By Peri Zourides, MovNat Team Instructor
MovNat thrives off the idea of being a generalist—a “jack of all trades, master of none.” This is highlighted in one of our 12 principles: UNSPECIALIZED. A well-rounded natural mover is capable of performing a wide array of skills, but avoids over-training one movement all the time.
Granted, there are situations where more focus is needed. For example, when you are preparing for something like a certification and struggle with a technique or area of movement, you have to spend time working on it to bring its level up to the standard of others.
In an age of abundance, it’s become quite commonplace to train various modalities. We see the internet littered with videos of people combining all manner of exercises, some with better results than others.
The term “cross training” is used a lot, and there certainly is benefit to being capable across various sports and environments (even if it’s just for enjoyment’s sake)—however, we must be careful not to dilute our core natural movements. Natural Movement is the core foundation upon which success with any modality (or a multitude of them) is built.
My Background and Journey to MovNat
Throughout school, I always wanted to be outside moving—and from a young age, a variety of activities piqued my interest. From karate to judo, football to cricket, rugby to hockey, athletics to tennis, all the way to my biggest love, basketball. After throwing in a healthy dose of playing in the garden, BMXing, and moving in nearby parks, it’s needless to say that sitting down doing homework was not my favourite thing to do!
This love for variety continued when I joined YMAA (Yangs Martial Arts Association) in my early 20’s to begin my time in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts. In my 12 years of training with the school, I became an assistant instructor of Shaolin Kung Fu and Tai Chi, as well as opening my now still-running gym, “Seven Star Energy Centre,” in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2009.
Through my time at YMAA, I was further exposed to various training modalities outside of Martial Arts, as we incorporated a lot of Calisthenics, Yoga, and Kettlebells into our training regime. The Calisthenics and Kettlebells piqued my interest the most, and I became a StrongFirst certified instructor in both areas.
In 2014, MovNat and Erwan Le Corre popped up on my radar, and I started to explore Natural Movement. From then on, I really got invested into the MovNat way of life and movement practice, culminating with getting my L3 certification in 2017.
MovNat opened my eyes to how many movements I wasn’t doing on the sports field, and also got me thinking more deeply about longevity.
I also noticed that even though I wasn’t doing some of my others sports and activities as regularly, my movement in them had improved significantly due to MovNat. This convinced me to make the practice of MovNat the focus of my training and to revolve everything else around it.
From The Ground Up
Using this MovNat illustration, I want to highlight one last point on how to grow and add in your other modalities. It’s very important to start with strong ground movement and then move up in skill.
Life starts on the ground, and daily we should be getting up and down and transitioning between different ground positions, as well as deep squatting as much as possible.
If you struggle with bodyweight getups for example, or don’t have a full range of motion in a deep squat, then getting into high-flying Parkour, lifting heavy weights at the gym, or running around your rec centre playing basketball isn’t the best idea right now.
As I mentioned earlier, I saw that as I was improving with MovNat, other modalities improved as well. My football and basketball were better because of my balance and vaulting work, my Kettlebell training was better because of improved ground movement and crawling (which helped my hips and shoulder mobility), and any martial arts practice I was still doing also improved because of my increased overall body awareness.
An important point to raise about this training integration approach, even before going through program design, is to understand how important lifestyle integration is. By this, I mean making sure that sleep, nutrition, and stress management are focused on even more than exercise.
You can do all the activities in the world, but if you eat poorly, get inadequate sleep, and carry high stress levels, unfortunately you won’t get the benefits you’re looking for from exercise. You’ll also risk injury and further setback because you’re so tired and poorly fuelled, so please eat, sleep, and relax well!
Next, it’s very important that you “snack” movement throughout the day (check out #movnatsnacks for inspiration). This is literally 1-5 minutes of Natural Movement at a time.
It may not seem like much, but even 1 min x 8 times per day x 7 days per week x 365 days per year = 2912 min. That’s just over 48 hours of movement. See how it adds up?
Your body will collect the goodness!
You will receive far more benefit from continuous pockets of Natural Movement throughout the day than from a 1 hour, sweat-busting, ankle-grinding, butt-kicking workout session two times per week. Yes, there are benefits to the butt-kicking session (periodically and with the right conditioning) but:
- Start your day with ground movement and breathing
- Take a break from working every 45-60 min to move and hydrate
- Work at a standing desk
- Work on a ground-based desk
- Walk as much as you can, wherever you can
- Carry a ball or small object to do basic reactionary drills through the day
- Install a pull-up bar to hang from
- Squat as much as you can during the day (using a wall or elevated heel support if your ankles are tight)
- Walk and carry your groceries
- If you have kids, move with them
- If you have kids, carry them in different positions
- Work on walking in straight lines to improve your balance
- Balance on 1 leg at a time randomly through the day
- Have a medium-sized weight around and move it constantly through the day
- Hang from jungle gym bars, tree branches, or any horizontal surface
- Walk barefoot regularly in your garden, house, or nearby park or beach
- Crawl, crawl, crawl!
- If you have dogs, walk them daily. If you don’t have dogs, volunteer to walk someone else’s
- End each day on your back with your legs up against a wall
- Before you eat a meal, hydrate first
- End your day with ground movement and breathing
Now, there are no excuses left if you thought you didn’t have time or options for Natural Movements to do during the day.
It’s All About Technique
Across all my years of training, there were a number of dots that connected the various modalities I was interested in: breath work, mindfulness, deconstruction of technique, and an emphasis on efficiency and practicality (in various forms and contexts)—the main difference being where specialization came in.
From MovNat, I could apply models such as the Formation Of Technique (shown above) to any other activity, and it helped improve my instruction and understanding almost immediately. It also highlighted areas of poor technique and inefficiency.
If you can grasp the concept of this model, it will help you tremendously to see the bigger picture of the exercises you’re doing.
One thing that must be emphasised at this point, which is critical in bringing various modalities together, is time & proficiency.
If you want to combine various modalities, you must spend a dedicated amount of time practicing in order to become good enough to train on your own comfortably. I’ve spent 12 years in martial arts, 6 years in Kettlebells, over 15 years in football and basketball, and 7 years (so far) with MovNat.
If you enjoy Kettlebells or Martial Arts, for example, then you need to work on those skills enough to have a solid foundation and be able to see, feel, and change inefficiencies in your movement. In many instances, training for a certification is a very good investment of time and money—and even if you’re not a fitness instructor, you can profit significantly by preparing for a course, as the information and techniques will last you a lifetime.
This doesn’t remove the need to get further instruction or to attend regular classes or personal training sessions. I continue to work with others to help me improve. However, without a strong foundation in your chosen modalities, all that will happen is hopping and changing randomly between things and not seeing improvement, as well as risking injury.
Now, you may not be a youngster with many decades ahead of you, but that’s fine. Even if you are in your 40’s as I am, you can (and should!) still start learning a modality. Granted, your rate of learning, adaptability, and capability aren’t what they may have been in your 20’s, but as we watch life expectancy grow, a 40, 50, or 60-year-old now is very different to one of a generation ago.
A current example of this is what I’m doing to prepare for MovNat Aquatics in August 2022. I have never been a great swimmer or received any coaching on it, so I’ve had to start from scratch and build up my swimming capability. I’m not at the level of doing long, open-water swims yet, so I have to keep working on my basics in the pool to improve efficiency and confidence.
There has undoubtedly been some frustration in having to be so slow in my progress, especially for someone so “fit,” BUT it’s reinforced a beginner’s mindset, reminding me that I’m never too old to learn. Being humbled by the water has slowed me down enough to appreciate all the movements that I can do well, and … surprise surprise … the Formation of Technique model is also pretty important in becoming a better swimmer!
Assuming you already do have a decent base in a few modalities, we’ll take 4 activities as our examples for a template we’ll design. From there, you can tweak the template according to your lifestyle.
The modalities we’ll use as examples are:
- Natural Movement (L1 to L2 proficiency)
- Weighted & Bodyweight Training
In putting these pieces together, we need to highlight the importance of V.I.C:
Volume, Intensity and Complexity.
Even if you were only focusing on Natural Movement as your training, you’d still have to vary these 3 elements. If you’re doing multiple activities, then it’s even more important.
Obvious as it seems that you can’t train high Volume, Intensity AND Complexity all at the same time, many people still try in their efforts to counteract their lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, YOU MUST emphasize lifestyle and movement snacks over high-intensity training.
Now let’s look at our breakdown of modalities. I understand that many of you have kids, so don’t put pressure on yourself to have a perfect schedule. No one does. Do what you can, when you can—and do as much with your kids as possible. They are the best Natural Movement teachers!
GM: Ground Movement
BW: Breath Work
WT: Weight training (Barbell, Kettlebell, Dumbbell)
BDWT: Bodyweight training
MS: Movement snack (This can be anything from deep breathing, deep squatting, crawling, balancing, and hanging to bouncing a ball or joint mobility. Environmental Context will impact this.)
NMC: Natural Movement Combo (MovNat sessions workouts are a good resource)
OW: Outdoor Walk
OR: Outdoor Run
Bear in mind that the template below is exactly that: a template. Adjust as you need to, taking into account that you don’t want to overwhelm yourself—so perhaps you follow this template 2 or 3 days a week and build from there.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a “Seven Star Energy” type Centre near you that trains various modalities, but if not, do what you can at home and around it.
I trust this template will be helpful in getting you to think about how to incorporate Natural Movement with other modalities, but I’d love to hear from you if you are doing this differently.
Happy moving to you!
About the Author
Peri Zourides is a MovNat Team Instructor and the owner of MovNat Africa where he brings Natural Movement to people all over the continent.
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