“I used to think Natural Movement wasn’t for me. Then as I began to practice in isolation, I felt good about how I moved and surprised myself with how capable I could be.” – Rock Hancock
Allow us to introduce you to Brian “Rock” Hancock, who is a Level 2 MovNat Certified Trainer and the owner of MovNat Madison in Wisconsin. Rock is also a lifelong athlete who struggled with substance abuse, eating disorders, and weight issues among other challenges, for most of his life.
Rock found a new, healthy way of living through Natural Movement and rewilding. And now, he helps people “rediscover how capable they truly are and feel confident in their bodies.” But it wasn’t always easy.
Rock has been on an incredible journey, and was gracious enough to get out of his comfort zone, open up about past trauma he’s experienced, and share his story with us. Enjoy!
MovNat: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, and what you do today?
I had the fortunate opportunity to grow up all over the world (Marine Corp kid). I lived in Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Okinawa. I graduated high school in Okinawa before coming back to the U.S. for school. Throughout my youth, I was relatively active playing recreational sports in elementary and middle school. In high school, my main focuses were soccer and wrestling. I was also fortunate to get scuba certified in Okinawa and spent many weekends swimming amongst the reefs from age 13 to 18.
I was never really exposed to nature beyond car-based camping and diving. When I was 16 or so, we hiked up Mt Fuji. So, that was pretty fun. I originally went to college with the goal of working towards becoming a veterinarian. My substance abuse ended that pretty quickly and I failed out after 1 year. I eventually went back to school and majored in kinesiology with a concentration in exercise science. I also played rugby all 5 years, and it has been, by far, my favorite sport to play.
I had planned on using my experience with rugby and the completion of my degree to pursue a career in strength and conditioning. This did not happen. I attempted my first foray into the fitness world trying to get a job as a trainer doing commission sales. Turns out people didn’t want to hire a 300 pound trainer. I played competitive rugby in college, had a BS in Kinesiology, a CSCS certification, and decent experience from an internship, and working in recreation at my school for 3 years. None of this changed the fact that I was 300 pounds.
I eventually got a job with the USMC as a fitness trainer, and ultimately working with their High Intensity Tactical Training program. My time spent there was insanely cool. I got to be a part of the initial HITT advisory committee helping to integrate top level strength and conditioning methodologies to Marines. During my time there, I began to work with a dietician to help change my body composition. Between the two of us, we hit a wall on why was I not losing body fat. I was a 25 year old male. This should have been easy. I then heard some rumblings from friends and colleagues to check out this crazy guy, Robb Wolf. So, I gave it a shot, and it made a huge difference for me adopting a different eating lifestyle. Having lost my gallbladder at 21, I was hesitant about what the fat intake would do to me, but my digestive issues improved.
I will say I didn’t have the most nutrient dense diet to begin with. So, changing from a standard American diet to consuming more whole foods would have served me well. I ended up losing a fair amount of excess body fat. I was probably down to 240lbs.
This alternative lifestyle got me thinking about the crazy video I watched 2 years prior to this featuring two men – Erwan Le Corre and Gray Cook. The video series introduced me to MovNat and how well it worked with Cook’s Functional Movement Screen (FMS). I started to dabble with some ground movements and more barefoot work and incorporated it into my practice, but not necessarily with clients yet. It was too weird for the mainstream.
I eventually moved on from my job in fitness and began a foray into corporate wellness and health coaching. This change was in part because we moved from Washington D.C. to Wisconsin. In a continued effort to care more about food and work on re-wilding myself, I signed up for an adult “Learn to Hunt for Food” course hosted by the WI Department of Natural Resources. It was really cool. We spent several weeks learning as much as we could from tracking to butchering. During my time in corporate wellness, I finally earned my MovNat Level 1 certification, which felt really cool after following MovNat in the shadows for so long.
I was then presented with an opportunity with a major retailer to head up their corporate wellness program in order to rebuild it. Turns out I was tired of trying to fix the status quo from within, and I had just earned my Level 2 certification; and asked my wife if we could just open a gym, and she said yes (after much convincing).
Speaking of my wife, I met her shortly after learning about the Paleo diet. She is the reason I don’t chew tobacco anymore, by the way. She is also the reason I fermented mayo and ketchup at one point and have kept my kefir alive for 7 years now. Sometime between getting engaged and being married we came across the GAPS diet, and given her health history, we thought we would give it a shot.
So, I went full speed ahead finding raw milk, fermenting all the foods and then some. I really appreciated slowing down and really thinking about how we lived as humans and how we consumed food, movement etc. I eventually got to combine my limited success with hunting and love of fermented foods. When I do kill a deer, I make my own kefir fermented summer sausage. This plays into my long term goals for retirement of fermenting meat, cider and bread, and consuming only those things.
In the meantime, we have set a family goal of spending 1,000 hours outside in 2021 to help keep re-wilding ourselves. Re-wilding for me is about spending more time outdoors, sourcing my food in multiple ways, spending more time with my tribe, and opting out of civilization when and where I can.
Why MovNat? What drives you to practice?
I have always been someone to question authority and the status quo. MovNat really spoke to me in that way during my first 8 years in the field of health and fitness. The analogy of the zoo human and being strong to be helpful drive my practice personally. We are meant to move and we should move in a way that allows us to explore the world around us. If we are to exist in society, then we should be physically capable of helping others. If not, then we should become hermits or acknowledge we only pursue fitness for vanity.
I left my job with the USMC because I saw a need in the general population for just needing to eat differently, move differently, and sleep more. This is the reason I chose corporate wellness. Turns out prevention is not profitable or seems overwhelming, as it requires addressing systemic change. I felt my only option in providing people with the tools and resources they need to thrive as humans had to occur on my own terms.
We typically in the U.S. sacrifice our health for money, and then spend all of our money trying to reclaim our health. When we do discuss health and fitness, there is a ton of information and recommendations to sift through. At MovNat Madison, we focus on the movement piece first. If you feel good in your body, you can then improve and increase your capacity for other things.
I chose the motto: “Move well, Be strong, Help others.” We all deserve pain-free movement, and when we are stronger, life is easier. And at the end of the day, we are social caring creatures who just want to help. But our bodies don’t always allow us to help. The more you can do today in taking care of your body, the longer you will be better equipped to help others.
One of the biggest drivers of my personal practice would be my two boys. I am about 10 years older than my dad was when he started having kids. At 37, I am by no means old, but I do think about how being older shifts my perspective on how I want to interact with my boys and my future grandchildren. I love being able to rough house with my 3 year old and be the dad doing forward rolls with other kids at BBQs and picnics. I may not be able to do crazy stuff when I am a grandpa, but I might as well start training for that life now.
How would you define “well-being” and why do you think so many people struggle to maintain it?
My definition of well-being has evolved from focusing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the dozens of iterations of wellness wheels and love languages, etc. I forget where I saw this, but it sums well-being up nicely: “Well-being is more than just physical health. It covers all aspects of a person, including the skills and opportunities they need to live a meaningful life.”
In my health coaching practice, I take people through a well-being inventory to identify the areas they are not thriving in, but also what they have the time and energy for. I know from my personal experience with substance abuse that I wasn’t getting my basic human needs met. It was only after I learned about Maslow and love languages did I understand why drugs and a self destructive lifestyle were pursued.
I also learned through this journey I have a history of eating disorders and some other trauma that needed to be addressed. I would not have been able to come out of this if it wasn’t for key individuals supporting me along the way. I was given dozens of chances. I began to build and keep positive relationships. Using sports and movement helped me work through the anger; something I will be working on forever. Many of us have to learn these skills as adults, which can be really difficult. I am grateful for my colorful past because had it not been for my life experience, I would not be who I am today helping empower people by giving them the skills and opportunities to pursue a meaningful life.
How do you, personally, use MovNat? What does your training look like in day to day life?
I use MovNat as my formal training. Right now my focus has shifted to preparing for the Level 3 certification in September. With Level 3 as my big focus, I am breaking it up into four week cycles. Each cycle has a different emphasis: climbing, gait, lift/carry etc. The emphasis make up my strength work while other movements make up my circuit or conditioning. I train emphasis four days a week and ruck/run/hike on the other three.
I also take the Katy Bowman approach of movement snacks and structuring our home to foster more Natural Movement. We eat our meals on the floor and sleep on a shikibuton with tatami mats. You can find 2x4s in our house and swiffers with short handles to encourage movement diversity. In the gym, the mat I stand on is a boot tray filled with river rocks.
My must-haves for a home gym to get my training sessions are a sandbag with no handles, medball or rock, 2x4s, and a horizontal surface to hang from (playground, tree branch or doorway pull up bar). Combine these items with 8×8 feet of open space and you can do a whole lot of movement.
Note: check out our MovNat Home Gym Essentials Guide for more ideas.
One of your passions is the subject of body positivity (i.e. focusing on what our body’s can do instead of what they look like). Why do you think this distinction is so important in today’s day and age?
When I wrestled in High School, I weighed between 140-150lbs in season for all four years. Off season, I was typically around 165/170. Early on, it got into my head that if I wanted to be a winner I needed to stay hungry. So, I literally would go hungry or I would run until I vomited. If I didn’t make weight each week, I let the team down.
Flash forward several years and I am walking around at 250+ and getting bigger each year. As a prop playing rugby, I was the “big man”. I specifically remember a moment where we stopped to get food on the way to a tournament, and I bought two chicken sandwiches and two cinnabon cinnamon rolls because, you know, big man has got to eat. I got it in my head that I couldn’t lose a scrum, line out, or maul. I needed to be the immovable object. Reflecting back, it was never about what I was physically capable of. It was about my size and weight.
When I began to lose weight, my interest in MovNat picked back up. It wasn’t until I was around 225 that I felt ready enough to attend a certification, and then I only signed up for a Level 1 because – let’s be honest – gravity and physics are real. The climbing skills needed for Level 2 are just harder when you’re over 200lbs.
I remember taking this introduction to outdoor adventure skills class in college and when it came to the rock climbing portion, I had two people belay me. I thought nothing of it at the time. Combine all these experiences with my first go around in the the industry with no job offers due to my size, it has been challenging for me to not make it about my body. I have dealt with my weight issues and my capability for years.
I make the distinction now that what we want to do or how we want to engage with our bodies and the environment needs to be flexible. Yes, you can perform the climbing skills needed weighing over 200lbs, but you need to work harder. I recently read how walking is a 1.5-1.75G activity. This means a person who weighs 160lbs needs to manage 240-280lbs of force. If this same person runs, then they need to manage 2-3Gs or 320-480lbs of force.
If we look at the motor development in children, they don’t run until they have developed the requisite strength and stability of getting up off the ground with no hands and then learning to walk, gallop, then run. How many of us can’t manage loads above our bodyweight or get up off the ground with ease (no hands), but yet we engage in physical activity we are not adequately prepared for? When this happens, we get injured and often believe we are not meant to move or that those activities are for others.
At the end of the day, your size shouldn’t matter, but rather what you can do with your body. And on the flip side, if there are things we want to do, it would make sense to change our body to ensure success and prevent injury leading to long term enjoyment of physical activity.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when it comes to MovNat or health and fitness in general?
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced as a professional working with the general population is overcoming fitness trends with actual human needs. So much of the industry segments out the human body and what it needs to thrive. For cardio, people are shown cycling and aerobic classes. Strength ranges from Crossfit to Les Mills. Flexibility and alignment are usually associated with yoga. People tend to focus on one until they get burned out or suffer injury most likely from over training.
Better consumers of fitness integrate all of the above, but that can be overwhelming to “fit in”. Besides, most of these are marketing based ideas to generate income and turn well-being into another capitalist-based pursuit. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy getting paid for what I do, and it helps me provide for my family. Movement and wellness training is my ikigai.
I do believe movement, nature, breathwork, strong relationships, good rest and nutrition are necessary for humans to thrive for the long haul. MovNat, as a methodology, does a great job of emphasizing all of these really well.
We can look at the MovNat developmental movement tree for representation. The roots of the movement tree include breathing, crawling and other ground based movement. This helps to establish mobility, stability, core function and prepares the body for more complex movements. The trunk includes lifting, carrying and gait. Building competency in these movements helps to build our strong to be helpful bodies. The branches and leaves allow us to manipulate and further explore our world. These include throwing, climbing, jumping and vaulting.
We tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Remember, Hippocrates said it best, “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
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.
You can connect with him at his website www.movnatmadison.com, and also on social media on Facebook and Instagram.
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