By Dr. Christa Whiteman, Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer

One of the twelve principles of MovNat is ‘environmental’- “that movement aptitudes are regularly practiced outdoors in order to maximize health benefits and increase well-being and connection to nature.” It is the only modern physical education system that not only values practice in nature, but that also prepares one for better movement in nature.

So many of us modern humans simply hike (or run) through nature. We enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, a slight breeze to cool our skin while we ‘workout.’ But we don’t interact with it.

Gravel under your palms while crawling. The bark of a tree that provides a little too much friction when you try to leg swing up on to it. The remnants of the morning dew dampening your clothing as you practice a ground flow sequence in the late morning grass. Lifting or throwing a rock that has no handles and an irregular surface. The bare and sometimes rocky earth under your feet. These are not to be avoided, rather they should be embraced as part of our path way to becoming more physically capable and adaptable.

I distinctly remember an episode of the Katy Says podcast with Katy Bowman describing her experience of her first ever MovNat retreat on a beach in Mexico with Erwan Le Corre. She spoke of the callous she developed on one spot of her knee from hours of practicing various ground flow movements in the sand (even the masters devote hours of practice to the fundamentals!). If you are familiar with Katy’s work at all, you know that that callous was no mere extra bit of thickened skin cells, but was an example of all the unique inputs our bodies want and need, but just are not getting in our flat, smooth, even-surfaced, linear, constructed environments.

Interaction with nature by moving in it also provides a much needed opportunity for mindfulness— something we desperately need more of in our modern culture. The irregular environment provided by the Nature demands a deeper level of focus and awareness to move in it safely. Too often we look at these irregularities as things that ‘get it our way.’ But perhaps the only thing they truly get in the way of is our ego. When barefoot running on a rocky trail, for example, you must slow down and focus on each and every foot placement. If we are only focused on the goal of running at a certain pace or for a prescribed distance, this becomes a frustrating nuisance. But with permission to slow down, to focus on both body and surroundings, I’ve experienced rejuvenating, zen-like flow states from this level of awareness and presence.

And then there’s creativity. One of our Team Instructors, Stefano Tripney, coined the term “obstacle optics.” Once you learn some of the fundamental techniques in MovNat, you’ll start to see and look for opportunities to practice them everywhere.

There is a rail trail near me that many people hike, run or bike on. It’s a nice experience moving through nature, but it wasn’t until I was introduced to MovNat that I noticed how the linear nature of the trail literally gave people tunnel vision, myself included. They only saw one way, one direction, one plane of motion their bodies could engage that trail.

One day I went to the trail to run, but with my new patent-pending MovNat Obstacle Optics, I finally noticed an awesome downed tree I had ran past hundreds of times; less than 20 feet off to the side of the trail. The tree had been there awhile as the bark had been worn and peeled away by time and insects, leaving the smooth inner cambium layers exposed. On one end, the tree was the perfect height to practice various vaults or even to jump up on to. On the other side, it was just high enough off the ground to practice crawling under it or a depth jump off of it. And of course, there were all kinds of ways to practice balanced walking or crawling across it.

Sadly, the strange looks I got from passersby were confirmation that very few, if any adults saw the rich movement opportunities provided by this natural jungle gym. The modern phenomena of “exercise can only happen in a gym” with all that slick, ergonomic equipment has unfortunately limited our ability to see and engage in creative, diverse movement practice.

None of this is meant to shame anyone for exercise or even practicing MovNat in a gym, or even indoors. The irregularities and diversity of inputs provided by a natural environment are what we call contextual demands. Responding to varying contextual demands is what develops adaptability; an indication of attainment of mastery in a movement or skill. However, before you can train for adaptability, you need to be effective, then efficient at a technique or aptitude. You’ve got to ‘crawl before you ball’ as the kids say these days. The safe, smooth, predictable environment inside of the gym can be an excellent place to develop efficiency.

But at some point, you’ve got to take it outside. Playgrounds are great places to start because there is equipment there that is familiar or has an obvious use. However, there is an essential freedom that can be found in creatively and mindfully crafting a workout from nothing more than what nature provides.

If you need a little help to start seeing fitness more creatively, you may want to consider a MovNat Elements 1-day workshop or even the MovNat Level 1 Certification. You’ll learn the fundamentals of MovNat, while applying them with a variety of contextual demands. Physically speaking, these courses are for anyone and everyBODY, but will take a somewhat tougher mindset in order to be open and willing to mindfully engage the environment around you.


Get Started With Natural Movement Fitness – TODAY!

The MovNat Level 1 Certification is your entry point into the world’s official Natural Movement® Fitness program. It equips you with the knowledge, skills, and methods you need to transform your movement & fitness and build real world capability from the ground up. You’ll learn not only the movements in the official MovNat curriculum, but also the methods to apply those movements to your unique needs, goals, and circumstances.

Over the last twelve years, MovNat has helped thousands of people from all walks of life restore their natural abilities and lay a foundation for a deeper, lifelong movement practice. We are the original, official, and only Natural Movement® Fitness certification, with thousands of certified professionals and dozens of MovNat Licensed Facilities all around the world.

Whether you’re completely new to Natural Movement Fitness, or a seasoned veteran looking to expand your skillset, the MovNat Level 1 Certification is your launchpad to a deep understanding of natural human movement, how to integrate it into your training and lifestyle, and help others do the same.

Want to get started at home? Start today with our MovNat Level 1 Fundamentals E-Course