I am a habitual list maker. Nothing is more satisfying than putting pen to paper to strike a line through a task. I do well with routine. Give me a strength program or food plan, and I’ll follow it habitually. This dedication, while a necessary and useful quality for many, has gotten me into trouble in the past.
I recently attended a MovNat Level 1 certification. Our instructor opened the weekend with a question: How do you MovNat? We proceeded to learn how MovNat uses natural human movements like crawling, climbing, balancing, lifting, carrying, running, and throwing to develop greater physical competency. He then asked the same question, but this time with a different emphasis: “How do you MovNat?”
I had no idea. The question caught me off guard, and that sent my type-A personality into a frenzy. Should I know? How will I know? Am I good enough to know? The thought of having to define my own movement path was overwhelming.
However, as we progressed into the weekend, I realized that my apprehension was self-imposed and I was staring at a chance to embrace fitness in a whole new light to reach a level of health that I never thought possible. I just needed a place to start.
We Need to Move
It is estimated that the average person spends 9-10 hours a day sitting, which is so much inactivity that even a 60-minute workout can’t counteract the negative effects. Considering that nearly half of Americans never engage in any vigorous exercise lasting more than 10 minutes per week, it is clear that most people simply need to move.
Developing your movement practice doesn’t have to be weird. Running around barefoot climbing trees certainly isn’t for everyone, but natural movement practice doesn’t have to mimic any preconceived notions of what you think it should look like. You make the rules. Don’t underestimate the power of your “weirdness” to inspire someone else to shift their view of what healthy movement looks like. Maybe your tree-climbing lunch break adventure will motivate someone to move, and that could trigger a domino effect to help make natural movement a more normal part of society.
If you need inspiration on how to get started with natural movement, give these activities a shot. If any of them speak to you, stick with it and see how your outlook on fitness and health changes or evolves. Movement should make you feel good, so start simple:
- Crawl for a few minutes a day.
- Do a few air squats while waiting in line for coffee.
- Try groundwork instead of traditional mobility work.
- Balance on a curb while walking the dog.
- Practice handstands.
- Sit on the ground while watching television.
- Walk barefoot in grass.
- Hang from monkey bars with one hand.
- Play catch with your friends in a park.
- Climb a tree during your lunch break.
A playground is an opportunity to play, explore, and tap into your child-like mindset. [Photo courtesy of MovNat]
Break Your Routine
Integrating more movement into your life doesn’t have to be complicated. Getting over the fear of doing something that society deems socially awkward is the hard part. Is it weird to sit in the bottom of a squat while you wait in line at the post office? Depends on your perspective.
Maybe something simple like balancing on the curb while walking your dog sparks a bit of playful joy in your otherwise mundane morning routine. Take that feeling and run with it. What do you have to lose? When you find movement that makes you feel good, lean into it and let your movement path unfold. Too often we become slaves to our fitness routine, pushing performance and under-prioritizing recovery.
How often do you tune into what your body really needs? Do you attend to the feedback your body gives you before, during, and after a workout? Do you honor your body when it craves stretching instead of a brutal kettlebell workout, or do you grab the steel and swing? Your body allows you to do amazing things, and it deserves to be heard. If you aren’t willing to listen and give back, you are inviting injury, stalled progress, and frustration.
Make New Friends and Keep the Old
You don’t have to divorce the barbell or quit CrossFit when you get into natural movement. If those activities bring you joy, by all means, continue. There is absolutely no reason to replace your first love. It’s not about sacrificing one for the other, but when you ignore the thousands of ways your body was designed to move, you miss a huge opportunity to expand your physical range to help you evolve into a more well-rounded athlete.
Natural movement is a complement to traditional strength training and translates across disciplines. For example, crawling is a safe and effective way to build shoulder stability and overall core strength. My physical therapist literally had me crawl my way back to health after a back injury. Climbing trees or hanging from monkey bars will do wonders for your grip, and having a daily conversation with your spine through basic articulation movements will translate into a better position for squats and overhead lifts.
Give yourself permission to explore movement without judgment and you might notice more breathing room opening up in other areas of your life, including your preferred fitness discipline. Let go of the self-imposed pressures, and let your fitness evolve naturally. Health doesn’t subscribe to periodized protocols. The journey is long, and when you remove the pressure from fitness, you may become more adept to handle life’s stresses with clarity and focus. Planning and organizing plus allowing results in balance, and a more fit version of you.
Reprogram Your Fitness Worldview
Movement is so much more than reps, sets, and pounds. It’s not something you only do inside a gym on the count of 3, 2, 1. When you let go of the idea that fitness has to fit into a neat and tidy box, you reprogram your view of the world and uncover opportunities all around you to add movement and play into your life. Own your movement practice and own your individuality. Moving with intention has the ability to create freedom regardless of perceived physical obstacles.
Constantly demanding more from your body makes fitness unsustainable. Lasting health is about nourishing and connecting to what your body allows you to do in this moment. What is your priority?
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