How This Ecologist Starts His Day With Three Hundred Burpees up the Side of a Redwood

How This Ecologist Starts His Day With Three Hundred Burpees up the Side of a Redwood
Anthony Ambrose’s office commute always feels like a few hundred burpees. Such is life for a forest ecologist who climbs to the top of California’s redwoods and giant sequoias to study the effects of climate change on trees. To get from the forest floor to the canopy of a 300-foot-tall, 3,000-year-old giant tree and not damage it, Ambrose straps himself into thick rope rigging and attaches a harness and mechanical ascenders to the rope. From there, it’s squat and leap, squat and leap, until he’s at the top. All while carrying a backpack filled with 50 pounds of gear.

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“You’re using your whole body,” Ambrose says, “engaging your core, your legs, and your arms.” That daily routine has sculpted Ambrose’s 5’11”, 180-pound frame while prepping him for other challenges 300 feet aboveground. He spends most days with his legs constantly flexed, wedged between a tree trunk and thick branches as he battles winds and measures photosynthesis rates, tracks water status, or takes leaf samples.

It’s an eight-hour balancing act that leaves little time for a serious lunch. So Ambrose munches on apples, nuts, protein bars, and “salty stuff,” which replaces the electrolytes he loses while sweating in the sunlight. His favorite days involve reaching the “office” before the sun has come up. “We watch the sunrise from the top,” he says, “and it’s just amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, and humbling. I feel grateful for that every time.”

How to climb (well, sort of) like a forest ecologist

Three hundred of Ambrose’s assisted burpees are roughly equivalent to 100 regular ones. Try it: Set a timer and do 100 burpees as quickly as possible, trying to finish in 5 minutes. (Ambrose’s morning commute typically takes about 15 to 20 minutes.)

This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Men’s Health.


Michael Easter is a health and fitness writer and a visiting lecturer at UNLV.

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