoulder. The back of your head will end up in the crease of their armpit.
  3. With your head under their right armpit, squat down and grab their right knee in your right hand.
  4. Try to evenly distribute him/her across your shoulders. Stand.
  5. Grab his/her right hand with your right hand and walk.


I recommend making a challenge of it. See how far each of you can carry each other. Go over and over again for an amazing, no equipment outdoor workout perfect for the summer. The loaded carry has always been a fundamental human movement worth adding to any workout. This just takes it to another level.


And if someone doesn't make it easy for you to carry them, you might want to learn how to do the ranger roll to get that body up in the right position.



The Gift of Adversity

Digging deep to find capability for a challenge is perhaps the most powerful formula for a peak experience. You could avoid having to be useful or physically capable by avoiding real, raw experiences, but in so doing, you are allowing a large part of you to remain dormant. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.


The last thing I’d want to do with this story is to deter people from risking these vital instances. A far greater risk is falling into the complacent, limited patterns that afflict so many today. We need to seek these peak experiences. Don't seek the danger, but seek the challenge. Go back to nature. Take the time for a long hike.


This story isn’t a call to insulate yourself more, but a call to remain human. To remain capable of living as humans always have and doing the things that make life an awesome adventure. Get out and explore as often as possible. And when you can, train that capacity to rise to the occasion. Because you never know when you might have to.

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