Chore Training: How to Move More and Have a Really Clean House

Josh Vogel


Natural Movement, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts

If you work a lot, have kids, go to school, or have life obligations that give you the sense you cannot train/exercise/practice/move - then you are not alone. I think a lot of people would do something if only they had the time, space, or equipment.


When it comes to doing MovNat training, this feeling is often compounded by the idea that you have to be running bare-chested through a grassy meadow, dodging tree branches, with clumps of dirt flying off of the hardened soles of your bare feet. Or you have to be swinging nimbly from the branches of an 800-year-old tree, high fiving bonobos as you glide by, fueled by the honeycomb you yanked from a bees’ nest earlier that day.



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MovNat doesn't always have to look like this.


There's an idea that Movnat training is basically like if Tarzan did Parkour, and that it cannot be done anywhere besides natural settings. But this is not true. In fact, it can easily be done in the unlikeliest of contexts - those household chores you totally hate doing.


The Problem With Compartments

A while ago, I listened to a podcast with Katy Bowman where she talked about the modern problem of having to divide our time into separate segments. Time for work, an hour to exercise at the gym, time to eat, to hang out with friends, family time. In compartmentalizing everything, we are left with the notion that we don’t have enough time, as if we must prioritize and eliminate the things that aren't as important (which most often are the things we just don't like doing).


"I think this model is great for doing all kinds of stuff. In fact, it’s perfect for taking things you don’t feel like doing and breathing some life into them."

One of the solutions Bowman came up with was to pack things together. She walks multiple miles per day, and she is also an author and is responsible for mailing out copies of her book to buyers each week. Rather than going for a walk and later driving the books to the post office, she walks the books there. She gets in walking time, gets her work done, and fulfills some of her movement and exercise requirements. And if she brings her kids, she gets family time, as well. Another suggestion she made was to go for a walk while you are making phone calls. Again, bundling things together.


Chores: The Perfect Application

What’s funny about this idea is how simple it is. Really, this is what you do if you don’t have a car and have to walk ten blocks home with bags of groceries. I think this model is great for doing all kinds of stuff. In fact, it’s perfect for taking things you don’t feel like doing and breathing some life into them. My favorite usage is applying this to household chores.


"In compartmentalizing everything, we are left with the notion that we don’t have enough time, as if we must prioritize and eliminate the things that aren't as important (which most often are the things we just don't like doing)."

Every Saturday I have a bunch of tasks that require doing. Cleaning the first floor of my house, doing laundry in the basement, and wiping up the kitchen and bathroom. Since I’m also always looking for opportunities to practice the various skills of climbing, jumping, crawling, swinging, lifting, carrying, and body control, I try to blend my tasks together.



While I do laundry, I practice my squatting movements and using my legs and feet to grab clothing. Sometimes, I’ll use a 2x4 in the basement to balance on as I transport clothes from the dirty pile at the base of the stairs to the washing machine seven feet away - crawling and carrying.



Cleaning my dining room, I’ll use crawling patterns to wipe under the table or pistols, squatting, and low locomotion to vacuum and sweep. Sometimes my focus is on balance and body control, and sometimes it’s on technique and improving skills. I might make a game of it, trying to avoid certain spots on the floor or trying to get from the living room to the kitchen without touching the floor with my feet (climbing on furniture). With a little creativity, you can find interesting ways to practice movement skills and get things done around the house simultaneously.



More Ideas to Try

Often, this approach to movement is simply a matter of doing things “the old fashioned way,” like carrying your groceries around the store rather than using a shopping cart or a basket or like Bowman does with walking packages to the post office. But if you need some ideas about ways to adopt this practice around your house, we can break it down into three action steps:


1. Marry a task to a movement skill.


  • Doing laundry with squat patterns, crawling, manipulation with feet, and balancing works quite well
  • Doing dishes with squat patterns, one-legged skills (squats, hip hinging, one-legged deadlift), or balancing
  • Cleaning floors with low squat locomotion, duck walks, one-legged training, crawling, or carrying (try carrying something awkward or heavy in one arm while you clean with the other)
  • Shadow box while you are cooking (I was grilling some burgers earlier today and got in a nice ten-minute shadow boxing session and some hand balancing practice – and didn’t even burn the burgers this time!)


2. Make a game of it when you can.


  • Use your feet to throw laundry into the washing machine (don't do this with dishes) and give yourself points for each shot made. Take a negative point for each missed. If your end score is poor, then you have to immediately go into another task that you don't feel like doing after laundry is done. If the score is good, you can take a thirty-minute break.
  • If you have someone to help you, you can play all kinds of two-person games. Competitive games like having broom fights as you both sweep or cooperative games like playing catch with laundry or cleaning supplies are both great.


3. Use your imagination.


When I was a kid, my friends and I would pretend all kinds of things. A lot of the time we were ninjas who had to stalk silently around when we played manhunt. Or we would pretend that after it rained, the puddles were lava pits we had to avoid because stepping in one meant instant death. The same scenario can apply in your home even though you’re an adult! Here are some ideas:


  • Try being silent and stealthy as you carry laundry around the house. This reinforces good control, efficiency, and technique in your skills and, really, silence and stealth are useful skills to develop anyway.
  • Lava pits, alligator pits, or falling down into the jaws of waiting lions are all fun for motivating your balancing practice. A useful side effect of this is developing a sense of urgency in balancing, a feeling that you must stay on your beam/branch/whatever. Sometimes without that "do or die" urgency we develop bad habits in this skill and are more likely to accept a fall.
  • Add in some obstacles - imagine branches to avoid, strikes to dodge, laser beam trip wire alarms you need to navigate past, and other things that challenge body control and skill.


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Have Fun With It

With a little ingenuity and effort, I believe anyone can find the resources to get practice and movement time. If you have kids, this kind of activity is perfect for getting them involved in household chores, building their skills, and simply making opportunity to spend time with family.


Next time you have chores you don’t feel like doing, give this a shot. I think you will be happy with the result!


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Photo 1 courtesy of MovNat.

Photo 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.


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