I always loved the idea of wild, primal play. Ironically, I’ve been waiting three years for someone to teach me how to do it.
I was first bitten by the natural movement bug when I read a Men’s Health article about MovNat, a program that emphasizes useful, natural movements and a connection to the outdoors. As soon as I finished that article, I dreamed of one day taking a workshop and flying through the trees like a wild animal.
It seemed a long way off from where I was in 2009, so I distracted myself with other things, like weightlifting, gymnastics, and CrossFit, which I taught for 2 years.
None of these really convey that same sense of wild freedom, robust health, and holistic usefulness that drew me to natural movement in the first place. MovNat seemed distant, like a rare, exotic species that only lived in secluded mountain valleys. Between the location of the workshops and the cost, just getting there was an undertaking, never mind mastering it.
Teaching myself seemed impossible. Where would I start? It seemed like trying to teach myself Aikido from scratch with no teacher.
Getting My Feet Wet
I finally signed up for my first MovNat workshop in December. But that just made me even more impatient. I wanted it NOW!
It took me a little while to realize that there was nothing stopping me. After all, MovNat was all about natural movement, so all I had to do was go out and explore how I moved.
It then occurred to me that the fact I live right next to a skate park might be the universe’s way of telling me to start playing.
So, one day earlier this month, I decided to go out and see what happened.
The goal was just to spend some time moving in more creative ways than the rigid forms I was used to from weightlifting, gymnastics, and CrossFit, to be more like an animal and less like a machine pumping out squat after squat after squat as fast as possible.
I got to the park and looked around, my eyes unused to seeing the obstacles as things to interact with. There was an awning with some beams supporting it. They begged to be climbed, and I felt self-conscious but I shimmied my way up the beams anyway…and promptly fell off.
Now that I had been presented with a challenge, all self-consciousness fell away. I was determined to figure it out!
With some experimentation, I eventually made it all the way across.
Psyched, I decided to try some more interesting things.
Jumping in the Deep End
The skate park has a rail set between two raised platforms about 5 feet away on either side. I tried to walk along the rail without falling off, and as I started to fall, I remembered that a big part of
MovNat training involves using the imagination. So…that meant I was about to fall into a pool of lava.
Driven by unexpected adrenaline, I coiled and launched myself for one of the platforms, landing with a loud thud and nearly overshooting my target.
The jump seemed so…unskilled. Definitely not befitting the Ninja warrior I aspired to. So I spent the next 10 minutes trying to land as precisely and softly as possible.
My body was learning new movements by the second! I felt like Peter Parker the day he discovers his new spidery powers. It was exciting to discover all the new, creative things my body could do that
I’d never tried before. By spending time thinking about each challenge, I was able to chart my own course to progress.
The last thing I played with was a saw horse left out by a construction crew. I set it up on some rubber matting and jumped over it.
Then I jumped over it and crawled under it.
Then I jumped over it and tried to get back to the other side as quickly as possible. This resulted in me diving over, rolling, kicking myself backwards from the roll, and military-crawling under the saw horse.
The Workout Sneaks Up
Eventually, I found I couldn’t make the jump anymore, and I realized how exhausted I was. All the playing around had distracted me from the workout I was getting. I was drenched in sweat and panting. My legs and arms were drained.
And I was exhilarated!
I hadn’t had so much fun in a workout since I was a kid on the playground.
I had learned so much, just by being willing to experiment and try different things. The thing that made the difference between just messing around and actually moving fluidly was the determination not to accept sloppy form from myself.
- I could launch myself from rail to platform and crash land, or I could land softly and precisely
- I could simply bang my way around the saw horse, or I could get over and under in one smooth motion, with no scrapes, cuts, or bruises
- I could scramble along the ledge, huffing and puffing, or I could figure out how to glide across with rhythm and purpose
If I insist on quality, it becomes much more stimulating, mentally and physically.
So, while I’m still looking forward to my first MovNat workshop, I realized that natural movement is something I have in me already. It’s just a matter of exploring it, not holding my body to any preconceived notions of ‘right’ movement, and not accepting lazy, sloppy technique.
I’m sure I will learn a lot from MovNat’s instructors, but I’m starting to think that what they’ll teach me has less to do with specific movement techniques and more to do with learning how to express my own unique version of human movement. In the meantime, I’ll keep exploring what I’ve got in me right now.
Khaled is an aspiring ninja who taught CrossFit for 2 years before deciding to strike out on his own. He writes about living with awareness, intention, and integrity on his blog, Warrior Spirit, where he also shares his insights on healthy living. His fitness philosophy can be summed up as: exercise should build you up instead of beat you down, it should be fun, and it should serve your larger goals in life. You can meet him on his blog or on twitter @khaledcallen.