*This article can also be seen at Julia’s blog*
A few weekends ago, I participated in a MovNat workshop at Rock Creek Park in DC. I really enjoyed Erwan LeCorre’s presentation at the Ancestral Health Symposium, so I was really looking forward to it. The workshop was taught by Clifton Harski, and he had an assistant instructor named Justin, who is training to teach their one-day workshops.
It was a great group of people in the class- there were all kinds of body types, ages, and fitness levels, and I definitely noticed that pretty much everyone was in minimalist shoes. It was a little chilly that morning, so I left my Vibrams at home due to the ol’ Raynaud’s; I had to chuckle to myself because I used to stick out like a wierdo wearing Vibrams at my gym, and now I was the wierdo in normal shoes!
So, what can one expect to get out of one of these workshops? The thing is, as we humans become so advanced that we no longer need to really do anything physical for ourselves, we’ve grown grossly out of touch with how to move. Many of us are spending a third of our lives in chairs; with online shopping, work, and school, we could probably live our entire lives on our asses if we wanted to! We’ve innovated away our instincts, and MovNat is a great way to re-learn skills that came naturally to us as kids, and that mankind used to depend on to survive.
The skills we went over were walking, running, balancing, crawling, jumping, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching. Swimming and defense are also part of the MovNat skillset, but weren’t covered in the one-day workshop. We spent a chunk of time on each skill and learned different techniques for each one, such as various methods for climbing a tree, different ways to crawl in order to safely get up and down hills, etc. It’s all about learning to move in a way that is most efficient, safe and natural, and I learned a lot! I’ve always had a fear of going upside-down, and pretty much anything gymnastics-related; doing a ton of forward rolls (even a ninja-style one after hopping off a picnic table!) has made a dent in that. I’ve also gotten more efficient with crawling- I’ve done some bear crawls in my CrossFit workouts, but learned I had been wasting a bunch of energy by sticking my booty in the air. I even learned what the Smith machine is for- Clifton suggested we use it to do some stepping over/lunging under drills, and I’ve been incorporating that into my warmups in the gym!
One thing I really liked about the MovNat presentation at AHS was the emphasis on its intangible, unmeasurable benefits, such as courage, self-esteem, etc. At the workshop, I did some stuff I hadn’t done before, and that’s always a nice feeling; I was able to hoist myself up on a tree branch (still working on getting the full “MovNat leg swing”), and I found that I can pick up an average-sized dude and drag him to safety! I didn’t succeed in fireman-carrying him, but was pleased nonetheless.
I wish I had a better memory or had taken notes during the wrapup; Cliff talked with us about how he likes to work out when not teaching workshops, about eating well while traveling, and some other topics brought up by my classmates. I definitely remember though, that when speaking about overtraining, he stated that most people are more likely to be under-recovering rather than over-training. Ain’t that the truth! So many are eating like crap, sleeping like crap, and thinking it’s all good because they spend an hour on the treadmill every day; if you’re one of ’em, you’re not doing yourself any favors by prioritizing exercise over recovery.
If you’re able to swing one of these workshops, I highly recommend it. I’m going to work on my leg-swinging and tree-climbing in earnest this winter, and will hopefully be able to attend another workshop next year!