A MovNat workshop retrospective
April 27, 2011
We intended to write a comprehensive review of the one-day MovNat workshop we recently participated in, but realized that others have already done so, and that our overall impression isn’t much different1. In short, the experience was fantastic, despite the fact that we started the day with relatively cool weather and a rainy forecast. (This hampered a couple of the planned activities, but as the purpose of the workshop was to present MovNat fundamentals, we were still able to get an understanding of the basic concepts and techniques behind the MovNat philosophy.) We don’t want to echo back every other review out there, but would still like to focus on some points that we find particularly notable about the experience, and general idea behind MovNat.
For those who have no idea what we’re talking about, MovNat is, at its core, a workout philosophy based around the idea that humans evolved a range of movement abilities that helped us to prosper and evolve over thousands of years. Unlike typical gym workouts, working on these movements is the ideal method for preventing injury and developing truly functional fitness2. If we practice the basic movements that humans have evolved to perform well over time (the same movements that are foundational to all human activities), then we can argue we’re developing overall fitness in an ideal, safe manner. There are 12 of these core movements: walking, balancing, climbing, jumping, moving on all fours, running, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming, and defending3.
You can gather considerable appreciation for these movements when you consider that many individuals, who may be able to do, say, a dozen pullups, are not able to climb atop a horizontal bar. This illustrates the notion that many people may have appreciable strength in some areas, but are woefully lacking the ability to properly utilize that strength. In a sense, that strength development is wasted, because it succumbs to considerable weakness that exists in other areas. MovNat is about addressing these weaknesses and developing an overall fit person4, akin to those of our ancestors who, in order to survive, needed to fully master the aforementioned 12 movements.
MovNat is not about reenactment, though. The 12 movements aren’t practiced purely because they are important in an evolutionary context, but because they continue to be important today5. Just as martial arts address the potential for a fight, so too does MovNat prepare us for the potential circumstances that we might encounter, be they natural disasters, accidents, or other worst-case scenarios. More importantly, MovNat teaches us not only how important the 12 movements are, but how to perform them correctly, so as to not injure ourselves when executing them. Further, these 12 movements are taught to be efficient, so as to expend as little energy as possible when doing them.
It’s also worth pointing out that despite MovNat meeting our inherent need to be outdoors, MovNat itself is not restricted to parks, forests, and other outdoor play-spaces. Indeed, many of the 12 movements can easily be practiced indoors, to include the local gym6. A good thing to remember, though, is that a MovNat workout needn’t contain every, or even most, movements in a single session; just work the movements you can, when you can. So if you’re limited to indoors spaces because of inclement weather, there are still workouts you can explore.
MovNat is still in its infancy, and with only three “official” trainers, the movement (no pun intended) is still growing. Founder Erwan Le Corre is in the process of writing a MovNat book, and MovNat coach certification is coming later this year. Only recently, a MovNat alumni group was started on Facebook, which may become an avenue for distributing training materials summarizing workshop lessons to those who’ve already attended a MovNat event. All of these things are excellent, and we continue to look forward to how MovNat evolves.
Is the workshop worth it? If you’re new to the concept of natural movement, you’ll have plenty to learn, and even those of you who’ve explored things like barefoot running or Parkour7 in the past, will have plenty to look forward to. The one-day workshops aren’t cheap, but considering the travel required by the instructor, and the lack of other good source material out there, it’s a small investment in one’s future fitness, especially considering that one doesn’t need a gym membership or store-bought equipment to continue doing MovNat workouts. Those considering participating in a workshop in the future needn’t be worried about being too unfit, either; the day’s exercises are illustrative (albeit hands-on), and only a short portion of the day is what could be described as “intense.” Still, you’ll be surprised at how sore you’ll end up just doing seemingly simple exercises.
It’s hard to walk away from the one-day workshop without looking forward to future MovNat workouts; looking at the world differently is an expected outcome. It’s not so much that a new world opens up to you, but rather that you rediscover a world you forgot about as you left childhood. It’s a world you’re happy to have back.
You can find a good, recent overview of the one-day MovNat course at Michael Richeson’s blog. His experience was on the opposite coast, but with minor variations aside, the one-day fundamentals workshops are basically the same. ↩
As Richeson points out in his own blog entry, the term “functional fitness” is considerably overused nowadays. While many athletic programs claim to be “functional” and may in some way benefit overall fitness, if you’re not performing activities that precisely mimic real-life scenarios, then you’re not really practicing something functional. Every exercise is going to help you get better at that exercise, but how well do these exercises prepare you for things you can expect to deal with out in the real world? ↩
Swimming and defending are mentioned, but not addressed, at the one-day workshops, though they are fully addressed at the longer MovNat workshops. From an aside conversation with instructor Clifton Harski, the defensive portion is vaguely similar to Krav Maga, being more survival-oriented than attempting to produce a comprehensive martial arts system. ↩
Fit people, as you’ll come to understand after participating in a MovNat workshop, have developed incredibly powerful armpits (ask Clifton). ↩
Sedentary individuals may not see the need for some of these 12 movements, but they also don’t see the need for overall fitness and health either, so we’ll dismiss their criticism outright. ↩
For even more convenience indoors, consider a CrossFit Box or Parkour gym. Both often have “open” periods that allow members to use equipment while no classes are in session. ↩
Parkour utilizes several of the 12 natural movements, but is not as all-encompassing as MovNat. Parkour’s similarities are based on the fact that both it, and MovNat, are derivatives of Methode Naturelle. ↩