Our true nature is to be strong, healthy, happy, and free. We are not designed, nor destined, to be weak, sick, depressed, and confined. Yet, we have domesticated ourselves, and in many ways our behaviors are altered and restricted by social norms and modern conventions. Living in artificial habitats, fed unnatural food, lacking sleep, deprived from movement, the human animal inside of us is suffering physically and emotionally. We’ve become “zoo humans.” How come such a convenient, comfortable modern lifestyle has become so stressful? Despite the advances in medical technology, overall health is declining and indicates that we’re still in a mere state of survival.
We Need a Paradigm Shift
And then, there is you, the health and fitness seekers, and your noble quest for optimal life quality. An overwhelming majority of the population is unhealthy and out of shape, and by contrast, you look like a superhero for applying yourself to attain high levels of health and fitness. This really has not much to do with luck or good genes, but with lifestyle choices and behaviors to which you have chosen to commit.
Health, strength, and athleticism are our universal evolutionary birthright, but only if we choose to develop and maintain them. You can praise yourself for having made that choice, as it carries the potential for societal change. Indeed, imagine that everyone was to follow this path, and commit right now to healthy lifestyle habits, including of course training some form of movement-based exercise every day. Talk about an overnight revolution! Individuals getting healthy and strong, populations and communities thriving. Isn’t this the kind of world you want to live in, the reality you secretly hope to wake up to one day?
Follow Nature’s Plan
Before workouts and fitness, there is something very simple and potent called movement. You are, potentially at least, a powerful, graceful, agile, and resilient human being. Movement is your chance to thrive physically and mentally. Exercising is no less than an attempt to satisfy the needs of your ancient biological human nature. It is, at a subconscious level, about following nature’s plan.
So what do you need to do so you can experience both your inner and outer power and become the self-actualized individual you’re meant to be? Perception is everything, and determines your actions and experience. So let me share with you three essential tips that focus on perception and may guide you towards ways of exercise that help you experience your true nature.
1. Go practical. It’s vital.
Seek practical results first. Before modern fitness there was movement for survival, and our bodies are evolutionarily designed to move and perform in natural, practical ways. Natural movements skills such as running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, lifting, throwing, and so on, were essential for our ancestors to survive in wild environments. Most modern fitness programs have lost sight of this necessity of training the body and mind for practical reasons. Practical movement means functional movement with a tangible, real-world meaning, and outcome.
For example, if your current program already contains some jumping drills, jump not just because it’s a good “plyometric” drill, but because it is a skill that will allow you to clear obstacles along your way. Imagine being in a situation where you are forced to jump and must do it effectively. Imagine the context, the environment where you are, and the situation you are facing. A practical mindset makes every drill you do meaningful, more stimulating, and enjoyable.
When you’re doing pull-ups, remember that a pull-up is no less (and no more) than a segment of a climbing action, and that there is much more to climbing than just pulling your body up the same way all the time. Pulling your body up is practical, but maybe next time you’re at the gym or at the park try to actually climb on top of something and see how it goes. Embrace a situational mindset and approach physical training in a way that resembles how you want to be able to perform in the real life. Think of how powerful you are when you possess a body that can perform effectively and competently, whenever the need arises. It’s not about looking fit; it’s about being fit. So move realistically!
2. Go adaptable. It’s crucial.
Life is all about adaptability. Not surprisingly, adaptability plays a key role in physical competence. Let me give you an example. How many vertical jumps can you do on a two-foot high plyo box? Dozens? Hundreds, maybe? All right, so you can jump. Now can you perform a single standing broad jump starting off a six-inch diameter beam and landing on the same six-inch thick beam 6-8 feet away, at a 3-4 feet elevation? Can you reach it, and if you can, can you stick the landing without falling?
You initially thought you could jump pretty well, and now you may have just realized you can’t jump so well after all, as your jumping ability is not adaptable to variations in environmental demands. That is a problem, because adaptability in movement is the real measure of movement competence.
Try to apply this reasoning to other practical physical actions. Can you run comfortably on flat and smooth pavement, and are you equally comfortable on uneven terrains? Can you climb different types of surfaces? Can you jump over a variety of obstacles? In a nutshell, do you possess not only practical, but also adaptable physical skills? Put yourself to the test, and you will be able to assess the real state of your physical competence.
Last but not least, adaptability requires high levels of mindfulness, and the beauty of it is that there is no way you can be disconnected from your physical action when your must adapt body and mind to the environment. You must immerse yourself in the moment, in the here and in the now, in a thoughtless, wordless state of awareness. In today’s lives where our minds are too often cluttered with too many thoughts, this primal, quasi-meditative mindset is absolutely priceless.
3. Go efficient. It’s magnificent.
You maybe can move effectively, but can you move efficiently, at a great level of performance, and while preserving energy and managing safety? While you want to perform as naturally as possible (i.e. primarily in practical and adaptable ways), you also want to perform as efficiently as possible.
Fitness is the result. Movement is the practice. Make practice mindful and efficient, because you can’t be efficient if you’re not mindful. So, exercise through mindful movement, not mindless exertion. I repeat, strive for movement efficiency over brute exertion. Establish first movement quality, and then increase intensity, volume, or complexity based on this quality movement.
How’s your posture? Do you possess the mobility required for this particular advanced movement? Do you control your breathing? Are you able to relax and selectively use muscular tension where it is needed, when it is needed, and with the amount needed? Can you perform the right movement sequence, with the right timing? Can you properly direct the kinetic energy that you produce, or do you tend to disperse it uselessly? Are you not only powerful, but also graceful?
Efficiency is not just a concept; it can be seen and felt. Efficiency shows, and makes a difference between fitness aficionados and elite athletes. Nurture movement, cultivate efficiency, and become more powerful than you’ve ever been.
Now It’s Time to Empower Yourself
Practical, adaptable, efficient movement. Looks like I have been talking about the original human fitness method indeed. This is not the latest fitness trend, but the timeless expression and perpetuation of universal and natural human movement patterns. This is about movement authenticity. It is about reacquiring the most ancient movement skills set and forming physically and mentally capable human beings, who are strong and useful. Express your true nature and become powerful, because if you can’t empower yourself, who will?
For more from Erwan read his article “An Explanation of Movnat“
and check out his four weeks of free MovNat workouts.