Most of us have scrapes, scratches and a few bruises from the morning’s activities. That’s what happens when you exercise in nature and it’s a good thing. Bumps and bruises are not just unfortunate wounds, they’re INSTRUCTIVE.

For example, if your spine lights up with pain as you roll across the concrete, then chances are you have not rolled correctly. Adjust. If you scrape your back on a branch as you crawl under a tree, you’re not low enough. Adjust.

Whatever you need to know about your form or efficiency as you move in nature can almost always be found at the intersection between your body and the landscape you’re traversing. This is feedback from your very own personal trainer: NATURE!

This is contextualised fitness so pay attention.

— Log Carry —

I love this shit!

Log Carry is an awesome activity. It’s an all body core workout that immediately focuses your attention on the way your body and an external object must harmonise in order to function. Perfect!

Also, Log Carry is usually performed with the log drawn over one shoulder, which loads the body asymmetrically. This asymmetry mimics life!

I mean, in real life situations you don’t feel load neatly arranged on a barbell or a ‘Lat Pull Down’. You get it reaching around a baby seat for a heavy bag of groceries! Practicing asymmetrical loading ensures that your body remains prepared for unusual situations. ie., For life!

Of course, if you want to make a log cabin in the woods by yourself, knowing how to carry a big stick would be helpful.

— Erwan Speaks! —

Despite being involved with MovNat since 2017 I’ve never heard Erwan speak! So when the teaching reigns were handed to Erwan for the Log Carry workshop I was pretty excited.

I was not disappointed.

Standing in the grass with bare feet, Erwan is a tall  impressive figure. Physically, all of MovNat’s instructors are impressive, but Erwan carries a extra gravitas that is befitting the organisation’s leader.

When Erwan talks about movement it’s not simply a descriptive exercise. “Put your arm here. Move your shoulder there.” Instead, Erwan’s style easily switches into a more philosophical discussion about movement.

He does this often.

And it’s fine with me.

Some might criticise Erwan for being long-winded or verbose. For sure, this kind of  tangential thinking, seemingly off topic, could be criticized as failing to be able to distill a thought down into a palpable and easily digestible ‘bite’.

But the apparent ‘long windedness’ in Erwan’s teaching style is not an inability to make short sentences. It’s a reflection of the depth of his passion for movement and love for teaching.

Erwan’s passion for movement is clear. He has an intrinsic need to discern and distill the essence of a movement and then share that information with others. And you don’t learn that kind of information in a ‘bite’.

“What is the relationship between my body, nature and this movement?” Erwan asks.

To me it seems that Erwan’s talent is to move his own body through an activity while paying close attention to that act. Later, and after the movement is done, he attempts to extract from that experience the most efficient pattern possible. This is a very deep appreciation for the human body and it’s ability to move.

At this level of thinking about movement, everything is significant. Everything has meaning. Long story short, there is no way I’m going to learn how to carry a log from Erwan without also ascending into a philosophical discussion along the way and perhaps learning a life-lesson in the process.

Discussion over.

Now let’s go lift some heavy shit!

— Throwing Rocks In The Woods —

After the log workshop it’s time to go play in the woods and practice some advanced Chest Pass and Rotational Throws (among other things).

I’ve done plenty of rotational throws and chest pass exercises, but always with slam-balls and medicine balls and not with big ass heavy rocks!

Large rocks are uneven, heavy, risky things to play with and I learned several valuable lessons from today’s activity.

First, you need the right partner. I teamed up with Ken Gilbert, an awesome natural mover from Belgium, and we begun our a warm-up with a few small rotational throws.

The distance increases.

The distance increases as we develop a mutual appreciation for each other’s ability. We’re both competent and efficient at this activity. We build an unspoken trust. The distance widens. The rocks get heavier. The smile on our face widens and takes on a wicked look of curiosity and excitment!

We’re pushing it and the danger is intoxicating.

Second, there is nothing like a big-ass heavy rock to sharpen one’s attention on the task at hand.

When you’re throwing nice soft slam-balls in a safe environment you can sometimes feel your mind wandering off: “Did I leave the oven on? My job sucks!”

When I see a client’s mind wandering, from fatigue or from having something else on their mind, it’s a dangerous time to continue practice. Injuries happen when the focus drifts so I’ll say:

“If you can feel your mind wandering then it’s a good idea to take your body with it. Let’s take a break.”

It is possible to let your mind wander when there’s an uneven 20kg rock spinning in your direction, but you do so at your own peril!

When practicing Chest Pass or Rotational Throws with large rocks you MUST understand the spin of the rock. Quickly! You need to identify the perfect place to grab the rock out of the air, maintain balance on uneven ground, account for the weight as it descends and move with it in order to hold on.

It’s a ballet with weight!

There is A LOT going on and the element of RISK, forced into the equation by the danger of the weight, brings your whole body into the activity. You find yourself present to the activity in a way that does not easily happen when the environment is safe, even and predictable.

This connection between mind, body, landscape and another person, within the context of an exercise activity is not a rare thing in MovNat training. It’s a staple. This is contextualised fitness. Fitness that works in the real world. It’s why MovNat training is addictive and the benefits of this mode of  training cannot easily be expressed in words. It has to be experienced.

— Stealth Mode —

“How did you finish your workout?”

“Oh, I just walked barefoot with 19 others in silence through the woods of Austria attuning myself to the landscape!”

Yeah, MovNatters are a bit different.

Yeah, MovNat training is a bit different.

I’m not sure about you, but when was the last time your fitness group ended training by taking a moment to connect with the earth and revere the natural world?

To end Day 1 of the course we’re asked to remove our shoes (if they were on) and make our own way, barefoot, off the path, through the woods and in silence to the top of a hill.

We’re ducking under branches. Going to ground to use our hands to assist with silence. Quiet, purposeful, mindful, respectful. I hear the snap of twigs and branches and can feel my heart beat. I can feel the temperature change on my skin as I move out of the sun and under the canopy of trees. I can smell the mossy ground.

We’re in stealth-mode and it’s fun. Every step is intentional. I’m present to my colleagues, the earth, to myself.

Everything seems to congeal into a single moment of time extended. Meditative. Connected. I’m just here, in the now, moving and it feels awesome.

As I reach the top of the hill many of my colleagues are already there; seated together contemplating the scenery in silence. Or maybe they’re thinking about the awesome day of activity that has just passed. Or what tomorrow might bring. Maybe they’re thinking about dinner. Cause shit I’m hungry! Or maybe they’re doing what my philosophy teacher once said to me:

“Sometimes I sit and think. And sometimes I just sit.”

 

 In the silence we’re drawn closer to each other. We’re closer for having moved together. Trusted each other. Shared a common experience. The bond between us is strengthening. We’re from 15 different countries. Most of us have never met before and yet right now on a hill in Austria, the seam that separates us, one from the other, is slowly being effaced.

After some time the stillness is broken and we draw a line under the most amazing day.

My iWatch Don’t Know Shite

As we walk back down the hill to wash up and eat my iWatch pings me again:

‘Close you rings – Damien, you’re so close to closing your Move ring. A brisk, 16-minute walk should do it.’

Oh piss-off! Clearly there is something seriously deficient with Apple’s measure of movement exercise! It’s not just iWatch. It’s an entire planet’s worth of contemporary fitness and my very modern piece of technology is just one more example of a practice -fitness- locked in an old-world paradigm of movement.

 

To Be Continued …

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris