I travelled to Mexico at the end of January this year to attend a MovNat workshop. I’ve been meaning to make a blog post about it for a while now, but kept getting distracted. So below you will find out about my experience there.
For those of you who have never heard of MovNat fitness training, I’ve provided some background on it and how I became interested in it here. If you want to find out more about MovNat, then visit the official website: www.movnat.com. If you’re interested in your health & fitness then I highly recommend that you learn about it and if possible book yourself onto a MovNat course.
Why did I attend a MovNat workshop?
If you are fit and healthy you will be more able to enjoy life. A big part in trying to achieve this is through a good diet and regular fitness training. As for how to exactly go about achieving this, what you should eat, how you should train, etc – well there are thousands of methods and even more opinions.
Following my own research and personal experience, I’ve come to the conclusion (for the time being) that the Paleo Diet and MovNat fitness training will provide the best way towards true health & fitness.
MovNat trains 12 natural movement skills which are: walking, running, jumping, balancing, moving on all fours, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming and defending. No training system will fully prepare you physically for every possible physical challenge. However, I believe MovNat will bring you closer to being prepared than any other training system I know, to overcome any physical challenge in any environment that you may come up against.
MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre is an expert in natural movement. However, you won’t hear Erwan claiming to be incredibly fit or highly skilled. Instead, he feels that the ability of most people in society today, to perform natural movements has deteriorated to such an extent, that anybody who can perform natural movements, with relative ease is hailed as being super-fit. The reality is amongst our ancestors, the ability to perform these natural movements would have been common place.
The low fitness levels amongst today’s “civilised” societies (of which the explosion in obesity rates is just one of the consequences) are partly a result of the “Zoo Human” lifestyle that many people have been reduced to. Most people no longer perform many of the 12 natural movements. So, when someone such as Erwan displays feats of natural movements with such ease – the zoo humans think he is a freak of nature or exceptionally gifted, etc. The reality is his abilities should not be out of reach to most people. The sad truth is most people are not even aware that they are living a “Zoo Human” lifestyle.
Like most people I have been caught up in the “zoo lifestyle” i.e. disconnected from the natural world and my true nature – it’s not always easy to avoid. One of my goals is to achieve a general all round fitness – so that I am as well prepared physically for the unknown as well as I can be. MovNat will bring you closer to your true nature – mainly thanks to its training in the 12 natural movements. It was with this in mind that I was determined to learn MovNat. Having already attended a 1 day MovNat clinic in London, I was enthusiastic to develop my knowledge and experience further. As a result, I booked myself on a MovNat workshop……..
Location – Bacalar, Mexico
The MovNat workshop was held in Bacalar, Mexico, at a private camp on the shores of a rare fresh water lake, named Laguna Bacalar. This 50 mile long lake proved to be an excellent place to develop a solid technical foundation in MovNat training. It took me 23 hours – 3 planes, 2 taxis, a bus and then a jeep, but I eventually made it to Bacalar.
The MovNat campsite had jungle on one side and the lake on the other. In fact, a few weeks prior to the workshop the camp area itself had been in thick jungle, until some Mexican workers and some MovNat staff cleared bushes and undergrowth – as well as scare a few snakes away. It took a lot of hard work over a number of days, but when I and the other course attendees arrived, everything had been set up ready for a week’s MovNat training.
The weather was generally hot & sunny – with only one day of rain. Unsurprisingly, since it was located in the jungle there were lots of insects about – especially mosquitoes at night, from which I got a lot of bites. However, during the day they did not cause any problems with training.
We were warned that there were crocodiles in the lake, but that it was safe to swim during the day, as the crocs are quite shy so they would keep away from us. We actually all went swimming in the dark on the first night, only to be told the next morning that it was best to avoid swimming at night due the crocs. Knowing this made our subsequent training in the lake a rather cautious experience, as I don’t think anybody wanted to stray out too far on their own……except for Erwan……maybe he eats them for breakfast?? Or maybe he just knew he could swim back to shore quicker than the rest of us??
The campsite consisted of individual tents (each with a large comfy air mattress, pillow and blankets, plus a LED lantern), a large dining tent, an outdoor kitchen area, shower and eco-friendly toilet. The various training areas were connected by narrow pathways, lined with candle poles to light the way in the evenings. Being a tropical location it got dark fairly early e.g. approx 7:30pm – and it got dark very quickly. Since it was a fresh water lake everyone brushed their teeth, washed, etc in the lake, which admittedly was rather cold. It was very basic – but then again that was the point – to get close to nature, away from mobiles, computers, TV, radios, etc.
Before booking on the workshop I knew that the campsite would be rather primitive i.e. not a hotel, with a hot shower and satellite TV that I’m used to when travelling. Prior to arrival, I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of living out of a tent for a week, but I soon got used to it and was content – enough of the basics were available and anyway, I was there for the training, not 5 star accommodation! It was good for me to get out of my comfort zone for a while and disconnect from the electronic world……
Most of the meals we ate were prepared on site at a specially constructed outdoor kitchen. All meals followed Paleo Diet principles – so no grains, dairies, sugar or processed food, etc. Food included lots of vegetables, fruit, chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs, nuts, etc. To drink there was always purefied water available 24hrs a day. We could also have tea i.e. black, green and chamomile. Sometimes we had fresh coconut juice – after we managed to rip open the coconuts.
We ate 3 meals a day. Snacking was discouraged as Erwan said it would interfere with our metabolism, but if anybody got really hungry they could help themselves to additional fresh fruit or nuts if they felt they really needed it. Part of the training was to learn how not to eat all the time and to train your metabolism to rely on your body reserves for fuel instead of relying on constantly snacking. Some of the meals included:
- Scrambled eggs (mixed with onions, green pepper, mushrooms)
- Slices of mango, melon, papaya and bananas
- Fried pork with red & green chilli peppers, onions
- Grilled white fish marinated in lemon
- Cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber
- Fried bananas
- Chamomile tea / water
Meals were eaten in a large tent which was set up to act as a dining area. Inside was a large dining table & benches – which had been expertly crafted by local Mexican workers. It gave protection against the heat of the sun and helped protect us from mosquitoes – especially in the evenings. We never started training straight after eating – instead taking a break e.g. 1 hr after lunch.
Since I regularly eat snacks throughout the day, I was concerned that I would become rather hungry – especially since I would be expending a lot of energy from workouts, etc each day. However, I only ate the set 3 meals a day, didn’t snack and was never hungry –which surprised me. I was also a lot leaner at the end of the week. No doubt keeping busy with the MovNat training helped keep our minds off food aswell.
From other reports I’ve read, from previous MovNat workshops, the meals served have always been highly praised. This was also the case for the MovNat Mexico workshop. All of the food was delicious and there was plenty of it. Credit goes to the MovNat camp assistants Devin Bearb and Joey Barbosa ,who each day produced numerous culinary delights, all from the little outdoor kitchen.
Skills / Training
The MovNat training offered included:
- the natural movement philosophy of MovNat
- movement principles and drills
- instruction in essential techniques in the 12 natural capacities of movement (walking, running, jumping, balancing, moving on all fours, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming and defending)
- exploration of movement variations
- training types: single movement, combo and course
- how to program your own MovNat training
- opportunist training: how to train anywhere, anytime
- breathing techniques
On the first day of training we had an individual 20 minute assessment by Erwan, so that our fitness level could be ascertained. Some of the tests included your balancing ability, number of pull ups you could do, lifting capability, running technique, etc.
Each day began early at approx 06:30am. We were instructed by Erwan in different natural movements over the week e.g. jumping, climbing tree branches, swimming, etc. Since MovNat is fully scalable to an individual’s skill and conditioning level, Erwan often started training each movement with our fitness levels in mind. Gradually as we mastered one level of difficulty Erwan would explain and demonstrate more advanced options.
For example, training for jumping started off at a relatively low height and in stages progressed in difficulty i.e. increasing the height of the jumps, increasing the distance, varying the angles of the jumps, varying how our feet should be positioned on landing, etc.
The level of fitness of those attending the workshop varied – e.g. some were much stronger when it came to lifting movements, others were more skillfull when it came to balancing or swimming, etc. So, no matter what your fitness level you can take part in a MovNat workshop. Nobody was pressured into doing any drills they didn’t feel comfortable with.
Erwan can tailor the training to suit your fitness level regardless of experience or conditioning. For example, one day I was struggling to shoulder a heavy log, which compromised my technique. Erwan simply had me lift a lighter log instead.
At the end of each day Erwan would create a combo consisting of the many drills that we had learnt up to that point. As the name suggests a “combo” is a combination of natural movement drills performed in a circuit e.g. 3-5 repetitions or for time, etc. Everyone always put 100% effort into the combos and while they didn’t last long they were often exhausting. One combo we did was 5 rounds for time of:
- x5 deadlifts of a heavy log
- Run 30 metres
- Climb a tree branch
- Split jump
- Precision jump
- Walk on all fours 15 metres
This took me 11 minutes. You don’t have to time yourself when doing a combo, but if you think it’ll be motivating then it’s an option.
Erwan encourages barefoot training. I have very little experience of barefoot training and prior to the Mexico workshop Scotland was experiencing a very cold winter, with lots of snow – which quite frankly put me off attempting any barefoot training before travelling to Mexico.
I always wore Vibram Five Fingers footwear while training. While not ideal, they are the next best option to training barefoot. Erwan always went barefoot. Only one other course attendee went barefoot, with all the others wearing Vibrams.
The MovNat Mexico workshop included a day of training at a Mayan Ruin. Our group travelled to Chacchoben Mayan ruins (chak-CHO-ben; Maya for “the place of red corn”), a settlement by the Maya estimated at 200 BC, and the structures date from 700 AD.
It rained heavily for most of the day. After walking around the ruins – generally sightseeing and taking pictures, we mainly trained defending movements. We also did what I found to be the most difficult combo workout of the entire week. This was done on the large, steep stairs of one of the Mayan ruins.
The combo involved repeatedly walking up and down the steep stairs of approx 45 degrees (which due to the large sizes of the individual steps was like doing a lunge each time), then running up & down, then squat jumping up & down, then on all fours (chest up) going up & down the stairs and then most difficult of all (partly because my muscles were aching by then) going on all fours (chest & face down & head looking down to the bottom of the stairs) going up & down. This was non-stop, repeatedly going up & down, with the pace increasing each time, with us all trying to keep up with Erwan. By the end I was physically exhausted – half dragging myself down the stairs desperate for it to end.
Erwan never told us how long the workout would last for or what the next technique would be i.e. run, squat jump up the stairs, etc. With Erwan expect the unexpected. It just kept going on and on and on……. Erwan of course seemed to complete it with ease, revealing just how fit he really is compared to the rest of us
Erwan explained how to program MovNat training and how to incorporate opportunist training i.e. how to train anywhere, anytime. This was mainly demonstrated to us when we travelled to a park in the nearby town of Bacalar. By looking at our local surroundings e.g. an urban area, with a different mindset, we would be able to realise that there are a large number of opportunites in which we can do MovNat training.
There were a lot of people in the park we trained at, and needless to say we got a lot of stares. No doubt thinking what are these gringos up to??? But the fact is most people have not heard of MovNat or witnessed MovNat training – so when they do see it, they think it’s a bit odd. So if you are going to do MovNat then prepare to have some people give you some strange looks. Erwan has said this is the biggest obstacle to practicing MovNat “It requires a real motivation to train in the open. People usually think you’re showing off.” To quote Erwan from a magazine article:“My vision is to make natural movement normal and culturally acceptable. If you saw someone in a park doing Yoga or Tai Chi, you wouldn’t think anything of it, but if you saw someone doing something so simple as running and jumping, or climbing a tree, you would think that person is crazy. My vision, is to change people’s perceptions of natural movement, so one day, when you see that person in the park executing the movements people were created to do, you will simply think, ‘that’s MovNat’. Everyone deserves to be strong, healthy, happy and free and MovNat can provide that – you just have to be willing to have the courage to take the first step.”
Endurance Magazine, October 2009
Flooded Caves & Free Diving
If you ever go on a MovNat workshop you won’t be provided with a specific course itinerary. As mentioned above Erwan wants you to expect the unexpected. From other reviews of MovNat workshops I’ve read none of the training has been exactly the same. No doubt Erwan takes into account the fitness level of the attendees, the natural features/obstacles available locally and whatever opportunities arise.
It was in this spirit that near the end of the week we travelled to a couple of snorkelling areas, where we could practice free diving (the practice of breath-hold underwater diving). We first did this at ‘Dos Ojos’ (Two Eyes) which was a flooded cave system, located north of Tulum. The next place we went to was Yuk Tul on the coast where we were able to swim alongside colorful tropical fish.
We also stopped off to walk around the Tulum Mayan ruins and go to the beach.
I really enjoyed my time at the MovNat workshop in Mexico and all the course attendees: David, Don and Richard were great company. If you’re interested in learning MovNat then I definitely recommend you sign up on a course with Erwan. Check out his website for dates of 1 day clinics and week long workshops. I learned a lot on the course and my knowledge of how to correctly perform MovNat techniques has improved. I still consider myself a beginner at MovNat, but I now have the experience from which I can apply to my own training. This will in time enable me to increase my fitness levels – and at the same time have a lot of fun.
Erwan is an excellent coach, very approachable, patient and always willing to explain & demonstate his techniques until you understand them. Furthermore, he has a great sense of humour, very friendly and full of interesting stories e.g. anecdotes about his time working in China or his Combat Vital training with Don Jean Haberey or the night he broke into the zoo in Paris, etc. So, get yourself on a MovNat course – you’ll have a great time!