Primal Workout

In the April issue of Men’s Health there is a great article about fitness–specifically, Natural Movementand its guru Erwan Le Corre. The basic tenent of Natural Movement is to train your body to excel at any practical movements it might be called upon to complete. He’s not necessarily talking about completing a half iron distance triathlon in under five hours, but rather being able to outrun an attacking dog, climb a tree to rescue your cat, or drag a log out of the road. According to Le Corre, most of the work we do in the sterile world of an indoor gym–especially on weight machines–does not prepare us for the possible real world movements we might face. While I might agree with Le Corre for the most part, I will say that the current emphasis amongst personal trainers on functional training has helped address these short-comings. Still, I do find Le Corre’s thoughts and methodologies intriguing.

I’m intrigued because Natural Movement sees the world–urban, suburban, wilderness, jungle–as your gym. I’m intrigued because I see the benefits of having a body that is prepared for what the world might throw or blow at you. Maybe it’s the adventure racer in me. Maybe that unpredictability is what drew me to adventure racing. But, I know that part of what draws me to the idea of a Natural Movement workout is just being prepared.

One of the other things that excites me about Natural Movement workouts is that in a way I’ve been doing them for most of my life. While growing up in the 70s, my neighbor and I used to set-up obstacle courses and try to complete them as fast as we could. Those obstacle courses included jumping over fences, crawling under beach chairs, swimming in the pool, pulling our selves up and over high tree branches–whatever we could dream up. I think the creativity of it all was part of the fun and the challenge–keeping our minds as well as our bodies healthy.

In the past year, maybe because I was a little bored with the strength training workouts I had been doing, I started to look for different ways to work out–to train my body for the variety of sports I do and for whatever I might be asked to do. I love the idea of not only being able to paddle my kayak fast, but to be able to leap a fence with relative ease. My quest took me to websites for innovative workouts like CrossFit, Gym Jones and Mountain Athlete–no nonsense, intense programs. And, I’ve managed to incorporate many of their concepts into my personal workouts and the workouts of the few clients I’m training. At the same time, I still wasn’t satisfied with the functionality of the workouts (though it was much better at times) or with them being so gym-based. I love to be outside and, I think that’s one of the reasons the Natural Movement article really caught my eye.

Here are guys on an island off Brazil running through the jungle, sprinting on the beach, tossing sticks back and forth to each other, pressing driftwood logs, carrying their training partners, leaping off rocks!

So, when I went out to Fort Desoto Park late yesterday afternoon, it was with the intention of incorporating at least some ideas of natural movement into what I had planned to be an hour or so of running. So, while my wife and a few friends set off to train for their next triathlon, I donned my small backpack, stuffed in a webbing strap with handles (more on that later) and trotted off to the hiking trails.

My first stop was straight forward–simple push-ups with my pack on. My next stop made use of the webbing. I wrapped it around a tree, grabbed the handles, stepped in towards the tree and did a set of “horizontal” pull-ups.  I ran steady for a while longer–quick-stepping over roots to enhance my agility, weaving through close growing trees. I ran through shallow water and over wobbly, wet concrete rubble along the shore–through soft sand and over several picnic tables. Deeper in the woods I found a few downed trees that had smashed on the ground–creating some sizable logs. I did some side vaults over the trunks and back–several times. Then I found an appropriate loose log and did several sets of shoulder presses. Using the same log, I did some walking lunges. I trotted with the log and did some overhead presses at the same time. Then, I started throwing the log–first with both hands and using a slight squat. Then, I threw it with one hand. The log was getting used.

Finally, I started on my run again and picked up two to three inch diameter stick that was about four feet long. I started by passing the stick quickly from hand to hand in front of me. Then, I tossed it out front and sprinted to catch it with the other hand–I made sure to throw and catch with each hand. After ditching the stick, I trotted my way back to the car–my eyes searching for objects to use for a few more “exercises.”

The picnic tables were heavy, but I managed to get them “on end” and do several sets of shoulder presses. Hooking my legs under the table and hanging my butt just over the bench, I could do some serious ab work. Then, I found another cool tree–the six inch diameter branch required me to climb on top of another picnic table and jump just a little to grab it. Once on the branch, I cranked out some overhand pull-ups. Good stuff, but then I noticed a similar branch not too far away. I jumped back up on the first branch and went hand-over-hand towards the trunk of the tree. Swinging slightly, I was able to reach over and transfer myself to the other branch for more hand-over-hand to the picnic table. By that time, the sun was almost dipping into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and I knew the triathletes would be back soon, so I headed back to the cars–knowing that I had at least put a little bit of the Natural Movement thinking into my satisfying and PRIMAL workout.

~ by kipwkoelsch on March 30, 2009.

One Response to “Primal Workout”

  1. Gosh… I never get to see anything like that when I go to Ft Desoto. That would have been interesting and entertaining.

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