Last week I went on my own to a week-long outdoor program called MovNat … moving naturally. It was an experience I have to tell you about because we all need to get out of our comfort zones once in a while. It is tricky to explain MovNat because it is much more than what it may seem on the surface.
Twelve participants, who I would describe as a very cool and diverse group of fitness enthusiasts, from all over the world, ages 20s – 60s, tent camped in West Viriginia as part of a week-long instructional movement workshop. Each day we learned, and in some cases re-learned, skills that we as humans are perfectly designed to do — and can and should enjoy doing in our everyday lives.
I was thrown head-first out of my comfort zone as a 49-year-old wife, mother and small business owner who sits most days and claims to be fit with maybe 5 hours of exercise a week. This was moving for more than 5 hours each day and practicing movements that are much like how children move and play outdoors.
We were taught to jump, throw, catch, balance, run, hike, climb, lift, carry, crawl, swim, defend and generally move outdoors in a beautiful place, all day, for nearly 5 days. Then they fed us like kings with outdoor-prepared Paleo meals with deliciously unprocessed food from the earth: meat, fish, vegetables and fruit.
The week reminded me that anything difficult in life leaves you stronger in unexpected ways. And the feeling of giving your all and improving (notice I didn’t say succeeding) is one of the best feelings on earth and one that I need to seek more often.
That is because an experience like MovNat, while intensely physical, is surprisingly, even more a week of mental and character growth.
I was faced with the core of who I am and how I handle things bigger than me, respond to the unknown, deal with fear and weakness, grow when things come easy, stifle competitiveness, work cooperatively with others to solve a problem, figure out my best learning style, and then deal with the repercussions of my decisions.
And I don’t remember when I ever had so much fun.
At the very first physical challenge – I think it was to lift and carry a 12-foot log on my shoulder, my mind went something like this …
“No Way. Never Gonna Do That. I Can’t Do That. Don’t Wanna Do That. Why am I even Here? This is Crazy. I am Crazy. I Wanna Go Home.”
Then we were taught, instructed, encouraged, coached and cared for. Nothing competitive. Nothing unsafe. Well of course there is some risk in everything we do. What would life be like without some risk? And this was no different. There was no pressure. Do it your way, on your time. Choose to try it. Or choose not. Or, we’ll modify it slightly for your physical capabilities. We are here to help you, but you have to do it.
After technique instruction, my mind went like this:
“This is Fun. No, this is Beyond Fun. This is Great. I Can’t Wait till it’s My Turn. Can I have Another Turn? Why didn’t I Do this Sooner? I want to Do it Again. I Want to Help Someone Else Do it. How Can I Do This in My Every Day Life?”
I realized that it was entirely possible, and very probable, I could do most everything they were teaching. By learning and using good technique and paying attention to the components of the movement, people of all strength levels could learn and master the movement so we could carry things much heavier than ourselves or get into very high places with ease.
How many times in our lives have our fears prevented us from even starting something or even trying?
How many times do we fail because we have too much pride to ask a question or to admit we need to see or hear something again?
We never want to be different, stand-out, or fall. But in the end, who cares?
Why miss out on an opportunity when it is right there before you … why let pride stand in the way of growing as a human being and truly experiencing life?
There were times during the week when movements came easily to me and I could master them well. Those were fun, but surprisingly, not nearly as fun as improving at those moves that were hardest for me. Those movements that required serious mental focus, repeated practice, technique refinement, and did not come naturally, required a mindfulness that I hope I brought home with me. That thing that made me dig deep and let all pride go is the thing I want to carry around with me and share with others.
One of the best moments of the week — and my MovNat companions will laugh at this — was not sitting up on top of the high log (it took me the entire week to do on my own), but instead it was falling off the log that we all walked across on the final day.
I wasn’t hurt, or even scraped up, but it was a pivotal moment. I was happy that I fell. Relieved. Whew. I wasn’t being mindful, I was being fearful. Not using what I was taught. I was thinking ‘I CAN’T’. So I got that fall over with, and then got back up and moved with the ‘I CAN’ mindset and new freedom and determination. It was a moment where I finally realized how debilitating fear is on the psyche. I was tired of it, done with it. Good bye fear, hello freedom.
I got back up on the log and finished the job, happy and satisfied that the journey, while filled with falls, scrapes and bruises, it is how life is supposed to be with a mix of growth and imperfection, but a journey that is meant to be embraced and enjoyed — fully.
I was now free from fear. It was a life-changing moment … freedom trounced fear … and that is an excellent way to describe MovNat … a program that is hard to describe because it is so much more than it appears on the surface.
When was the last time you moved out of your comfort zone? How did it change you?