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My MovNat Experience

August 3, 2011
Over the last 7 days I have been trying hard to think of how I can sum up my experience at the Movnat Expansion Workshop. I took many pages of notes with the initial plan of describing in detail every moment as vividly as I could remember. Yesterday, as I hobbled my way around the final gauntlet course (and held back tears of frustration at my inability to participate the way that I should have been able to) I decided, that what happens out in the woods, stays in the woods. Instead, I have decided to describe the bigger picture that I took from the course, and more importantly what new goals I have made for myself as a result of this experience.

Big Picture Revelations:

1. I’m not as fit as I thought I was. This might sound like I’m putting myself down, but that isn’t what I’m trying to do. In my lifetime I have taken part in many organized and competitive sports. Even when I am not competing in sports I love to train, and work hard and push myself to do things that I thought I could not do. I’ve never seen an activity encompass so many different modal domains (not even Crossfit) like Movnat. In some ways I was completely unprepared for this experience because it is unlike anything I have ever done before. In other ways, I was very grateful for my athletic background and strength training for preparing me with some skills and techniques that were super useful in picking up some components of Movnat more quickly. As a life-long athlete I am not entirely disheartened by these revelations. Instead I am inspired to make a new list of goals which I know are achievable, and I now know the strategies I need to use to attain them. And look at the instructors (below), how can one not be motivated?

2. Mindfulness Matters – one of the components of Movnat that I loved (and feared) was this concept of mindfulness. When training in nature there are many dangers that you will not face in your regular gym (that doesn’t mean that you can’t train Movnat indoors…but if we look at the heart of Movnat which really should be done outdoors). When I train at the gym I may take risks (e.g. trying to throw my body under what I consider to be heavy amount of weight when cleaning, or snatching). But I have been trained in proper technique so if I miss the lift, there is no real danger for me. I have never injured myself in the gym. In nature, there are many dangers and unknowns. For example, during the final workout yesterday I was walking across a fallen tree balancing and when I looked down and saw how far above the ground I was, and what I could potentially land on, my once strong legs began to shake out of nervousness, and I found myself squatting down and walking across on all fours. Still challenging, as the danger made me feel way more aware/mindful of how important it was for me to focus and execute the movements properly. The sense of accomplishment when you achieve something you thought impossible is the reason I was drawn to athletics in the first place. There is such an exhilarating feeling of being alive when you take a real risk. I have never felt that in the gym before…even when working my absolute hardest. As awesome as hitting a deadlift p.r may be, it is not the same as piggy backing a 200# man on a narrow, unstable and hilly trail in the woods 🙂

3. Technique is paramount to quantity. This principle is similar to Crossfit – and yet I find it is one that is often broken or ignored. If you do not have proper technique you will not only get injured, you will also prevent yourself from achieving real growth and development. Excecuting with proper technique allows you to be more adaptable when a situation arises that requires you to be. For example – I was cleaning a log this week which was wide and a bit awkward to hang on to. As a result I had to ever so slightly round my shoulders forward to get in the bottom position to pick it up. But because of my training I was still able to keep a perfect straight spine and did not injure myself at all. I was able to adapt to the situation. I’ve never fully understood those athletes who would rather sacrifice form for heavy loads. I love to learn, and I enjoy the process of learning new (and safe) techniques. I’m not in any rush to lift as much as possible as soon as possible. All good things come with time and practice.

Moving Forward:

So based on my humbling experiences this week I have done some re-evaluating about the way that I train, and I have some new skills I would like to develop.

1. First Things First – I need to heal. Right now I have a lot of swelling on my knee so one of the most important things I need to develop is better joint mobility in my knees and hips and this week I learned exactly how to practice. One day I will be a tribal squat master 😉 As an aside I learned that I underestimated the impact driving long hours would have on my legs. As an athlete it was a humbling experience to realize how limited I am by my own strength. I love all of the different patterns of movement we explored. But man, do I have so much to work on to make these movements fluid and easy!

2. Develop my Bar/Log muscle up. I am done with kipping pull-ups! I have spent too much time training to generate movement by pushing away from the bar. I have not properly developed the ability to push upwards which is where the momentum needs to be if you are going to make it over the bar. I’ve decided to concentrate more on dead hang pull-ups and explosive pull-ups to make this happen. I’m hoping to have my muscle-up by the end of August.

3. Run more. This is the first time I have picked up running barefoot/minimalist shoes. I want to increase my endurance and comfort level on different types of surfaces. This includes working on toughing up my feet by more barefoot walking.

4. Shoulder Rolls – from my stomach and on my back. Not only is it a life saving movement, but it also looks badass! I still put too much pressure on my neck – lucky for me my neck is flexible but I’d rather be more proficient at doing it properly.

I’m keeping the list short for now but that doesn’t mean I will neglect other areas of training. I just want to be particularly “mindful” of these 4 areas.

My favourite aspect of this training was the people. It was so wonderful to spend 5 days with many different like-minded individuals…and that in such a short amount of time we could develop such a strong sense of camaraderie and community. Now that I am no longer training as a competitive athlete, I have a new perspective on how I plan to train my body to move for something much more important than competition- the rest of my life, which I want to be as strong and efficient for as long as possible, to allow me the independence I enjoy.

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