Saturday September 11, 2010, 9:00am — I had the pleasure of attending a 1-day MovNat course with the one and only Erwan Le Corre at StrengthBox in Toronto. My friend Greg Carver had raved about Erwan, natural movement, and all those amazing week long wilderness/camping trips he attended to train with him. I couldn’t help but be a bit curious as to what this all entailed, so I signed myself up and eagerly awaited to learn about Erwan Le Corre’s approach to fitness. For those who know me well, I’d probably be the last person you’d find camping or out in the wild. I’m very much a city slicker and the closest I ever get to nature is the beach and park. Thankfully, you don’t have to be Jane or George of the jungle to do natural movements, as it is 100% adaptable and scalable, but more on this later.
Erwan Le Corre’s training methodology is called MovNat whereby optimal fitness and health is achieved by practicing movements that are useful, practical, and functional within a context. His training philosophy follows an evolutionary approach, taking us back to the basic, primal movements which our ancient hunter/gatherer ancestors relied on for survival. Movements such as walking, crawling, moving on all fours, balancing, running, climbing, jumping, lifting heavy things, throwing, catching, carrying, combat, and swimming. Though very fundamental, these basic skills are often taken for granted and if not practiced, are lost.
In our modern everyday lives, movement has become an option while things like obesity, chronic pain, and depression have become more prevalent – an idea which Erwan refers to as the ‘zoo’ to which many are trapped in. The goal is to reverse that, to find joy in movement, be efficient, have fun, and reconnect with our true nature of being strong and healthy.
Erwan began the workshop with a quick obstacle course which allowed us all to experience the different movements we were about to learn followed by an introduction to what MovNat is and the thinking behind it.
One of the first and most important things we learned was to be more aware of our bodies by being mindful and paying attention to our sensations. You only feel gravity at the points your body contacts, so we learned ways to make gravity work for us as opposed to against us as we moved. Drawing from my athletic experiences, this made a lot of sense, why work against yourself, when you can work the body as a unit? Instead of isolating, or muscling it, you’re training the movement. Going along with that, was the idea of selective tension. One should not need to exert unnecessary energy. By focusing on the muscles that need to be used to get a task done, you will have greater control and move more efficiently.
I can see a lot of these principles applied to kettlebell lifting as well. With kettlebell sport, proper technique is critical especially in competition. By removing as many inefficient movements as possible, this helps optimize performance as this could mean the difference between achieving rank or falling short of it by a few reps.
It was a great experience leaning from Erwan Le Corre first hand and I truly did find joy in the movement. It was so much fun and a refreshing change. Many would say it’s fitness in a truer sense. As human beings, we were meant to move. Throughout the workshop, Erwan Le Corre focused on training 3 major skillsets: Locomotive, Manipulative, and Combative by taking us through 10 different natural movement patterns. We began with walking forwards, backwards and sideways while staying low to the ground, moving on all fours, and balancing on a narrow beam while moving, squatting or simply standing. We then moved onto an introduction to barefoot running. I learned that in order to run more efficiently, you have to let gravity work for you, to lean forward and pull your legs up as opposed to pushing and to land on the balls of your feet. We then tested out this idea on the rocky road outside. At that point I really wished that I had kept my shoes on or had tougher feet but all was good once we ran back inside.
Next up was climbing and jumping, both of which I really enjoyed. Climbing is like balancing while moving on a vertical plane. We did some wall climbing and then it was onto pull ups and climbing on top of the log, or in my case, the pull up bar. I have to say that it is much easier looking than advertised! When Erwan demonstrated it, he did it with such effortless ease. I was super thrilled to have made it on top of the bar after a few attempts! Instead of muscling your way up, key is to use bodyweight transfer to generate momentum in order shift your weight to get on top.
One of my favourite parts was when we worked on our jumping skills. We practiced jumping from one balance beam to another, standing long jumps, jumping onto plyo boxes and jumping from the box to a targeted point on the floor while stabilizing yourself as you land. I had no problems jumping onto the 24″ plyo box and hitting the targets. On a couple of occasions I either missed the target or lost balance and Erwan reminded me to have mindfulness in the movement, not to over think it and just do. Use your senses to judge.
Everything we did was contextural, with each movement having a situation attached to it. Why are we doing this and what is its purpose? Much like children at play, it makes things more interesting and easier to visualize if you can imagine that you’re running from a bear, balancing on a tree branch, jumping over a river or jumping from one rock to another, reaching for a fruit in a tree, escaping danger by climbing on top of a tree, or crawling through a cave.
Later on, we did some lifting, carrying, walking, and balancing while carrying heavy things like 45lb olympic plates, and variations on throwing and catching with a weighted ball. As the grand finale, we concluded the workshop by combining ALL the skills we learned into an obstacle course. so it went something like this: balance on all fours on the wood beams, jump onto plyo boxes, jump to trajectory points & stabilize the landing, crawl under the bar, throw 20lb balls at the wall 3x then sprint to the start & repeat. We did this for a good 10 minutes. It may have been a workout but I felt like I was playing the whole time. I LOVED it!
The beauty of MovNat is the movements are 100% practical, adaptable and scalable to any skillset and space you have available to you at the time. So no need to be in a far off forest somewhere, you can just do it in an urban jungle setting such as the park, beach, gym, or your own backyard.
I learned the importance of training the mind and body to move through basic human movements. The workshop is essentially a lesson on how to move again, just by increasing awareness and performing the skills that are already ingrained in us but a lot of us have lost.
I walked away with new knowledge on how to move with greater efficiency, control, grace, mindfulness and not to mention, was sore for a good 2 days after the workshop and can’t wait to apply these principles learned into my training.
For now, I will leave you with the video that started it all.
“Our true nature is to be strong, healthy, happy and free.”