Last year, I attended a 1-Day MovNat workshop, something I had been hoping to do ever since reading this article, watching this video, and listening to Erwan Le Corre on Robb Wolf’s podcast. Erwan’s explanation of the need for natural human movement efficiency (i.e. running, climbing, jumping, crawling) and re-connecting with the outdoors really got me fired up.
Was MovNat the fitness program of the past and future? Did it represent a “missing link” in CrossFit programming and methodology (something I touched on here)? Or did it only appeal to a very small group of people? The only way to find out was to experience it for myself!
I attended my first workshop in August 2011, and I loved it. But I didn’t write about it then because I wanted time to let it all sink in. You cover a lot during an intense workshop like this, and I think it’s important to see what ACTUALLY STICKS with you once you get back into your normal routine.
In the meantime, I started talking with my good friend Ben about my experiences, and soon we determined to give the workshop another go, this time together, so we could talk more about the concepts and bounce ideas off of each other. We drove about 5 hours up to the Fit 2 Play gym in Columbus, OH. Round 2 featured a different environment (indoors instead of out), the same awesome instructor (Clifton Harski), different people, and two different perspectives. Check out the video that MovNat shot at our workshop, and then read our reactions to our experience below. Enjoy!
1. Why did you attend the MovNat workshop? What did you hope to get out of it?
M: I was instantly drawn to the idea of using only our bodies and our environments to move efficiently (i.e. without injury) and become fit. While living in Japan, most of my workouts were done outdoors with whatever equipment I could find, but I felt like there was still more to learn and ways to make my programming even better. For my first workshop,I hoped to gain a better understanding of techniques for human movement, how to categorize them and improve them systematically, and how to program for different individuals using the MovNat system. The 2nd workshop was an opportunity to refine my technique, ask questions about things I had encountered during the interim 6 months of training, and share this way of training with my friend.
B: Matt introduced me to an awesome, practical fitness program when he was first getting steeped in training methods: MovNat. I had a lot of interest in the MovNat philosophy, but hadn’t really done more than watch a few videos and listen to Matt’s ramblings regarding how awesome Erwan and company were. Matt’s first experience at a workshop had been extremely positive, so when a chance for us both to go came around, I was pumped. Ultimately, I attended because I wanted to further understand the MovNat way of training with hopes of leaving the 1 day workshop with a newfound awareness of my environment and due to a constant interest in efficient movement I was optimistic I could use some of the things I learned in everyday situations.
2. What was the most challenging aspect of the workshop?
M: The most challenging aspect for me was learning to RELAX. In most movements, we tense up and the concern for accuracy takes over our ability to create fluid movement. With most exercise in the gym, we are concerned with getting as “tight tight tight!” as possible. This actually proved counter productive to many of the tasks set before us at the workshop.
B: Habits are incredibly hard to break, and retraining the body to do something differently can be extraordinarily hard. My desire to stretch my hands out to my sides, rather than walking with them hanging down was seemingly unnatural. Doing a quick bear crawl with proper cross-crawling technique can be tricky at first, but just takes practice. Actually jumping onto a small target proved to be the most tricky of all exercises, I imagined it would be much easier than it actually ended up being. The hardest physical challenge for me was properly positioning myself over a pull-up bar to muscle up, bringing my entire torso over the height of the bar. I’m not a wimp, but that was tough when you don’t use the right technique—go figure.
3. Did the workshop pass the “grandma test” (i.e. was the workshop appropriately scaled to all ability levels)?
M: I think it does, but let me preface that by saying MOST people who attend the workshop have some background in training. However, I think as MovNat has become more mainstream more and more people of different backgrounds are attending and I know that Clifton modified movements for several people throughout the day. I think anyone could get a lot out of the day just with learning some of the basics such as walking/crawling/breathing etc.
B: Aside from the aforementioned pull-up into a muscle up, the difficulty of the workshop was very scalable. A few participants weren’t able to easily jump to the full height of the boxes at Fit2Play used for box jumps, so they were turned on their side to a more approachable level. The accuracy-based jumping exercises were also scaled appropriately.
4. What was your favorite part of the day?
M: My favorite part of the day was climbing trees. Learning how to wrap your arms around the tree, relax, and walk up it was really satisfying for me. I guess that makes me a tree hugger! Haha.
B: When we were doing a hanging traverse drill along the gym’s pullup bars (despite no one really noticing it), I was proud to be the only one who not only went the whole length of the bars, but turned the 90 degree corner and added on a few elements to the circuit.
5. Do you have to wear those five finger things and go shirtless in order to attend?
M: No, but you’ll look good if you do.
B: However, we wouldn’t want to alienate anyone who may be missing toes (or have some extras), and I doubt MovNat would want to exclude anyone either. In all honesty, most everyone didn’t wear shoes for nearly the duration of the workshop. Most of us put on some Merrell Trail Gloves, New Balance Minimus, or Vibram Fivefingers prior to doing the ‘barefoot style’ running drills outside. Shirtless would be good, but it was bit brisk in the gym and definitely too cold to go shirtless outdoors.
6. What were the differences between the indoor and outdoor workshops? (Matt)
M: Honestly, I think the most important things you’ll derive from the workshop come out of awareness of your body, exposure to new movements, and the ability to see equipment differently. Trees or horizontal beams. Logs or PVC pipe. You’ll be able to apply the same concepts wherever you go.
B: What he said.
7. What are your three top takeaways from the workshop?
M: 1) Posture up. Being aware of my posture not only when I’m working out, but throughout the day. One of the hardest things for me to do was walk along a small beam on the floor. I kept wanting to step off every couple of feet, until Clif yelled “Posture Up!”, i.e. Spine neutral, eyes forward, arms relaxed at sides, slight bend in the knee and ankle, and wallah! It felt like I was walking on a sidewalk. 2) Landing. My favorite question of the day: “What’s the most important part of jumping?” Landing properly is how we prevent injury and learn to absorb impact forces well above our own body weight. Make sure you land on the balls of your feet, then touch the heels to the ground and stick your butt down and back into a partial squat. The height of your jump will determine the depth of your squat. 3) Have fun! I think one of the main reasons people are drawn by MovNat is that they are no longer having fun with their training. You shouldn’t hate what you do. Finding the joy in movement and play is what MovNat is all about!
B: The biggest overall takeaway for me was a newfound respect for balance and its role in not only a workout sense, but also evaluating how capable (or incapable) I would be in performing movements that need a great deal of accuracy. Second, the concept of selective tension was fascinating and is something that I’d like to become much better at. Lastly, as Matt mentioned, posture is something that I’ve constantly been careless about. With my background in design, I spend hours a day slouched in front of a computer screen. Magically, through a simple movement-based reminder, I find myself walking around with much better posture than ever before.
8. Is there anything you would change about the workshop?
M: The only thing I really missed about the workshop were some explanations of how to scale the movements appropriately to different ability levels. However, I was assured that this is what the MovNat cert was all about. Still, for an individual without much experience programming for themselves or without the desire to fork out for a full 4-day cert, transitioning over might be difficult. Though I do have something in the works to help with this
B: I think that there was a lot of time spent on ways in which someone would get up from the ground, and while most of the movements were novel and seemingly useful, I have yet to employ them in any functional way. I would rather have spent more time going over different ways to bear weight or learning the MovNat Leg Swing technique, among other things.
9. How did the workshop change your view of MovNat?
M: For me, the workshop brought to light how invasive MovNat can and should be in your day-to-day life. And I don’t mean that negatively. We move everyday, and by being aware of how we move and trying to do so with efficiency, fluidity, and grace, we will slowly but surely escape the “human zoo”.
B: In all honesty, I was dubious of MovNat’s ability to be a true system for fitness, but after that day of mild exercise, I was impressed to find my calves were surprisingly sore from all the balancing drills. MovNat doesn’t simply teach ways to hurdle obstacles efficiently and safely, it teaches you how to view your world as an obstacle course, turning your office cubicles, conference tables, and file cabinets into different challenges. The world becomes your playground when you’ve been to a MovNat workshop.
10. How has your training changed since the workshop?
M: This is an awesome question, and the simple answer is: completely. This is something I’d like to delve into a bit more so I’m planning on writing an entire series on “How to Implement MovNat”. For now, let’s just say that warm ups, metabolic conditioning, and general play have all taken on new life!
B: Matt’s got this one covered, make sure you check out his series of posts that’ll be released soon.
Still have questions about the workshop? Drop a comment below and we’ll be sure to respond.