“I’ve never been normal,” says Le Corre, a 40-year-old Frenchman rarely photographed with a shirt on. Since childhood, he’s been baffled by society’s focus on developing flat abs rather than practical skills for surviving in the wild. “Exercising in a confining gym with machines is acceptable,” he says. “But climbing a tree and moving on all fours is not.”
With MovNat, which he formally created in 2008, he’s hoping to change that. The timing seems right. The program he’s suggesting isn’t totally out there, considering that serious athletes already train with bear crawls and sandbag carries in the name of functional fitness. And we’ve all come to recognize the hazards of our sedentary lifestyles and begun to question whether fitness “advances” have actually set us back. “People start running barefoot because it’s more natural,” Le Corre says. “Then they wonder, ‘Are there ways to move other than running?’ ”
You want me to what?
For starters, try walking, balancing, jumping, crawling and climbing. Those were all on the schedule during that seven-hour workshop led by Clifton Harski, Le Corre’s disciple who travels from town to town all over the country, spreading the MovNat gospel.
“I’m not interested in giving you guys a good workout,” he announced to the dozen participants, a mix of triathletes, CrossFitters, gymnasts and rock climbers who’d each shelled out $229 for the chance to get back to their physical roots. “I’m going to let you go through things and see if your body can figure it out. They may have been forgotten, but these are developmental movements,” Harski said.
We started with simply standing (straight) and breathing (diaphragmatically). I was feeling pretty good at being human. Then we entered the “magical forest,” which was really a quiet street in an industrial park where we imagined we had to lift our legs over fallen logs and duck under low-hanging tree limbs. Sunk into a squat and walking backward out of a tiny cave, my quads began to protest.
Soon, our shoes were off and a series of 2-by-3 planks of wood were out. The wobbly balance beams didn’t seem that daunting. I could do back-walkovers on beam — 20 years ago. Turns out that now, I’m hopeless. Going forward and backward was okay, but my attempts at crawling were pitiful. “I’m ready to buy a plank of wood,” said Krissy Rusello, 35, who trains regularly at CrossFit Silver Spring, the facility hosting the workshop. She also was reminded of how easy it once was to make these kinds of moves. “I think if you threw a bunch of kids in here, they’d be able to do all of this.”