By John Sifferman, MovNat Master Trainer

Nearly 13 years ago, I arrived for my very first MovNat training event in pretty good fitness by society’s standards, but with a slew of injuries from my past that made me feel very broken. After five days of training with Erwan Le Corre at one of the very first MovNat “Expansion” retreats, I returned home with a newfound confidence and seriously upgraded movement abilities.

I also learned that MovNat is about so much more than movement or fitness. It’s about becoming a better person in all aspects of life. It’s about becoming “strong to be helpful.” That things like love, service, and community are just as much a part of MovNat as the movement and fitness methodology. I also had a hunch this was only the start of a rewarding journey. I guess my intuition was correct because Natural Movement has been a part of my life ever since I exited those woods in West Virginia, and I can’t imagine my life without it.

As I reflect on all the MovNat training I’ve done over the past 12+ years – at all times of day and night, in summer and winter, in the sun and the rain, and in parks, woods, cities, deserts, jungles, beaches, my living room and back yard – I’m reminded that the more I give to Natural Movement, the more it gives back to me.

And so, to celebrate the gifts of health and movement, I want to pay some of the lessons I’ve learned – in part, thanks to MovNat – forward to you.

Below, I’ve shared twelve lessons I’ve learned about movement, fitness, and life. Perhaps you’ve learned some of them yourself. My goal was to include something in here for everyone, which is why there’s a blend of practical and actionable tips along with some deeper, more profound philosophy.

Whether these are new ideas or good reminders, my hope is that something really hits you powerfully, challenges and inspires you. Let’s get started.

1) If you are human, MovNat is for you. Period.

As someone who has attended over a dozen MovNat events and taught this method to people from all walks of life, I can attest that Natural Movement is for everyone. I’ve witnessed how powerful it is for men, women, and children from all different backgrounds, ages, and ability levels.

MovNat is for people who want to start feeling capable for the first time in their lives. Or, who are hoping to regain abilities they had in the past. Or, for high level athletes or professionals who want to gain an edge by expanding their abilities. 

I know they’ve been saying this from the very beginning, but the more I’ve learned about the method – using it myself and teaching it to others – the more I’ve realized just how true this really is.

MovNat is just as effective and relevant for people who are weak, unfit, and debilitated as it is for the healthy, fit, and athletic. It’s for children, the elderly, and everyone in between.

2) Common sense isn’t common anymore. Therefore, the one who wishes to be uncommon, must be unconventional.

I remember Erwan telling me “humans are meant to be strong, healthy, happy, and free.” But when I look around at most people today, that’s not exactly how I would describe them.

Nowadays, being unhealthy, unfit, overweight, and in pain is common. But it’s not normal.

The slow drift of society away from nature, movement, and health has given us a skewed perspective of reality; effectively lowering the bar so much that what used to be common among our ancestors (e.g. good health and movement skills) is now considered extraordinary.

The outside forces of culture, technology, and industry have necessitated making personal choices that stand in stark contrast to what society deems as “normal.” Examples of this could be simple things like sitting on the ground more often, instead of in chairs. Or, going barefoot instead of wearing restrictive footwear. Or, larger decisions like prioritizing meaningful work, non-digital human connection, natural food, and time spent in nature.

Whether or not you embrace your “inner rebel,” if you want to be healthy and fit, you’re going to have to do things differently from the norm.

3) Move it or lose it. You’ve got to use it!

Even though we live in a movement-deprived culture that idolizes comfort, convenience, and sedentary behavior, that doesn’t change the fact that the human body is made for movement. And when we don’t move the way our bodies are designed, all kinds of bad things happen: pain, injury, dysfunction, disease, and worst of all, dis-empowerment.

Through the disuse and misuse of our bodies, we inflict harm on ourselves, which not only affects us, but also those around us.

So, remember the MovNat saying: you don’t need to be fit to move. You need to move to be fit.

So, get moving! Any way you can. Start small, if you need to. Even five minutes a day of focused movement can be the catalyst for personal transformation. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

4) If you struggle to sit on the ground comfortably, balance with control, or hold a deep squat with ease, you probably have no business doing advanced movement skills.

Similarly, if you can do all kinds of crazy fitness tricks and stunts, but can’t run, jump, or climb with ease, your fitness and overall physical readiness has a lot of room for improvement. Mine sure did!

Early on, I made the mistake of trying to jump right into the “cool stuff” while neglecting the more important foundation. I thought, “I’m too advanced” for things like breathing and sitting exercises. Boy, was I wrong!

MovNat’s “From the Ground Up” approach isn’t just a catchy tagline. It’s essential for healthy, safe, long-term development. Ignore it at your peril.

But when you embrace it, and do your due diligence with the basics, that’s when you’ll be ready to soar. Speaking of which…

5) Stick with the basics, but don’t get stuck there.

Practicing the fundamental natural movements – even the ones that seem so simple and easy – will always be relevant, practical, and helpful to us. High level athletes and movers – like the MovNat Team Instructors – will always tell you not to neglect the basics. The key is that you build upon them, striking a balance between continually challenging yourself while also being smart and safe. That’s how healthy growth happens.

So, yes, many ground movement, get ups, gait skills, and other movements you’ll find in MovNat’s Level 1 curriculum may seem rudimentary to some folks, but they are essential for building the skill, conditioning, and mindset necessary for not just a more advanced movement skills, but a more sustainable and rewarding practice – no matter how deep you choose to go.

6) You’ll get much greater benefits out of mastering a variety of movements than just specializing in one or two.

This was one of the biggest “aha” moments I had early in my MovNat journey. We live in such a specialized culture, especially here in the USA. It’s infested everything: how we work, play, train, and even think. 

One of the outcomes of this is that people specialize in their movement habits and activities. You have your running enthusiasts who run…a lot. And little else. Then you have your weight lifters who pick things up and put them down…mostly in one plane of motion. You’ve got your uber-flexible yoga folks who can do amazing things on the mat, but generally aren’t as capable off the mat. And yes, I realize these are stereotypes that don’t fully represent everyone. There are always exceptions. But the vast majority of humans in developed nations engage in a very limited movement activities. Getting out of bed, walking from chair to chair, and maybe engaging in a specialized form of exercise.

The fact of the matter is that if you’re looking for someone who can run efficiently, swim effortlessly, sit and breathe and meditate comfortably, lift heavy objects, carry an injured person to safety, and climb a wall, fence, or tree…without hurting themself, you might be looking for awhile!

But here’s the thing: when you begin practicing ALL of the natural movements in a systematic and progressive way (like MovNat teaches), great things happen. Each activity results in not only improved movement skills, but also specific conditioning benefits. For example:

  • Walking, Running, and Swimming are great for building ENDURANCE
  • Lifting, Carrying, and Climbing skills are no-brainers for STRENGTH
  • Jumping, Vaulting, Throwing, and Catching are your “bread and butter” for POWER and SPEED
  • Crawling, Ground Movement, Get Ups, and Balancing hit a ton of qualities like AGILITY, COORDINATION, MOBILITY, FLEXIBILITY, STRENGTH, and ENDURANCE.

When you put them all together, effectively becoming a movement “generalist,” you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more well-rounded human. No, you can’t be the best at everything, but you can be really good at a lot of different things. And remember, these are the movements our species is designed for.

If you feel intimidated by all of this, remember that a good “step 1” would be identifying one movement domain that you are lacking in, and getting started with that. When in doubt, ground movement is usually a good place to start.

Note: learn more about this here: Unspecialized Training: A Case For Becoming a Natural Movement Fitness Generalist

7) All humans move naturally, but moving with optimal skill does not come naturally.

Almost anyone with two good legs can walk, run, and jump. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your average walker, runner, or jumper is moving safely and efficiently. Why does this matter? Because if your movement is poor, the likelihood of an accident, injury, or failure is higher. Think of the implications of missing a landing, resulting in a fall. Or, the repetitive strain of pounding your joints over and over again while running with inefficient technique over the course of months and years…like I did in my youth, and ended up paying the price with a litany of debilitating injuries.

This is why I appreciate MovNat’s method of first getting your movement skills to a practical level of effectiveness (i.e. you can move successfully, even if it’s not optimal), then focusing on efficiency (i.e. moving better). And finally, taking that efficient movement and training yourself to perform it in various environments (e.g. like nature) and with unpredictable circumstances (e.g. specific contexts to operate within). Because that’s how life can be; chaotic and unpredictable.

Efficient movement improves performance, conserves energy, and increases your safety. This is really important for anyone who wants to live a long life with freedom of movement. And especially when we’re talking about moving in nature or in an emergency situation where an accident can have large repercussions.

Moving efficiently requires knowledge and lots of practice. Having a guide to help you will accelerate the process.

Note: Learn more about movement efficiency here: Beyond Technique: The Necessity of Movement Efficiency

8) Trying to “wing it” rarely works as well as you think it will.

Winging it” is like playing the lottery with your health, fitness, and movement – the odds are against you. I learned the hard way that a better approach is to follow a method that’s been tested and proven by many people like you.

You see, I spent years “winging it” after I attended that first 5-day retreat with Erwan in West Virginia. It wasn’t until I embraced the whole MovNat method (which has come a long way since 2009, by the way!) and the principles behind it, that I began to experience how powerful it can be.

While MovNat provides a lot of entry points*, the core of their curriculum is embodied in the Level 1, 2, and 3 certifications – all of which emphasize not just a system of movement skills, programming methods, and coaching strategies, but also different principles and aspects of the Natural Movement lifestyle. It’s brilliant how organized and progressive every aspect of the system is.

One of the cool things about following a structured approach is that after you’ve learned the method and gained a higher level of competence, you’ll gain an understanding of how to incorporate flexibility, play, and spontaneity into your practice – without losing the structure that effective training methods provide. You’ll also learn how to operate more on instinct and intuition when that is the best path forward, which is a big step up from simply “winging it.”

*Erwan’s book, the free MovNat Sessions newsletter, MovNat e-courses, and Online Coaching, etc.

9) Movement and fitness methods that do not prioritize health above all else are doomed to fail eventually.

So many popular movement and fitness methods today seemingly brush health aside for the sake of building an attractive physique or achieving some level of performance. That may work in the short term, but eventually, neglecting your health will catch up with you. I made that mistake for years, and it took years to undo the damage and regain basic functionality.

Training should build you up, not break you down. And moving your body shouldn’t hurt. The way I see it, if you can’t function normally after your training, you’re doing it wrong. And most of the time, you should feel better after you’ve trained. Because all this stuff is supposed to help us, not harm us.

That’s why I love how good MovNat and moving in nature makes me feel. Health and Natural Movement go hand-in-hand.

10) Regularly engaging in vigorous physical activity outdoors is one of the best things you could possibly do for your health.

This is probably the simplest “quick tip” or lifestyle “hack” that I can give you that’ll work wonders. It’s right up there with tips like drink mostly water, eat real/natural food, get enough quality sleep, and manage your stress levels, among other helpful advice.

We are meant to be outside, in the sunshine, rain, and fresh air, getting dirty and sweaty as we move and “take it all in.” I’m convinced that many ailments we suffer from today are a direct result of not doing this. It’s simple and worth it, but not always easy.

11) Baby steps take a little longer in the beginning, but they always take you further in the end.

One of the coolest things about the MovNat method is not only how progressive it is – and thus, accessible to people of all abilities – but how powerful seemingly small steps can be. These steps may seem inconsequential to the untrained eye, but little changes to your daily habits can go a long way, especially when they add up over time.

The truth is, achieving excellent health, fitness, and movement abilities is not a short-term endeavor. And Natural Movement is not a temporary workout program that you go “on” for awhile and then “off” once you’ve achieved your goal. It’s a practice and lifestyle. So, training doesn’t end when your session is over. We’re always training movement, whether we’re paying attention or not.

When you begin to mindfully embody this practice on a daily and even moment-by-moment basis (as a result of good training), and build upon good movement habits and practices, that’s when lasting change really takes root and your results soar.

12) There’s more to MovNat than improving your movement and fitness. A lot more. 

MovNat can teach us many things about ourselves and about life…

…if we pay attention.

Closing Thoughts

A list of twelve lessons isn’t nearly enough to convey all that I’ve learned from MovNat, which I see as an idea, method, community, and force for good in the world. Hopefully, this piece has inspired you to take your first step (or your next step) in your very own Natural Movement journey. If you follow your heart, I’m confident it will be a good move.

About the Author

John Sifferman is a Health-First Fitness Coach & MovNat Master Trainer. He is the founder of Physical Living and author of The Pull-Up Solution. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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