Updated: Jun 27
Real world fitness is all about how well you can physically adapt to contextual demands in life’s many situations. Ultimately it is about being able to adjust seamlessly to life’s myriad of changes as they are presented.
Your expectation of how things will proceed is like a script for a live performance; It’s helpful to follow a script, but at some point you’re going to have to improvise. The more you cling to your script, the harder it is going to be to flow through unexpected developments, and even the slightest hesitation can derail the whole show.
Learning how to improvise when it comes to movement in life means being able to perform all manner of practical movements, and to be able to flow from one technique to another at the drop of a dime without interruption. The need to improvise is always governed by contextual demands.
Contextual demands include environmental demands, which means being able to adapt to and traverse all manner of obstacles that may be presented in your environment. That might mean anything in nature or constructed society from climbing trees to scaling walls or steep hills. It could mean running across slippery surfaces, jumping across a gap, or balancing over a narrow surface of support. Whatever your environment throws at you, real world fitness is about being able to adapt - and at deeper levels, even make use of these demands to aid in your traversal.
Contextual demands also include situational demands, which may involve a sense of urgency in an emergency situation, such as escaping a pursuer, or a less threatening situation such as trying to catch a bus. This may also involve goals such as crossing a river without getting wet, getting under a low obstacle without getting your clothes dirty, or taking a shortcut that requires some obstacle traversal.
Real world fitness is about developing your physical capability to adapt to any situation or environment that should present itself. It’s about being capable to help yourself and others, rather than being in a state where you have to depend on others to help you. Could you climb out of a window and jump down from the second floor of a house if it was on fire? Could you efficiently climb over a fence if you needed to? Are you in good enough shape to help a friend move to a new home and reliably assist in carrying heavy furniture and appliances? The MovNat creed is “be strong to be useful” and that’s true empowerment.
MovNat is a physical education system for developing real world fitness (physical adaptability) through the full range of motor skills that the human body has developed through natural environmental pressures. The range of movement skills we practice can be as simple as sitting on the ground and getting back up to standing, or more challenging and complex such as climbing over tall obstacles, lifting heavy objects, or running on rugged terrain.
To live balanced lives in a culture that has abandoned the use of many of these innate movements, we have to find a way to reintegrate the movements that the conveniences of our modern society has rendered “optional”. If we do not regularly engaging in all of the ways our bodies are designed to move, our bodies develop abnormal strain and tension that leads to deformation of bones and eventually pain, lack of circulation, and ultimately illness for many. These deformations and abnormal tension holding patterns can be reversed, but this is not something that can be solved by putting the responsibility into the hands of a therapist. Your body needs the stimulation of moving in these different ways to restore the natural form and function of your body, and you need to take responsibility for this.
Without developing physical competence and adaptability through a well-balanced movement practice, you’re putting yourself of a path toward dysfunction and ill-health, and you’re building a version of yourself that cannot be depended upon by others. Even if you think of yourself as an active person who plays a sport, goes to the gym regularly, or does Yoga a few times per week, you’re still missing pieces of the puzzle.
Playing sports are great, but no sport involves every category of movement we need to stay healthy. The way we practice these sports often favours our dominant side; swinging a bat or club, or throwing right-handed, for example. This kind of unilateral movement throws the balance off in our body for the sake of maximizing performance. Not that sports should be avoided, but a Natural Movement practice is required to address the distortions such specialization creates. Sports are well-defined and limited by their parameters, not real-world.
The common gym workout involves a lot of strength and resistance training, some mono-tonal cardio, and a little half-hearted stretching. Everything in this environment is predictable and void of the need to adapt to unexpected variation. Gym exercises are like taking natural movements, extracting small portions from these movements, and then discarding any practical relevance to the technique. For example, what’s the point of a Pull Up? Well, it’s the first part of getting up and over or onto a bar or branch, but when was the last time to went to the gym and did a pull up with the goal of climbing over or standing up on the bar? Just doing Pull Ups and Dips doesn’t carry over to being able to get up on top of what you’re pulling up to.
Strength training is part of Natural Movement, and gym exercises are helpful; But without the underlying framework of functional, practical, natural movements, there is too much missing. Furthermore, a hyper focus on strength and cardio makes the body stiff and prone to injury. Gym exercise strictly follows a predictable script, with no real-world element.
Yoga feels great, and relaxing, but there is a lot missing there. It’s important to remember that Yoga is a spiritual practice like meditation first, and a physical practice second. It was not conceived as a method for developing fitness. Too much focus on Yoga can lead to excessive flexibility and laxity, which leads to weakness and imbalanced joint function.
There is also no aspect of climbing, hanging, lifting, carrying, jumping, or gait pattern of any sort in Yoga. Yoga can be great for reducing stress, synchronizing breath and movement, and tuning into your body-mind connection, as well as relieving excessive tension in the body, but it is by no means a compete system of fitness. Again, this is void of the aspect of adaptability as everything is extremely predictable. In this way Yoga has very little real-world relevance.
None of these examples are bad, and I don’t suggest that you should give up any physical activities that you enjoy, but if you’re trying to be healthy, strong, and capable to respond to the demands of the real world, you need to fill in the gaps that these practices leave open. That’s what MovNat and the Natural Movement practice bring to the table. It can be a complete system in and of itself, or the perfect supplement to balance the other activities you love.
MovNat Natural Movement training is the best way to integrate natural movements into your daily life and change the way you move. Join me on July 26th, 2022 from 10am-4pm for a deep dive into an immersive exploration of the Natural Movement approach to developing Real-World Fitness, and experience a paradigm shift in the way you perceive physical activity and what it takes to maintain well-being.