By Brian “Rock” Hancock, Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer
Adaptable, Environmental, & Cooperative.
These are the three words I would use to describe my experience at L3. They also happen to be 3 of the 12 guiding principles of the MovNat methodology.
The Level 3 Certification is more than just a baseline fitness coaching certification. It is an immersive 4-day event that will challenge you both physically and mentally. It is truly a test of self. You will grow from this event, regardless of the outcome.
The first rule of L3 is you don’t talk about L3.
This is true and not true. You can share your experience, you can discuss techniques and learn how to train the movements etc. However, part of the experience is learning to be adaptable.
Being truly prepared is one thing; watching a livestream of previous events and then attending one is another. We can only learn adaptability by exposing ourselves to unpredictable environments and situations. This is why MovNat emphasizes contextual demands in our training.
I spent a fair amount of time running outdoors barefoot in Madison, Wisconsin. This looked like prairie and wooded trails. I trained for my environmental demands – however, this did not fully prepare me for the terrain in New Mexico. Was I able to complete the run? Yes, but not to the same degree of efficiency that I had achieved at home.
Growing up, I was always told by my dad there are two kinds of strong: “gym strong” and “farm strong.” He grew up wrestling in Nebraska, and when they would wrestle kids from Omaha (the capital city), they all looked impressive physically but the farm kids always wiped the mats with them.
We can train all we want indoors and build a level of physical competency. But if we never expose ourselves to different environments/stimuli, we see adaptation and progressive overload gains diminish. If I lived as a traditional hunter/gatherer, most of these skills would be second nature. But I am more “gym strong” than I am “farm strong.”
Sometimes the context brings needed help in order to introduce that stimuli for progress. Would I normally have a shirt on when crawling on my back and belly in a creek bed? YES! Does crawling shirtless really inform your technique? YES! I probably should have spent more time outside doing somewhat mundane things like crawling and dive rolls in the dirt. Jumping from a 40inch plyo box to another 40 inch plyo box looks a lot easier in the gym when you compare it to two boulders outside. Environment matters.
We reap more health benefits when we train outdoors, but it shouldn’t just be about biohacking. If you only ever run when it is sunny and dry, what do you do when you have to run in the rain? The indoor training has its merits. You can scale and practice in a safer and more controlled environment. This helps to build efficiency in technique. However, you also need to spend time outdoors in diverse conditions and environments to really build capability. Using the expression from my old man as inspiration, I would say, “There are two kinds of strong, civilized strong and uncivilized strong.” I will be working towards the latter.
I knew going into the L3 event that I would be challenged both physically and mentally. I also trained mostly solo, as I felt this would be more a test of one’s self. For the most part, it is – as I stated earlier. However, there was also an unexpected group component and a bond that formed, as does when any group is faced with adversity and spends a fair amount of time with one another.
Everyone was very supportive of one another. This may have been one of the few fitness certs I have attended where ego was checked at the door. There were plenty of opportunities to flex the “alpha muscles,” but the group remained focused on the success of the cohort as a whole and building one another up. I will attribute this rare phenomenon to the skill and facilitation prowess of our instructors. Throughout the certification event, guys would pull each other off to the side and offer coaching points and insights to one another. Each night, we would recap the day’s events and highlight the wins of individuals in the group. This wasn’t part of the event, just how our cohort decided to engage.
There were times when I was pushed to a limit and found myself questioning why I was even attending this event. Then, one of the guys would comment about how seeing me try a skill inspired them. Witnessing others rise to the occasion and perform their best and listening to one another encourage every individual in the group only reinforced the fact that at the end of the day, we genuinely cared about the success of each person in the group. We are social creatures, and we can accomplish more when we work together rather than going it alone.
The Benefits of Difficult Things
Before flying out to New Mexico, I had been given the book The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self. I read roughly 80% of the book while traveling. Reading the book helped me to reframe some of my views and expectations going into the event and confirm the importance of doing hard things. A few quotes from the book stood out to me as they relate to my experience at L3:
“Because the thing about nature is that it’s unpredictable and unforgiving. It doesn’t care about your experience and what happened last time you visited.“
“Most people today rarely step outside their comfort zones. We are living progressively sheltered, sterile, temperature controlled, overfed, underchallenged, safely netted lives. And it’s limiting the degree to which we experience our “one wild and precious life,” as poet Mary Oliver put it. But a radical new body of evidence shows that people are at their best—physically harder, mentally tougher, and spiritually sounder—after experiencing the same discomforts our early ancestors were exposed to every day. Scientists are finding that certain discomforts protect us from physical and psychological problems like obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and even more fundamental issues like feeling a lack of meaning and purpose.”
I have been on a journey to rewild my life. Piecemealing various experiences to help create the modern equivalent of a rite of passage. Participating in L3 definitely helped me in this pursuit. I can now add one more accomplishment in my pursuit of living a less civilized life in an effort to be more wild, happy, and healthy.
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About the Author
Brian “Rock” Hancock believes that exercise and physical activity should celebrate the body’s capabilities. As a Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Rock has over 12 years experience working with various fitness backgrounds. He has assisted a range of clients, from the United States Marine Corps to those in corporate settings.
He practices what he teaches. A look into his home would prove that a 2×4 sits in the living room for balance practice. His favorite natural movement skills are lifting, carrying, and jumping. In his free time, he loves cooking for his wife and sons, and spends as much time as he can sharing meals with friends and enjoying the outdoors.
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