Obviously my plan to consistently blog about my experience at the MovNat cert. workshop this weekend fell through. I was basically busy the entire weekend after my last post. Although, I did promise to do a followup post so here goes.
Thursday morning my three roommates and I got a ride over to the gym in Winchester by another attendee who lived relatively nearby. We were all very grateful for her generosity in this regard (thanks, Jen!). After introducing ourselves and a few other necessary formalities we got down to business at around 9am.
The instructors (Kellen and Brian) began by talking about some of the core, fundamental aspects of MovNat that I find really cool. I foolishly didn’t take notes during this portion like others did, but I’ll do my best to recall what was covered.
One aspect they discussed dealt with the practicality of MovNat. In my opinion, this is a major way in which MovNat is different from most other exercise disciplines. The basic idea is that each movement skill or pattern has a practical, real-life application associated with it. For instance, crawling skills are useful when it’s necessary to navigate through a narrow tunnel or under thick vegetation. Lifting and carrying skills are useful for when you need to move a thing somewhere else. Climbing skills are useful for when you need to get on top of a building or a barrier of some kind. You get the point.
I believe they also touched upon another MovNat principal that I consider related to the Practical principle known as the Vital principle. Essentially, the movements not only have to be potentially useful for everyday tasks, but also in times of emergencies. For instance, it may be necessary to run away and evade a threat of some kind, or to carry an injured person to safety, etc. Stuff that will help keep you and others alive when shit goes down.
Additionally, they talked about the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is simply the ability to accomplish a particular goal using any means necessary. This is definitely a useful ability to have since ineffectiveness implies failure and, potentially, danger. The website’s definition for efficincy is pretty grand so I’m just going to steal that.
“Efficient: the movement aptitudes practiced are performed skillfully, i.e., with efficient technique, resulting in greater performance, higher energy conservation and safety.”
In other words, if you move efficiently you can do so for longer, with less pain and risk, and you also look like a ninja. A good example of an effective movement that isn’t very efficient is a muscle-up pull-up, which is basically using your muscles to pull yourself up and over a bar/branch. Alternatively, an efficient method of acheiving the same goal would be to body-weight transfer to generate momentum with your legs and swing one leg up over the bar to establish an additional point of support, and to then body-weight transfer with your other leg to get up and over the bar. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about then check out this video (skip to around 20 seconds in for the part I’m referring to):
You can check out the other MovNat Principles here if you’d like.
Mindfulness is another heavily emphasized component of MovNat that distinguishes it from other disciplines. The instructors discussed how it is necessary to be externally and internally aware. In regards to external awareness, this means being aware of your surroundings and the context within which you are moving. For example, being aware of a stone jutting out from the forest floor you’re walking on could be helpful for not subbing your toe on it. This becomes particularly important in unfamiliar locations or places which change sporadically, like natural settings (trees falling after a storm and such).
Internal awareness can be equally important for similar reasons. Paying close to attention to posture, breathing, sequence and timing are crucial for efficient, safe movement. Attempting to lift a heavy object without proper posture can result in serious injury or worse, humiliation if done in a public setting. Similarly, knowing at which point to apply appropriate selective muscular tension to swing your leg when attempting to climb onto a bar is crucial.
I particularly liked when they talked about how a primary goal of MovNat is to create a culture that once again moves in a mindful manner. Too many times do I see people practically dragging their feet as they ‘walk’ without much if any consideration to their posture or timing. Those same people are often quite oblivious to the space through which they are moving (people who may bump into you in the grocery store even though you may have been clearly standing in front of them). It doesn’t help that these days it isn’t really necessary to walk on anything besides flat, uniform surfaces that don’t really require much thinking to travel across during our daily happenings. Or that it is equally easy to travel on unobstructed sidewalks and paths devoid of overhanging vegetation or similar obstacles that we used to regularly deal with during most of our species’ existence living in the wild. Not that I’m saying we should necessarily install obstacles on sidewalks and hallways (though I wouldn’t complain), just that we ought to practice mindfulness and awareness more during our everyday interactions (Although, I do find it useful and fun to venture off the beaten path from time to time and travel through an environment that isn’t designed with a bipedal ape’s locomotion in mind). In other words, next time you walk through a doorway try to be more mindful of your actions, considerate of others and “don’t slam the fucking door”
A few other aspects of MovNat were discussed in addition to what I mentioned, but I don’t want this post to get too lengthy so I’ll move on (heh). The remainder of the first day and the entireity of the second (other than the written exam which dealt primarily with material from the manual) we went through 11 of the 13 MovNat Movement Skills. Swimming and defending aren’t covered in the level 1 certification, which was fine with me because I’m a pretty poor swimmer anyway. The instructors did a great job of breaking down each skill in a manner that made learning and teaching them fairly straightforward. Some of the skills like balancing and crawling were mostly just review for myself having been practicing them for a while now, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a few new tricks to hone my skills further.
Other skills such as throwing and catching were basically new to me but I found them pretty easy to pick up (heh, again). The second day we covered running which I honestly thought I had down pretty good, but little did I know I’d basically been running fairly inefficiently for a little while now. I attribute this partly to having run incorrectly (thick soled shoes, heel-striking) for years, but also since lately I’ve almost exclusively been sprinting short distances which changes my form fairly substantially. I certainly understand the importance of being able to run efficiently over a long period, but after doing it all throughout high school I honestly prefer to just walk and occasionally sprint for the most part. I fully intend to work on my slow-paced running form quite a bit so that I can properly teach it to those who wish to learn, though.
The fourth and final day of the workshop consisted almost entirely of testing. Needless to say many of us were pretty nervous, and I was certainly no exception. We were split up into two groups and taken through each of the different stations and tested one-by-one. I’m fairly comfortable performing most of the movement skills by myself, but when you’re being watched by several people and scrutinized by an instructor it’s a slightly different story. Needless to say my heart and respiration rates were elevated during each of the tests, but I don’t think this impacted my performance too much.
For the most part, I completed each of the tests with relative ease, with the exception of running. I have a tendency to over think things anyway, but with running there’s a whole lot to think about if you’re trying to run efficiently. You’ve got to think about keeping a long and straight spine (along with proper posture in general), relaxed arms with appropriate arm-swing motions, appropriate cadence and stride length, etc. I found this to be pretty tough because normally with running I just sort of go and tend not to think too hard since that usually results in inefficiency for some reason. Brian (one of the trainers) actually had a really good suggestion to begin running with goofy, silly form so as not to over think it and more easily transition to proper form immediately after. In hindsight, I totally should have taken this advice during the test, but oh well.
Following the movement skills test was the coaching test. I was definitely much more nervous about this test due to having never coached anyone before other than a short practice session we had the previous day (which didn’t go terribly smoothly for me). We all took turns being clients and coaches. It was pretty fun being a client because you got to act like a newb or broken person or just a jackass sometimes.
When it was my turn to coach I was assigned the tripod transition movement, which is basically a way to practice going over a barrier which isn’t low enough to simply jump over and not quite high enough to climb over (basically the height of a wooden fence). We had to do this on a couple of 2×4’s stacked end to end. You stand roughly in the middle on the balls of your feet, squat down maintaining good posture and balance to demonstrate control, extend your hand to either your right or left side creating an additional point of support on the 2×4 (hence tripod) and body-weight shift over that POS so that you can lift and extend your center leg forward and backward as if to move off of the barrier. You then body-weight shift back over your feet to a squatting position and perform the same motions on the opposite side. Luckily this was a movement that came pretty easily for me so coaching it wasn’t terrible.
All in all I think I did a pretty good job with it, but definitely have a lot of room for improvement. I was told I was moving a bit slow with it, and that I should use keywords such as ‘body-weight shift’ and ‘point of support’ rather than just saying ‘move your body’ or ‘left-hand’, respectively. I was glad to receive constructive criticism like this so that I can improve.
Even though I am a certified trainer now, I fully understand that I need to get as much practice coaching as possible. Which is why I’m offering to coach anyone within reasonable distance from me (I’ll be living in Old Town next week for the next year) for free. At this point I would feel bad charging people for my services and just want to get the experience in. So please, if you want me to help you move naturally let me know! I’m more than happy to do so.
Finally I just wanted say thanks to Brian and Kellen (and everyone else who’s contributed to MovNat’s existence for that matter) for being such awesome instructors and allowing me the privilege of acquiring this certification. Also a huge thanks to the other newly minted trainers who I had the pleasure of getting to know this weekend for putting up with my eccentricity/weirdness. You guys rock!
Also, I came across this remix just prior to attending the workshop and couldn’t resist sharing it due to the lyrical relevance: