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Tuesday, June 19th

Reflections on the MovNat Certification: Guest Blog by Colin Pistell

I recently completed the 4-day MovNat trainer certification in Durham. I’ve been looking forward to this since I first met Erwan and Vic in West Virginia back in 2010.

I remember Erwan sharing his hope of one day developing a trainer certification program that would help create a deep network of professionals all working to help people rediscover their capabilities to be healthy, happy, and free. Well, that day has come.

Colin, Fifth Ape style.

I had very high hopes. I also admit to being skeptical – how would they take something as broad as natural human movement and systematize it in a way that doesn’t entrench it in fixed patterns… and ultimately, dogma? How would they ensure quality but make it accessible to a diverse range of people? I looked at the development of parallel communities, mostly the Paleo community and Crossfit, and didn’t entirely like what I saw.

Frankly, I was a little worried.

Well, I am delighted to report that the certification was fantastic. The MovNat team has clearly put a lot of thought and work into not just teaching MovNat skills, but also teaching how to teach and, perhaps trickiest of all, conveying the culture that makes MovNat so different from the rest of the fitness industry.

First, I need to comment on my fellow classmates. I have rarely been privileged enough to be part of such a high quality group.

I think it’s a testament to MovNat’s culture that it consistently attracts intelligent, friendly, and caring people. This being a trainer certification, the overall fitness level of everyone was higher than the average workshop and it was a treat to work with such top quality athletes.

While there was a lot of strength and athleticism on display, there were a few people for whom the course was their first deep exposure to practicing the foundational techniques we learned. I know some of them struggled to absorb everything. If you are thinking about attending a certification in the future I would STRONGLY recommend you attend at least one MovNat workshop before you show up. I think this will be especially important for the future 2.5 day certifications.

We were fortunate to have both Erwan and Vic in house to teach us. I hadn’t seen them together since my West Virginia experience two years ago. Newer team members Brian Tabor and Kellen Milad were also on hand. I had not met either of them yet and, unsurprisingly, they were both highly skilled athletes, great teachers, and really nice guys. I really enjoyed hanging out with them outside of the cert. On a related note both of those guys are now tied for “Colin’s favorite non-French MovNat coach” They wrested the title from Amy by buying me beer. Yes, I’m easy to please.

It’s clear that the MovNat team has been doing its homework. Most of the first two days were devoted to introducing MovNat and its approach to human movement, in addition to practicing skills. Since the time I was first exposed to them, the skill descriptions and coaching cues have been tightened up – but not dumbed down, which was something I was worried about going in. I’ve been pursuing my own natural movement training for a few years now, but I definitely picked up some new things and was able to improve my own skills.

The heart of the experience for me were the sections on how to teach and how to program. I’ve been running Fifth Ape for over a year now so I’ve had time to iterate on my own coaching style and programming but I still often feel like I’m trying to navigate in the dark. I found it extremely helpful to gain insights from the MovNat team, who are much farther down the learning curve than I am. Teaching is a skill in and of itself, and when you work on developing any skill having a teacher makes a big difference.

In my own practice I am often struck by the fact that in a single session I can teach a student a skill that took me a month of experimentation to figure out. It was fun to be on the other side of that equation! Without going into too much detail, the framework MovNat uses to train and develop movement skills also helps coaches pick out and correct issues as they present themselves.

I’ve spent a good portion of the past week reviewing my current curriculum and figuring out how to implement the MovNat framework into my progressions. I only have a few day’s worth of commentary, but thus far the feedback from my students has been very positive.

Believe it or not, this was the first training certification in which I’ve ever heard a discussion on how people learn and how you can tailor your instruction to suit different learning styles. That may seem like foundational knowledge for anyone who wants to teach, but I’ve never heard it come up in any other trainer certification I’ve done.

I had previously sought that knowledge out on my own, but there is a big difference between reading a book on the subject and getting to actually discuss it with experienced teachers. I think this is a particularly noteworthy and relevant example on how MovNat’s certification differentiates itself from other approaches to health and fitness.

So, the content was solid and the delivery was impressive. My final big concern was how the MovNat team would ensure quality. The final day of testing was, I thought, rigorous enough to ensure candidates knew their stuff without being punishingly difficult.   I enjoyed the experience – I love the opportunity to test myself when the stakes are high and there’s no room for error.

If you are considering the MovNat certification, go into it knowing that you’ll be tested across a broad range of knowledge, from theory to exercise science to your physical competency to your ability to coach. You’ll need to be well prepared. You’ll need to know your stuff. But that’s the only way you’ll ever be an effective coach, right?

The days were long, but they seemed to fly by to me. Before I knew it we were decked out in our official MovNat attire (all black – I think Vic had some design input!), saying goodbye to friends both old and new, and heading home.

The big theme I heard as everyone walked out the door was how excited they were to begin teaching and helping people rediscover the joy of movement. I, for one, am really excited to see what happens next!

…If you want some more thoughts on the certification, applying the model, and what I think should happen next, check out part II of this article on my website.

Colin is a NSCA certified trainer, a certified Functional Movement Specialist,  holds a Crossfit level 1 certification and is a MovNat Certified Trainer. He is American Red Cross certified in CPR and First Aid for both adults and children. He has over 10 years of coaching experience working with groups and individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels.

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