And definitely not painless. I had the great pleasure of attending a MovNat workshop at Holly Park in San Francisco this past weekend. The workshop was taught by Clifton Harski, a protégé of Erwan Le Corre’s. If you haven’t heard of Erwan or MovNat, watch this video to understand the appeal:
Doesn’t that just make you want to get out of your seat and do something? And that was the over-arching feeling of the day; get out there and have fun with moving. MovNat ascribes to three main principles:
MovNat is about reconnecting with nature. I grew up indoors, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a desire to get outdoors more and see what I’ve been missing. All the one-day workshops take place in local parks around the country; the five-day workshops are taught near a lake in West Virginia and the seven-day workshops (which I really want to do) are in Thailand. These areas are carefully selected by the instructors to provide the best link to revitalize your relationship with nature.
Hmm…getting in touch with nature by moving the way our bodies are meant to move. If that sounds awfully familiar to the Paleo mantra, you’re catching on to the theme of this site. Erwan designed MovNat to be in sync with our evolutionary bias toward a large group of skills: jumping, climbing, running, hunting, etc. If our hunter-gather ancestors couldn’t do these things, they starved or were killed by predators. And before you go all “caveman logical fallacy” on me (that’s my schtick!) there is scientific support to such training. Additionally, the MovNat instructors are all Paleo advocates, and it shows. They are all impressive physical specimens and truly awe-inspiring in the way they move with grace and confidence.
As Clifton claimed in our workshop “we’re not training for the apocalypse” (speak for yourself, zombies are terrifying), but it’s important to have a certain level of physical prowess that sitting/standing at our desks just doesn’t afford us. I love CrossFit for the challenge and the amazing strength it’s given me, but it doesn’t really go beyond general physical preparedness. I have a hard time picturing how a kettlebell swing is going to help me rescue an armful of puppies from a burning building. But MovNat imbues an extra level of practical skills that are incredibly applicable to situations where I need to run, climb and jump my way out of danger while expending as little energy as possible. That’s right, natural movement is efficient movement, and as a Lazy Caveman, I appreciate that.
The title of this post came from an Erwan-ism. He describes the system of MovNat as “limitless” because once you’ve learned the basic movements, you can apply them to anything nature throws at you. Clifton added his own -ism in there to emphasize the point that the lack of rigid structure in MovNat “workouts” doesn’t make them any less effective in achieving specific fitness goals.
So, what kinds of things will you learn at a MovNat workshop? We covered eight of the twelve “natural movement skills”, namely walking, balancing, climbing, jumping, moving on all fours, running and lifting. Carrying, throwing, catching, swimming and defending, are all taught in the multi-day courses. The omission of those skills definitely left me wanting by the end of the day, but I was grateful that we got as much time as we did on the main eight.
Was it worth the steep price? For me it was, because I’ve had very little exposure to the outdoors and it helped give me a little more context and confidence in my movements. For others, this stuff may be a no-brainer, so to pay someone to teach you how to play outside may feel a bit silly. Overall, I think it can be a great training system on its own, or as a complement to an existing program, which is how I plan to use it. Keep a look out for Erwan’s book on MovNat, slated to come out later this year.
And I leave you with another video of Erwan doing ridiculously cool things: