The day before last weekend’s clinics in Edinburgh, Erwan was interviewed by Claire Smith, a journalist for “The Scotsman”, a nationwide newspaper in the UK.
The web version is here: Interview: Erwan Le Corre, fitness guru.
There is also a pdf version for download here.
What was your own personal journey that brought you to the MovNat philosophy?
Probably an intuition, but that intuition was born from my experience.
Over the last couple of years MovNat has gone from strength to strength. It is easy for people to get seduced by the wonderful video clips on the MovNat website. For most of us that is simply not the environment we live in. What is it that MovNat offers in practical terms for the average person who wants to get “healthy as nature intended”?
When people attend my workshops, they’re not watching my videos all day. If there is such a growing word of mouth about MovNat, it is because people find value and content they can not only experience, but that becomes part of what they do and ultimately part of who they are. Obviously, the concept of MovNat is not just a philosophy, but also something very practical people can experience at a level that finds them where they are. It’s fully scalable and can be applied anywhere, that’s why it’s practical.
What are the key criteria for a particular activity to be “MovNat”?
First, movements involved in a MovNat must be highly practical. “Functional” can be a very blurry concept. The fact that a movement is a “compound” movement is good, but it has to be practical, to help us perform a task whose utility is very direct, obvious. For instance, jumping over an obstacle. This is why movement must be also as adaptive as possible. It has to relate to a particular context or situation. For example, a jump forward in a conventional fitness realm is often no more than a plyometrics drill supposed to “condition” your lower body limbs. In MovNat, we want to jump as a practical move (motion forward and overcoming an obstacle) that is adaptive (dealing with the specificity of a particular obstacle which determines and modifies how the movement should be optimally performed).
When I posted that you were coming to Scotland someone asked, do we really need to be shown how to run and jump? My own answer was a resounding “Yes!” but I would be interested to know why, if movement is our nature, you think we need to get back to movement basics?
That’s because some people think that what’s natural is necessarily good. But that is not necessarily true. Some capacities that are fully natural sometimes follow inefficient patterns. For instance breathing, do you need to tell anyone how to breath? you don’t, and yet many people can and should re-learn proper, efficient breathing. Lifting is a natural right, same for defending oneself. Does it mean you will swing a KB with ease and optimum form (as if you were to catch or throw it) or that you will parry strikes or counterstrike with efficiency to defend yourself? Obviously not. The same applies to all our natural capacities for movement.
Basically, some people need to re-acquire what’s innate because they’ve lost it. Some people have kept themselves physically active so they may be less in need of instruction, but personally I am still making progress and I think that’s a good indication that optimum efficiency can never be taken for granted. It’s about nurturing the nature in us, growing the potential in ourselves. The fact that we have natural abilities does not mean there is no room for progress. A skill is the ability to do something well.
Indeed, there’s always the possibility to do something better. Even breathing, even thinking, and certainly the same applies to the rest.
You talk about the role of “imagination” in training and it’s importance. Why is this?
Because adaptability is the essence of life, it is also the essence of moving naturally. Adapt-ability, the ability…to adapt. Routine lowers this ability. It is essential to surprise the body and the mind, not only to keep on making progress, but also to constantly refresh your motivation. Slow and low adaptive individuals are not good human animals. That’s usually people that stick to their routines very dearly. So in the absence of external circumstances forcing you to adapt, you need a strategy to challenge yourself in new ways. In this process, imagination is key. In MovNat we’re not talking about movements that are creative in the sense that they are divorced from any practical application or that do not need to adapt to any environment. We may imagine a particular context or a particular situation that are totally imaginary, but the movements and efforts that they push us to perform are 100% real.
If you’re unable to imagine ways to challenge yourself, you might stick to routines, stop making progress and become bored in the process. In a zoo environment, imagination combats boredom and breeds adaptability.
The whole Paleo approach has become very fashionable with various camps arguing over a number of things that we really can’t know about for sure. How do you answer the critics who say this approach romanticizes a brutish existence?
Let me be a bit provocative here, purposely: I do not care about my ancestors. They’re all dead!
An evolutionary approach is only interesting if it helps us, people of today, people that are still alive. In that sense, I am not interested in a so called “truth”, but in what we can experience today, and how understanding our past may help us improve our present lives. I am not living a caveman lifestyle, I’m sorry. I am a man of today, I’m in the here and now. I am not “sprinting and lifting heavy things” thinking that I am mimicking a caveman lifestyle. That is bullshit. I am sprinting and lifting heavy things (among many other things I train) in order to be ready to do so in today’s world when the need arises. It’s about real-life preparedness and not role playing. MovNat is about connecting to reality, not to a reality that does not exist anymore.
I know you have worked with a number of athletes and martial artists. What about the MovNat approach makes it so effective for these individuals?
Specialized athletes are usually bored with the repetitiveness of their training, often suffering chronic injuries because of that. They are usually also good at spotting their weaknesses, and with MovNat it takes seconds for them to see their limits.
Elites athletes have a taste for improvement and like to excel in what they do, and MovNat reopens their eyes to a great potential for improvement. They usually see the short and long term benefits reagarding their field of excellence (their own athletic specialty) but they’re also aware that excelling in their sport will have an end and that afterward they should embrace a healthier, more balanced, holistic approach and practice.
I know you are a fan of Frank Forencich and Exuberant Animal whose focus is spontaneous playful movement rather than formal structured training, how important do you feel “play” is for adults?
It is tremendously important. However the MovNat approach is more structured than EA. I also believe that a fighting spirit is as important as a playful spirit. It’s not either or. MovNat plays are usually tough plays. We play through training real stuff, but that’s certainly not always playful and enjoyable. At the same time, it is also important to find satisfaction directly in the process of doing what you do. It’s all about balance.
If you just had 20 minutes each day to train, practice and move what would you choose to do?
I would probably do specialized sessions most days and a combo session (combining many skills and techniques) once or twice a week. I would recommend to inverse that ratio in beginners. It all depends on your experience and level. Beginners will make faster progress by combining movements. To an advanced practitioner that reaches plateaus in most areas of movement, more specificity becomes essential to progress.
Obviously diet is an integral part of overall health and wellness, I know you are friends with Rob Wolf, author of the excellent Paleo Solution, are there any particular guidelines you follow or approaches you endorse.
Paleo, 100%. Well, 70-80% is probably best and more practical though. I know some people argue that humans can be okay with a variety of diets, and that diet is only one component of health. I still believe that an evolutionary approach to nutrition is essential. Without intending to hurt anybody’s feelings, to me natural does not mean yoga and tofu. Talking about what’s “natural” to us means understanding biology. Well, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
What are the movement and nutrition patterns that we have collectively inherited from millions of years of life in the wild, and that are not social or cultural patterns? That is the answer to what “natural” is to a human animal.
How do you like to see MovNat developing over the next few years?
At a wide scale. Very wide. I’m working on it. But what matters is not Movnat. MovNat is the tool, a medium. What ultimately matters is what people experience. If MovNat helps many people to live better, then it deserves to grow and spread, just like any of the many things that are beneficial to people.
Read Rannoch’s testimonial after the clinic below:
A major thank you for visiting us here in Scotland. I was blown away by the clinic today. I will post a full account on the blog but I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it and what a fantastic teacher you are. I have had the good fortune to train with some very influential coaches and teachers over the last few years. Whilst I can’t compare learning a specific skill ie: kettlebells, with being introduced to the concepts of MovNat, I can say that no-one has laid out a more lucid, congruent and applicable philosophy for the human condition.
There is no doubt we are drawn to the things that resonate with us on a personal level. It is easy to read things in to system or philosophy simply because we want to have something we can label and take ownership of. What you have distilled removes all that mumbo jumbo. It is a rare person who can actually keep the simple…simple, without trivializing it’s significance.