3 Ways MovNat Can Prepare You For Your First or Next Adventure

By Chris Redig, MovNat Master Trainer

When you look at the average Westerner the words dangerous, powerful and physically capable don’t spring to mind.  And you certainly don’t think adventure hero.  Yet, that’s our heritage.   

For tens of thousands of years, our ancestors thrived on a tough little planet where almost everything was out to kill them.  They were phenomenal hunters, scavengers, fighters, movers, climbers, runners and swimmers.  

They were natural movers.

Humans have always been lean, muscular movement generalists. It’s our genetic birthright. But modern living has robbed us.  What once came naturally has become a handful of barely noticed instincts.  We see our kids playing at the playground and some small part of us wishes to join in.  We watch an action-adventure movie and wonder what a real adventure would feel like.  

Our distant ancestors didn’t wonder. They knew.

Unfortunately, our birthright no longer just happens. Modern comforts surround us. Thus, we need to practice the movement skills and capacities needed for adventure.  

In this article, I’ll show you three ways MovNat can help you practice those skills and build those capacities, so you can get off the sidelines and become the hero of your own adventure.

1) Creating a movement toolkit

To have an adventure, it helps to have a special ability, and our unique human special ability is movement.  No other species can excel at such a wide range of movements.  We can excel at running, jumping, climbing, crawling, fighting, swimming, balancing, etc.  MovNat focuses on building such skills. It’s skill-based fitness.

It’s actually kind of incredible that most fitness programs pay so little attention to such skills.  If the purpose of fitness is in any way related to physical capability, then skill development is crucial. I’d liken it to sport. Imagine being a basketball player who never practiced basketball. Instead, you practiced fitness. You lifted weights, went for runs, and did some stretching.  Your ability to play the game would be dismal. In just the same way, fitness without basic human movement skills is sorely lacking something essential.

I think of these movements as a movement toolkit. For most people, their movement toolkit is rather sparse. It often includes sitting in chairs, going for short walks, lifting and carrying light objects, and maybe a couple specialized fitness moves. Thus, many Westerners maintain just enough physical capacity to sit 15 hours a day. It’s no wonder most people find themselves way outside of their comfort zone doing natural human movement. 

Contrast this with a Natural Movement toolkit.

Our distant ancestors could climb trees to scout for food. They could accurately throw spears and rocks, jump and land with precision, fight and carry each other. Many could swim and dive for food. Many were persistence hunters. They could chase large animals for marathon distances under the hot noon sun, pushing the animals into heat exhaustion for an easy kill.   

And just as our bodies have adapted to sitting in front of screens, their bodies adapted to all that movement. Thus, they had thicker and stronger bones, bigger brains, and typically sported visible abs.

Developing a broad movement toolkit also changes your perceptions. You will find reasons to use your new special abilities. You’ll want to use them. You’ll search for opportunities to test yourself and your movements. You’ll spend more time on the floor crawling with the kids. You’ll look for opportunities to run, climb and jump. I’ve had clients spontaneously sign up for obstacle course races on short notice, when previously they’d expressed no such interest. They needed to see how they would perform.

When something needs to be lifted and carried, you’ll do it. When you take a vacation on a white sandy beach, you’ll swim. And if an emergency or violence should strike, you’ll be prepared.  

The MovNat toolkit works in more extreme environments too. I used it to complete my first Spartan Ultra, a 32-mile long obstacle course race. And as a coach, I’ve used it to help a client pass selection for a special forces unit.

Take Home Message: MovNat offers a battle tested and field stripped set of movement skills that our ancestors used to survive their adventures.

2) Making your movement toolkit resilient

Any great adventure is going to test your resilience. It’s certainly going to create stress. As stress increases, motor skills deteriorate.  For instance, maybe you can maintain your balance when you’re fresh and composed, but what happens when your adrenaline is spiking?   

On an adventure, you can also expect a fair bit of fatigue. Like stress, fatigue is more than happy to turn your movement skills into a hot mess.

In other words, adventure has a way of turning good movement into sloppy movement. Why does this matter? It matters because sloppy movement is less efficient. When good movement gets sloppy, it reduces your endurance, increases your risks of injury and reduces the movement’s effectiveness.  

Consider swimming as an example. A tired or stressed swimmer is slower and less enduring. And if you add enough stress and fatigue, there’s a risk of drowning.

I’m currently training for my first Ironman triathlon, and the relationship between stress, fatigue and efficiency couldn’t be more obvious. Does water stress you out? Then you can forget about maintaining a fast and efficient front crawl for 3.8 kilometers. Similarly, as I fatigue during a session, I increasingly and frustratingly feel my form deteriorating, which can increase stress and further reduce speed and efficiency. So far, my best times are also my most relaxed times.

This principle applies to other natural movements, not just swimming. Consider the deadlift. What happens when you’re fatigued or stressed out of your mind? How likely are you to keep your back straight? Is the movement still safe and effective?

So how does MovNat make your toolkit resilient? How does it combat this? It uses combos and mini-combos. It pushes you into mild levels of stress and fatigue so you can progressively build your resilience. For instance, you might do a long foot hand crawl, followed by a heavy shoulder carry and then a couple pop ups. Then while your heart is still pounding you test your balance skills.

The key is to pay attention to your form. Don’t get all sloppy because you’re tired or stressed. Find the balance. Find the point where you’re stressed but just able to keep it together. As you adapt, you’ll be able to tolerate greater and greater loads of stress and fatigue, while maintaining efficient movement.

3) Fostering a spirit of adventure

The transition from broken down Westerner to adventuring Natural Mover isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t quick. Just as it takes a lot of time and neglect to destroy your genetic birthright, it takes a lot of time and effort to reclaim it. Thus, you need to stay motivated.

Fortunately, MovNat can help.  The key to any adventure is the arc of the hero. In a good adventure, the protagonist always evolves. Similarly, somewhere in the middle of developing your resilient movement toolkit, you’ll notice that you’ve changed. A fundamental shift will occur in your interests and motivations, and it will happen at the deepest levels of who you are.

Researchers Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan have developed a theory of intrinsic motivation called Self-determination theory. Their theory has shown that becoming autonomous, competent and the member of a tribe maximizes your intrinsic motivation. In other words, the more you MovNat, the more you want to MovNat, and the more likely you are to stick with it.  

Let me show you how it works.

Competence – Being good at anything increases your motivation to do it. It’s rather obvious, when you think about it. Humans like doing things they’re good at, and we hate doing things we’re terrible at. If you’re a swimmer, you’ve experienced this swimming. If you’re a runner, then you’ve experienced it running. Climbers experience it climbing, lifters experience it lifting, and parkour practitioners experience it balancing and jumping.

And of course, MovNatters experience it moving.

There is an intense joy in having an adventure and being physically capable to see it through to the end. When the occasion arises and you can confidently say, “I can do it”, there is joy in that moment. When the waters are rising, can you lift and carry sandbags for 12 hours to help your neighbor? What if your friends invite you on a run, your kids want to climb trees or your spouse wants to go for a hike? Are you ready? Do you have the moves?

When you have the moves, you’re deeply motivated.

Autonomous – Humans are funny creatures. Tell us to do something, and we immediately revolt. Being told what to do or how to do it crushes our motivation. The same can be said for needing help or losing our independence.  

The opposite of this is autonomy and a sense of self-sufficient independence. Movement autonomy is partly why Blue Zone populations are so long lived. They develop the skills and capacities to move well at a young age, and they treasure it. They find it deeply motivating. Thus, they keep moving all the way up into their 80’s and 90’s.  

It certainly isn’t easy. It doesn’t just happen. But once they’ve had a taste of movement independence, they maintain it. They fight for it.  

In other words, developing a Natural Movement toolkit creates a sense of autonomy and independence that will keep you motivated to move.  

Relatedness – Being in a group of like-minded people will do wonders for your motivation. This means finding a tribe. Finding a group of like-minded people who share your interests in the things you’re doing. It means being ready to help, cooperating with others and finding help when you need it. Humans are intrinsically social creatures. Thus, the interests we share with others are deeply motivating. MovNat offers just such a tribe.

Take Home Message: Natural Movement training creates a movement toolkit that you were born to enjoy. 

Reclaiming your birthright 

Our modern sedentary culture has created the illusion that building and maintaining a ready-for-adventure body requires enormous time, perfect genes and herculean willpower.  

It doesn’t.  

The human body has evolved over millions of years to thrive on a planet where almost everything was out to kill it. Being the hero of an adventure was a universal responsibility. You can reclaim it. 

Your body has the potential to become the greatest toy you’ll ever own. Don’t let it slip away.

About the Author

Chris Redig is a Spartan Ultra (50km) finisher and is currently training for his first Ironman Triathlon.  As a fitness and nutrition coach, he enjoys helping people build muscle, get lean, and train for their next adventure.  He’s a MovNat Master Trainer, a Henselmans Personal Trainer, and a Precision Nutrition Master Coach (L2).  You can check out his blog at Adventure Driven Fitness and follow him on Instagram at @chris.redig.  He currently lives in Denmark with his wife and two kids.

Note: this article was originally published on adventuredrivenfitness.com. It is being republished here with permission.

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