I spent this past weekend at a MovNat workshop in Covington, Louisiana. It was taught by Clifton Harski and we were joined by Jen Sinkler, Senior Fitness Editor of Experience Life Magazine who has been covering MovNat. Look for an article from her in December issue.
Jen Sinkler works on precision jumping
I have been interested in MovNat for some time now. I had the opportunity to meet Erwan Le Corre, the founder of MovNat a year ago but have not had the opportunity to train with the group. Until this weekend, I had been watching videos and playing in the park. It’s amazing what a weekend can do.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Einstein
The work shop reminded me of this quote by Einstein. From a movement perspective, we are way off track as a modern civilization. We lose touch with the abilities that we have as children. Most try to get in shape by running on treadmills or performing curls. We sit in desks all day. We have become zoo humans , incapable of moving properly and trying to use the same things that got us in this boat to get us out. In order to fix us we must look to nature, to the basic fundamentals of our movement.
Clif ran us though drills to rediscover those movements, including standing, sitting, crawling, rolling, running, balancing, climbing, lifting and throwing. MovNat is is all about proper efficient movement. It enables you to teach your body to do the things it was designed to do.
Adam showing off his skills
For two days, people of different athletic backgrounds and ability levels worked side by side and saw marked improvement in our skills. You need a good combination of strength, balance, mobility and agility to perform all the tasks well. MovNat is truly functional fitness.
- Clifton Harski shows us how to climb a tree
We all went home with the tools that we need to free us from the zoo. We made new friends, ate good food and learned some things about ourselves and what we are capable of. In my opinion, everyone should go and do this.
- Wendy and Liz catwalking on a fence
Thanks to Liz Bragdon and crew at Our Place Studio in Covington, Louisiana for putting this weekend together.
Me learning climbing on a bar
Posted by Mike Norris on October 5, 2011
Posted by Mike Norris on October 1, 2011
Clifton Harski is a movment, strength and conditioning coach. He has a BS is Kinesiology, holds certifications in MovNat, Crossfit, ACE PT, Under Armour Combine Training and the coveted RKC. He is also an ice cream fanatic. You can get more good stuff from Clifton here.
“What the Hell is Functional Anyway?”
I think that functional has become the most bastardized term in the fitness industry with silly examples of people standing on a bosu ball while curling 4lb kettlebells or trying to take a barbell from the ground and in one move (the snatch) put it overhead (I love that exercise, but aside from with a barbell I’ve never had to do it). The term has lost it’s original good-intended-descriptive use: it initially tried to specify exercise modalities and selections which would better produce capabilities in humans that were more “functional” in real life instead of traditional bodypart training. So I’ll define it how I see it.
When defining something I like to start where things are defined, the dictionary.
1. of or pertaining to a function or functions: functional difficulties in the administration.
2. capable of operating or functioning: When will the ventilating system be functional again?
3. having or serving a utilitarian purpose; capable of serving the purpose for which it was designed: functional architecture; a chair that is functional as well as decorative.
Now let’s discuss these three definitions
1. Pertaining to a function or functions-In regards to “fitness” we are generally saying that the exercise choices will provide a training stimulus that results in capabilities which translate well to human life functions. Lots of exercises fall into this category, indeed simply strengthening the body in any way could be labeled as functional as having a basic level of strength is necessary for functioning in life. But in our busy lives we want to know which of those exercises are better (not best) in regards to what is going to provide the most translation from the gym to real life. At the end, I will provide what elements are needed to be more functional than just strengthening.
2. Capable of operating or functioning: Most humans have bodies which are not functioning correctly, and so the idea of performing functional exercises is funny when performed by a poorly functioning human. I’m putting the elements of what I believe to be functional at the end of this article, because before that is addressed, we need to address the human bodies which have stopped functioning correctly due to to disuse and misuse. Before (yes, some people really should go back to the beginning) even picking your functional workout program, you should be screened for a faulty, asymmetrical, injury-prone, non-functional body. I suggest going to a FMS certified trainer and getting your body better before/along with adding on any type of training.
3. having or serving a utilitarian purpose; capable of serving the purpose for which it was designed: functional architecture; a chair that is functional as well as decorative: The human body was designed to move….in lots of ways. While picking stuff up, lifting stuff over head, rowing, jumping rope, and running are some of the things a human can do, it is a very small selection of what things the human body is capable of. If limited to one environment, the gym for instance, the body will not have to perform new and different tasks, essentially holding down it’s potential of what it can perform. A true measure of how functional a body is would be to test what it can do in new situations-it’s adaptiveness. Containing your exercise experience to one situation will never achieve the goal of becoming functional at lots of things-in order to do that you have to do LOTS OF THINGS. You may never become the master at one particular thing, true-but really does it matter? If our goal is to be functional then we want to be able to function outside of the gym, in varied environments.
The 3rd dictionary definition also says “functional as well as decorative”, I like this because amongst all the functional talk a very real goal has been said to have less meaning: the goal of looking better. I won’t judge people for what they deem to look better, but the goal of improving one’s body composition and in turn confidence is almost looked down at by the functional community-which is arrogant and ignorant. So please, let me encourage everyone to go ahead and yearn for a more attractive body-whatever that means to you.
It may be obvious that I’m not too big a fan of the term functional anymore-as it is too generic to really hold any meaning. I do believe that humans should generally be more mobile, stronger, and have more confidence in their ability to move in varied contexts, and have more confidence in their own appearance. So what elements do I think make up “functional” fitness?
1. A really good diet. Paleo-esque works great, it provides the good fuel to run the human body. Because no exercise program can out perform a bad diet.
2. Some corrective drills which have been assigned to you by a qualified trainer/Dr.
3. Some basic strength drills for our general needs: lifting from the floor, squatting, one legged strength and stability, horizontal pushing & pulling, vertical pushing & pulling, and rotational competence both in stability and power development.
4. Some basic movement abilities: balancing (not static balance holds, moving and continually having to balance yourself), moving laterally, getting up and down off of the ground, apply your basic strength drills to various objects.
5. Fun things: sports, dance, yoga, tag, frolf, swimming, surfing…..etc. These things are essential to taking your capabilities earned from above and trying/applying them to changing situations.
The other articles in this functional series make excellent references to peoples’ individual goals driving your training (exactly!), and excellent varied options for increasing the options of training.
Posted by Mike Norris on September 12, 2011
Which functional training is the best? Is it Crossfit? MovNat? RKC? Tacfit? A renegade gym such as Gym Jones? The answer my friend, is not that simple. It varies with your goals? Ask yourself – “What am I trying to accomplish? Longevity or Performance? If it’s longevity then I reccomend following Mark Sisson’s advice as seen in the pyramid below.
You can accomplish the above in many ways. It’s simply a matter of preference. Go to crossfit a few times a week, walk, sprint and some yoga. Or hike and MovNat. It’s really up to you, so enjoy it!
Are your goals more performance oriented? What is it that you want to perform better at? Football? MMA? Endurance Sports? Crossfit? Olypic Lifting? Parkour? As I said before, there are lots of options out there…..even in the same programs. Crossfit is a good example. Crossfit has become a sport. That’s not a bad thing but it is something that you need to be aware of. Are you interested in competing in crossfit? Go to a box where they focus on that type of programing? More interested in being able to perform at a specific task or just being able to perform in general…go to a box where they have programs designed for your sport or have a program that really focuses on functional fitness (lifting awkward things like sand bags and slush pipes is a good indicator). Using crossfit as an example you can apply that to any of the other functional fitness programs such as MovNat or RKC.
Remember that if you want to be a good fighter then fight, a good sprinter, sprint!
Be sure to train in the things that you want to do. If your program does not include that then you need to allocate training days to participate in your sport.
My thoughts and personal experiment:
For me functional fitness means being able to perform in life, in martial arts as well as longevity (I’m knocking on 40). I want to be strong but be able to sprint well. I want to be able to climb things. I want to have good mobility. So for the next month I have cut my crossfit work outs down to 3 days per week. I’m getting back to walking 4 days a week and sprinting twice per week. I’m heading to the park to do MovNat, sandbag and skill training. Of course all of this is in addition to my martial arts training. I’m making sure that I throw in some random stuff like heading to the climbing gym and getting in some play time… Tag rocks! When’s the last time you played tag? Dodgeball anyone? I’ll let you know what this does to my performance in 30 days.
In the end it’s really up to you, personal preference and personal goals. All of these programs will get you fit. Some will prepare you better for certain things that others. Just remember, overtraining will ultimately catch up to you, so train wisely. You can’t be functional when you are so sore that you have trouble getting out of bed everyday. Train fun. Train Smart. Train functional!
Posted by Mike Norris on September 8, 2011
At Riverside Military Academy, we had an old school gym. Brick walls, fencing and iron made up this inside of our gym. Hard rock pumped loudly from a stereo and men (really just boys) sweated and screamed while they forged their bodies. At wrestling practice, we performed metcon style work outs that were considered tougher than the workouts that other sports did. Ever since then, I have never cared for typical “globo gyms” and when my friend and I opened a martial arts school years ago we did it in a warehouse complete with roll up door. So when some friends turned me on to crossfit a little over a year ago, I was immediately drawn into the old school nature of what they were doing. I found out that I am not alone.
Crossfit is growing at a rapid rate. The number of affiliated gyms grew from 18 in 2005 to almost 1,700 in 2010. There are people out there who were just tired of the globo gym, people who see the results of a functional work out. Patrons who not only want to look better but want to perform better, whether it be in a sport or the game of life. While crossfit gets the mainstream attention, there are many other lesser known programs out there. RKC has been around for much longer and is considered to be the pinnacle of kettlebell training. MovNat gets straight to the point by training with functional movements in nature, cutting out the middleman that is a gym and lifting rocks, logs, climbing trees and more. Facilaties like Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, Utah have been quietly starting their own revolution.
In high school, wrestling practice had shown me what jumping rope, rope climbing, fireman carrys, stadiums and other functional exercises could do for your level of fitness. I was quickly introduced to new equipment such as sandbags, sledgehammers and tires. This all appealed to the fitness rebel in me. I was hooked. There is something great about working toward real fitness (not mirror fitness) in an environment where pushing your limits is encouraged. It brought out something inside of me, something primal. That is why I work out at a “different gym”. But are all of these programs created equal? Stay tuned all week for more installments of “Is Your Fitness Functional.”
Posted by Mike Norris on September 5, 2011
- Before Paleo/Crossfit
A year later
A year ago today I picked up a copy of The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I stayed up all night and read the whole book. I went all in the next day. I began to see immediate results and read everything that I could on the paleo/primal diet and lifestyle.
I had been at Crossfit Lafayette for one month. When I walked in I was unable to do ONE pullup unassisted. The idea of a ring row seemed impossible to me. I had to stop from time to time on workouts with 400 meter runs. Like many people, I was overweight and out of shape (despite completing P90X and Insanity before beginning Crossfit as well as being a martial arts instructor for many years). Along the way I discovered other forms of functional fitness that I’ve added in (Such as MovNat). Today I can do things that I never before thought I was physically capable of. The combination of proper diet, exercise and sleep/stress management has changed my life and the lives many of those around me. I look forward to what the next year of this lifestyle brings…
Posted by Mike Norris on August 27, 2011
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau
Look around…..are you a zoo human? This term, coined by Erwan Le Corre describes many people these days. Stuck inside a an office or cubicle all day with unnatural lighting, only to head to a globo gym after work to jump on a machine and grind away aimlessly like a hamster.
What’s the difference?
Is this you? You may have never given it a second thought. It’s time to make a change…starting today. I’m not telling you to quit your job and go live in the woods. A few simple modifications will greatly improve your quality of life. Let’s start with a few small steps.
1. If you work inside, go outside for lunch and if possible your break.
2. If you sit behind a desk, get up and walk around every hour.
3. Instead of heading to that globo gym, bar or sofa after work try something new – Go to the park for a walk, get outside and play with your children or find a tai chi class outside. Soak up some sun, step outside your cage and rediscover what the outside world is like.
4. After you’ve done that, read the rest of my blog and put into effect some long term lifestyle changes.
Posted by Mike Norris on August 5, 2011
There is a saying in the Teams – “The only easy day was yesterday.” SEALs are always being challenged. The people that earn the SEAL trident are a special few. Here’s what you can learn from them.
BUS/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School) – is the initial proving ground for SEAL candidates. “The first three weeks of Basic Conditioning prepares you for the fourth week, known by many as Hell Week. During this week, you will participate in five and a half days of continuous training, with a maximum of four hours sleep total. This week is designed as the ultimate test of one’s physical and mental motivation. It proves to those who make it that the human body can do ten times the amount of work the average man thinks possible.” -NAVY.COM
What can you take to your training from this?
1. You are capable of more than you ever thought possible.
2. Don’t quit! You’ll never know what you are capable of unless you push yourself!
You can learn from this. Think you don’t have time to work out ? Can’t afford to join a gym? INNOVATE. Make a sandbag and look up workouts online, Do a MovNat style workout in the park. Make time! If you get creative you can find it.
Pick up one of these books. If you’re not inspired to push yourself harder after reading one….perhaps you’re at the wrong site.
1. Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell (If you are a crossfitter and have done “Murph”, this is the story of his final mission and heroic acts.Also check out SEAL of Honor.)
2. SEAL Warrior – Thomas Keith
3. Rogue Warrior – Richard Marcinko
Lt. Michael Murphy. "Murph"is named in his honor.
Posted by Mike Norris on May 9, 2011
People always ask me about my workouts? My martial arts training aside, the question is almost always…” What is Crossfit?” and “What is MovNat?” Many want to know if crossfit is a 24 hour gym or big franchise. MovNat seems to completely confuse people when it’s truly so simple. I often try to explain, they nod but don’t fully understand. This is about functional fitness. The ability to lift heavy things, to chase or run away if necessary. It’s about being able to climb or pull yourself up over a ledge or up into a boat. It’s about speed, agility and jumping. It’s about being fighting fit. Hell, it’s about being able to get off of the sofa with out using your hands. Here are some videos to explain what functional fitness is – Get out there and get in real shape. Be ready to take on the world and what it throws at you!
Posted by Mike Norris on March 25, 2011
Over the past year I’ve tested many “barefoot” options for training, casual and business casual use. Here are the ones that I recommend for training and outdoor activities. Tune in next week for the third installment – Casual/Dress Casual Minimalist Shoes.
Left to Right - Nike Free 7.0, Terra Plana Evo II, Merrell Trail Glove
My first move toward barefoot training was the Nike Free shoe. While not a truly minimalist shoe, I believe that it’s a great transition shoe. It pitches the foot forward encouraging landing on the forefoot instead of the heal. It allows the foot to move freely both in the toe box and with a platform that you can literally wring like a sponge. I recommend this if you are looking to make the transition….but know that your feet will want to move on to a more minimalist shoe in a month or two.
Vibram Five Fingers
Five Finger by Vibram
I tried the KSO model and like many people, it simply didn’t fit my foot. I think that it’s a brilliant idea and the toe separation allows you grip the ground like your foot was designed to do. My 14 year old has a pair and uses them for Crossfit. He like them for metcons and weight work but not for running.
My good friend has put several models through their paces. Here’s what he had to say -
“I love my KSO’s and for Martial Arts training indoor or out they are one of the most comfortable and usable shoes I have ever used. However in under 5 months I separated the sole from the big toe area and split the rubber on the sole just under the ball of my foot. I have not tried to contact Vibram to see if they will replace them but I have to say long term I am not sure they will ever take to torch of rigorous training.
These babies seem to be a bit more rugged and more likely will handle the type of training I use them for. That being said the improvements also come with some downside. The new sole is more rugged and therefore also not as giving, I am less likely to wear them on expensive matted surfaces and am more hesitant to contact the bottom of my foot to my training partners. Not that it would injure them, but more looking out of them. If training becomes a constant state or hurting then people tend to give up on the training. Now as far as my 3 to 5 mile runs, these bad boys are leaps and bounds more satisfying than my original KSO’s.”
- Matthew Lesko, Chief Instructor - CQC Unlimited
Terra Plana -Evo II
These shoes came very highly rated by several internet barefoot sites. They are expensive (US $160.00/pair) but made by strict ethical and environmental standards. I’d had two previous pair of their shoes for casual wear and they had served me well for years. I took the plunge. These shoes are very comfortable but lack traction in grass and mud to make up for independent toe grip. I ran the Warrior Dash in them and ate it several times. Granted that it was pouring down rain, making the course more extreme than originally intended. They will remain a great option to throw on with jeans but will not be crossfitting or movnating with me.
New Balance – Minimus
New Balance Minimus
I tried this shoe on and liked everything about it except the band that runs across the top of the foot. I found that it doesn’t let the foot spread naturally and this was a deal breaker for me.
Merrell Trail Glove
My intentions were to only try these on. I bought them. These are by far the best minimalist shoe for training that I have put on my feet. They feature a Vibram sole that is much like the soles on the new Five Fingers, however the toes are not separated. The grip under the toes allows you to grip the ground as you move, providing great traction. The wide toe box allows the foot to move naturally and the mesh allows your feet to breathe. I’ve put these through sprints, heavy lifting, box jumps and martial arts training. They’ve not disappointed me yet. I highly recommend these shoes, as they are the best I’ve tries so far.
Although I have not yet tried these, many of my fellow crossfitters at Crossfit Lafayette swear by them as a great all around shoe to train in. Inov8 has several more minimalist options that just came out.
The economy option is to grab a pair of aqua socks. I paid under $10 for these and use them when playing with my dogs. They work fine. That being said, they may not hold up under intense training.
For more information on Barefoot and Minimalist Shoes Check out these resources -
Posted by Mike Norris on March 24, 2011