At the most recent MovNat Level 3 Certification in Santa Fe, NM, we had the largest showing of women in the history of that event (i.e. the “Master Level” certification) – a sure sign that more of us are seeing and experiencing the benefits of implementing Natural Movement training into our lives. All of these women have a passion for seeing more women benefit from the practice of Natural Movement and have come together to share some of their insights and experiences in this article. So, here are five amazing reasons why every woman should practice Natural Movement. – Dr. Christa Whiteman, MovNat Operations Director
1) Natural Movement Requires Minimal equipment and space (i.e. perfect for moms, women who train at home, or women with busy schedules)
As soon as I became a mom, it just felt natural to stay home more often. With many sleepless nights, I could rest or eat when I needed. In return, I had to adapt my physical training program. Gone were the days of spending hours training either indoors or outside. I was silly to think I could plan even an hour of time to move, when I wasn’t even sure if my baby would sleep for more than 20 minutes. My idea of “programming” pretty much went away. This is where my MovNat practice proved very helpful. I would put my son down for a nap, and plan for short ten minute chunks of continuous movement, with zero equipment or whatever I had nearby. Many times I would just grab a rock from the backyard and play with that. The old “canned food weight” were a no fail as well. I focused a lot on ground flows, as it helped me feel more centered as a new mom. It also tapped into my creativity, which made me feel inspired.
Sometimes, less is more. When you have minimal equipment or just your own body it helps you think outside the box. You don’t have to be a mom to practice this concept. As women, we tend to multitask and take on many different roles, which can be awesome, but in the end can leave us very little time to focus on ourselves. If you can start to think of movement as more of an “opportunity” than a “workout,” it can be very powerful. For example, if you know your day is packed, taking just 10-20 minute chunks when you can to focus on moving in your environment, you will feel less pressure than having to stick to a fixed regimen for a certain amount of time. It will leave you feeling more awake throughout the day and more nourished. You will also perform better in every aspect.
Whether you’re on your way to work or on the way back from dropping off your kids, and you see an inviting curb to hop on, a tree to hang from for even 30 seconds, or a soft bed of grass to roll around in, you can take advantage of your surroundings and feel recharged as a result. Keep it simple, and take a little pressure off of yourself. We can learn a great deal from children in their ability to move without hesitation, from a place of joy. Get out of your own way, out of your ego-driven self, and into your childlike spirit. There are so many things on our adult “to do” list, and they never seem to get done, but being present, mindful and spontaneous makes life more fun and interesting. I look forward to seeing some examples of how you move throughout your “busy” day!
~Hilary Paris, Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer
2) Natural Movement Reinforces strength and capability in daily movements For real world strength and confidence.
One time I went bungee jumping… 4x in a row! When presented with the opportunity, I thought, “Yes! It will be awesome! I’m adventurous so this will be great!” I climbed the ladder, got harnessed in, stepped onto the platform, and FROZE. I must have stood there – almost jumping – for 10 minutes before the technician finally decided to “help me” over the edge. As soon as she let go I couldn’t believe I had been scared in the first place. It was exhilarating and fun and I wanted to do it again. I scurried back up the ladder and jumped fearlessly toward the water. Then I did it again. And again! And then the next year I went skydiving and volunteered to be the first out of the plane.
But this article isn’t about bungee jumping or skydiving. It is about how we develop self-confidence.
We have all found ourselves approaching a task with some trepidation. As exemplified in my story, positive self-talk will only get you so far when it comes to actually developing self-confidence. It was the physical completion of bungee jumping that gave me the confidence to do it again and then to attempt skydiving.
True self-confidence is developed through physical competence. Now, no one would fault anyone who was scared of bungee jumping, but where a lack of self-confidence is most toxic is in our ability to complete tasks that come up in our day-to-day lives. Think of these common scenarios where we may doubt our ability or approach them with fear:
- You have to climb up on the counter and reach overhead to get a rarely used kitchen tool.
- You aren’t sure you can get your bag into the overhead compartment on a plane without dropping it on someone’s head.
- Your kid throws her ball up into the tree and you have to climb up to get it.
- You drop your camera over the edge on your hike so you have to climb down to get it.
Yes, you could ask someone to do it for you but that leaves you in a perpetual state of “I can’t.” Instead, I recommend developing an intentional Natural Movement practice to ensure you have the capability and confidence to do all these things yourself. Find opportunities throughout your day to practice balancing, crawling, lifting, carrying, climbing, and jumping “on purpose.” Then when a novel situation arises you will be ready to tackle it because you will already know what to do. BOOM!
Start small: Walk on the curbs in a parking lot instead of the pavement. Crawl up and down the stairs in your house. Carry all your grocery bags into the house in one trip. Hang for as long as you can from every tree branch available… The options are as many as there are moments in the day. In this way, Natural Movement will help you slowly and efficiently gain the strength, skill, and confidence to progress to feats you might previously have thought unattainable.
~Kimberly Alexander, NTP, Level 3 MovNat Certified Trainer
3) Natural Movement Helps You Transcend Fitness Norms (e.g. get up and over the bar like a badass!)
A pullup is like the Mt. Everest of movement for a lot of people, and for women, in particular. In my experience, women have more of a tendency to feel like a pullup is completely unattainable. “I can’t” seems to be, without hesitation, the immediate narrative. And it doesn’t seem to be a declaration after having worked on it for awhile, but rather an immediate reaction to the movement. I believe it stems from elementary school when, in my day, we weren’t even given the option to do a pullup. Instead, we did the flexed arm hang (which, by the way, is still really hard). So, from the very beginning we were told, in not so many words, to not even try pullups… that we can’t do them… that they are for the boys. Perhaps that narrative was internalized. And now, here we are in adulthood, hesitant to just jump up, grab a bar, and give it a shot.
But here’s the thing: You CAN do a pullup and you can even go beyond a pullup and do a swing up or a pop up or a muscle up. You can get up and over that bar, or tree branch or whatever it is, like the boss that you are! Here are a few tips on how:
- Stop saying you “can’t” do whatever the move is you’re trying to improve. Just stop.
- Understand that training for a certain move does not equal tirelessly training that one specific move. So trying pullups all day every day will not be the best way to eventually get a pullup. You want to train your muscles, joints and connective tissue in the surrounding areas to get stronger as well. Variety is the spice of life.
- Train the more foundational natural movement skills. Building off of #1 and #2, MovNat is a progressive movement system. The more “foundational” natural movements are preparing your body for more advanced ones. This is why, for example, when I train people to get some of the more advanced climbing moves, part of their plan is crawling. At first glance, crawling may not seem related to climbing at all, but it is a different way to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders, back and core; all muscles needed for climbing moves.
- Once your foundational moves are efficient, add volume or complexity: Do it for longer or add a balancing element. As you gain these skills, you are gaining strength and confidence as well.
You can get up and over that bar! Maybe not today, and maybe not in exactly the way you want it to look, but with the proper training, it can be done. And at the end of the day, ask yourself if it is really about the actual pull-up at all. Pullups are awesome, but let’s go beyond the pull-up and realize that it is really just about feeling strong and capable in our own bodies. That is what Natural Movement is all about.
Natural movement will help you slowly and efficiently gain the strength, skill and confidence to progress to moves you previously might have thought unattainable.
~Melissa Sher, NTP, Level 3 MovNat Certified Trainer
4) Natural Movement Trains the brain Just as Much As The Body (e.g. working memory).
Working memory is the conscious processing of information. As Tracy Alloway says it in her book The Working Memory Advantage, “by conscious, we mean that the information is on your mind. You are giving attention to it, shining a mental spotlight on it, concentrating on it, or making decisions about it. You are intentionally ignoring everything else.” Working memory allows you to prioritize information, filter out irrelevant data or distractions, adapt to new situations – and even get better at achieving long-term planning goals such as saving for a house, or remembering why you’re giving up sugar even when presented with that delicious-looking cupcake. Better working memory can lead to becoming a better athlete/mover as well, by allowing your brain to quickly analyze the situation and select the best technique or skills for that particular situation – and adapt to it as necessary.
Sounds great, right? So, how do you improve your working memory? A Natural Movement practice can help you do just that! In MovNat terms, we talk about the “Path to Capability.”
Effectiveness -> Efficiency -> Adaptability
First, we develop effectiveness – can you perform the skill? It takes focus and repetition to become effective at a new skill, and it take conscious processing of information as your brain works out how to accomplish the task. Once you do, you refine the movement to become efficient. We practice until there is little wasted energy or unnecessary movement/tension and the skill becomes ‘grooved’ in our ‘muscle memory’ (which is really a motor pattern stored in the brain). After gaining efficiency of movement, we work toward adaptability – the real boon to working memory. Let’s use the example of having to do a forward jump between surfaces that are 7 feet apart- and 6 feet off the ground. In this case, misjudging the movement could result in serious injury. Working memory will allow us to compare this experience to all the previous forward jumps we have practiced – shorter distances, longer distances, less height, difference surfaces. It will also help us select the relevant information for performing this task while (hopefully) ignoring the distractions such as fear.
By exercising and stretching our working memory this way, we improve it, which leads to success and accomplishment in all areas of our lives. Not only are we better able to recall and act on information conveyed to us by our families, bosses, colleagues or clients, we’re also better able to handle stress and stick to long-term goals.
~Dr. Christa Whiteman, Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer
5) Natural Movement Is A Source of Self-care And Balance.
Self-care is something that should fuel our body and leave it better off than when we started. Natural Movement is a wonderful tool to add to our self-care regime. This form of movement asks us to tap into skills that are innate to human beings. It is not about performing a particular skill in an allotted time or picking up an object that weighs X amount of pounds, but rather it is about prioritizing our movement skills over our conditioning. In order to do this, we must practice mindfulness. This mindfulness creates an awareness of our body that allows us to generate a greater mind-body connection.
It is well accepted that meditation can be therapeutic. But meditation does not need to be limited to the traditional image of sitting cross-legged on the floor. Crawling across the room might not seem like an activity that requires intense concentration, but once you get down there it is a different story. All of a sudden your hands are on the ground, way lower than they like to be, and you are asking them to work in harmony with your legs to move you from point A to point B. It quickly becomes apparent that this is not something you have asked your body to do in a long time! This is where the meditative properties of natural movement come into play. Pausing during an activity to take a deep breath and refocus your mind can have profound effects on your ability to do something. Suddenly, the challenging movement seems simpler.
Natural movements help to create a balance within the body. Not only do these movements increase strength, but they also encourage our bodies to be more flexible. It is hard to come into a deep squat or even sit on the ground without a certain amount of flexibility. It is also hard to reap the benefits of a self-care regime when our hamstrings are so tight that our low back is in constant pain.
Natural Movement encompasses so many different activities (breathing, jumping, squatting. walking, climbing, throwing, lifting, etc.) that no matter what our movement preferences are there is something for each of us. By moving in a more conscious fashion we can listen to our bodies and make smarter decisions for our movements and therefore our self-care.
~Sabrina Bell, Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer
Ready to Dive Into
We’re hosting a couple of special women’s-only events this summer! If you’d like to learn all about Natural Movement Fitness from one of our very best, MovNat Team Instructor, Abby Corriveau, please sign up for one of our upcoming Women’s Certifications or Women’s Workshops, where you’ll take your movement practice to the next level.
We’ve done a few of these events in the past and they always fill up quickly. So, if you’re sick and tired of all the fitness nonsense that is promoted to women and want to discover the freedom of Natural Movement Fitness, reserve your spot using one of the links below. Space is limited!