Mud, Sweat & Tears
Men's Health UK|June 2019

At Evryman men’s retreats, attendees spend five nights in the American wilds, sharing their deepest desires and darkest thoughts. The goal is to help men relearn how to access and express their emotions. Sceptical? So were we… at first

Nate Green

Well, this is uncomfortable. My palms are sweating, my heart is pounding.

Why did I think this was a good idea? I could be at home right now with my girlfriend and my dog, having a beer and watching Netflix. But no. Instead, I’m staring directly into the eyes of a small man with a big, red beard. Andrew – he said his name was Andrew.

I shift my posture. Andrew shifts his, too. Finally, he takes a deep breath and speaks: “If you really knew me, you’d know that I smoke too much weed and use it as a coping mechanism.” He lowers his gaze, embarrassed. When he looks up again, we lock eyes. Now, it’s my turn.

“If you really knew me,” I tell him, “you’d know that I sometimes drink too much alcohol, and it worries me.” My words surprise me. I have never uttered them out loud before. I instantly feel lighter. Andrew smiles, relieved not to be alone in his confession. “Thanks,” he says.

We’re standing in a clearing in Big Sky, Montana. It’s nearing sunset and the clouds are turning purple. From where we are, you can turn 360 degrees and see for miles in every direction. The tall grass gives way to dense pine trees, which in turn yield to snow-capped mountains.

We’re accompanied by 16 other men, paired off just as Andrew and I are. Behind us is a log cabin that will be our home for the next two nights. After that, we’ll trek into the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park, where we’ll walk and sleep among the bears, mosquitoes and stars. We all met for the first time an hour ago.

“Nice work, guys,” says Dan Doty, our group leader. “Get to the edge of your comfort zone, and then go a little past it.”

Dan, the co-founder of Evryman, is 36 years old, bearded and muscular. Give him a cardigan and he could pass for an outdoorsy version of the Dude from The Big Lebowski. The men who have gathered here come from various backgrounds: a woodworker from Seattle, a recently fired hedge fund manager from Manhattan, a medical cannabis grower from Arizona. At least four of them are ex-military. Despite our differences, we’ve all parted with about £2,600 for the same reason: to connect with nature, ourselves and each other. “Switch,” says Dan.

My next partner is Aaron, who has close-cropped hair and tattooed arms. I will later learn that he spent 14 years in the army, seven of those in remote outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will learn about his parachute accident and his post-traumatic stress disorder. And I will learn how he went from being a weapons and tactics sergeant to working as Evryman’s operations manager. Right now, however, he is just another member of the group.

“Get closer,” Dan instructs. “Reach out and put your right hand on the shoulder of the man in front of you.”

We do. His eyes well up with tears, and I am suddenly so overwhelmed with emotion that my eyes start to water, too. He just looks so… hurt.

“Finish this sentence,” Dan says. “‘The thing I’m most grateful for is…’”

Aaron and I stare into each other’s eyes. Ten seconds go by. Twenty seconds. The boundaries of my body start to dissolve. I have the feeling of looking into a mirror.

“I’m grateful for my wife and my son,” Aaron says, finally. “And I’m grateful I found this group.”

Times of Trouble

“Men are hurting,” says Dan. We’re sitting in a coffee shop in Bozeman, Montana. It’s two weeks before the retreat, and I’m here to ask if I can come along. “Suicide rates are climbing,” he continues. “The #MeToo movement, sexual abuse… Men are hurting themselves and others. But they are not getting the help they need.”

In Dan’s view, there are two main causes for the pain men are feeling: the repression of their emotions and a lack of deep connections. He knows this because he has seen it in boys. When he was in his twenties, Dan was a wilderness guide who led troubled kids on expeditions – the kind of boys who hurt themselves and each other. The kind of boys who are on a direct path to prison, or worse. But slowly, while sitting around the fire, Dan showed these boys how to open up. And he did this by going first. He talked about being scared.

“It starts a chain reaction,” Dan says. “When one person opens up, it gives everyone else in the space permission to do the same.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MEN'S HEALTH UKView All

The False Prophets Of Wellness

Muscle, fat loss, wisdom… Whatever you seek, there is now an entrepreneurial guru armed with hashtags who claims to have the answer. But is it gospel?

2 mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

Every Question You Ever Had About Really Eating Well

Nutrition is a maddening business. Foods are in one day, compost the next; vitamins that cured ills last week are promptly debunked. We all want to eat better, but who has the time to sift fact from fad? Rest easy because this is your easily digestible, bite-sized guide to doing precisely that

10+ mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

Trail By Fire

A full-body workout offering the mental health benefits of both nature and exercise, trail running is fast on the ascent. We sent our man to the wilds of Fuerteventura to race one of the world’s best. At least we gave him a head start…

5 mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

The Next Generation

The mental well-being of our children and teenagers is in crisis, with anxiety and depression at an all-time high. Can early intervention help today’s young men grow up better equipped to deal with life’s challenges? MH spent a week in a south London school to speak to those working to brighten futures

10+ mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

The Greatest Of Our Time

Powerful but dexterous, explosive yet graceful, Anthony Joshua is the embodiment of the modern boxer. At a time when the heavyweight division is arguably more exciting than it has been in decades, he talks to MH about the qualities that set him apart

10+ mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

Mud, Sweat & Tears

At Evryman men’s retreats, attendees spend five nights in the American wilds, sharing their deepest desires and darkest thoughts. The goal is to help men relearn how to access and express their emotions. Sceptical? So were we… at first

10+ mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

Scorched Earth

Trained to hold their nerve amid towering infernos and sweltering heat, the Hotshot Crews are America’s first line of defence against some of the world’s most destructive and deadly forest fires. What does it take to charge into the blaze against all of your instincts? MH signed up to find out

7 mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

Fight Club Tropicana

In a sleepy corner of Brazil’s coastline sits the crucible of the country’s martial art of capoeira and a deluxe fight camp to hone your BJJ skills. It’s a knockout spot for body and mind, with the gentler combo of cocktails and tan lines after class. Let’s dance

2 mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

Blurred Lines

We now use more cocaine than any other nation in Europe, with the drug cheaper, purer and more ubiquitous than it has been in a decade. So, how does this sit with modern Britain’s otherwise health-conscious and ethical outlook? And how concerned should we be? MH meets users, dealers and researchers to get to the crux of a strange contradiction

10+ mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019

23 (Legal) Ways To Boost Your Serotonin

The so-called happy hormone is your body’s in-built mood-improving switch. But securing a regular buzz needn’t mean indulging your more libertine impulses. Use our score sheet to enjoy a healthy high, whenever you want it. Consider it self-care without the scented candles

6 mins read
Men's Health UK
June 2019