Improvising your fitness like Ido Portal and Movnat is tough – here’s how

by Ryan Wagner

The methods behind Movnat and Ido Portal are inspirational.

I think that’s honestly the best way to describe these programs to the uninitiated. But this awesomeness comes at a cost because each of the methods promotes mastery of movement via improvisation. And if you’re an inspiring mover then I think that it’s this element of improvisation that may turn out to be the biggest speed bump in your way of becoming a movement expert.

So in this post I’d like to argue that for most people to include a level of improvisation in their fitness requires a bit of a leap of faith. You have to leave your comfort zone of reps and sets behind.

But I have some suggestions on how to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ll show you some practical things you can do that have worked for me and I think they can work for you too.

The challenge

Firstly, I should disclose that I’m assuming you know all about the two subject fitness philosophies. Why? Because you’re probably a bit of a fitness geek and that’s how you stumbled across Motus in the first place! However, let me ask you this – how many of your friends have heard about Ido Portal and Movnat? I would hazard to guess that only those of us on the fringes of fitness (yes, that’s you) know about these two fitness philosophies. Even though Movnat has been around for years now, it’s still relatively unheard of among the halls of big box gyms. Ido Portal, even more so.

So, why is that? How come they haven’t caught on like the CrossFit craze? Why isn’t there a Movnat affiliate in every neighborhood?


Let’s take a step back from the barbell and put on our sociology hat for a moment. What is it that we humans are really good at doing?

Hint: We do it all day long and almost everything we read, watch or consume has been applied this treatment.

We are really good at categorizing things.

The easy examples are things like time and length and volume. But that’s just the beginning. We go on to categorize our food, our jobs, even the people in our relationships. In shot, we categorize everything.

And so when primal fitness methods like Movnat come along we are almost already at odds with the program because our Western society has really done a great job of building a vehicle for fitness – it’s called a gym. Have you heard of it? 🙂

And in it we are supposed to ‘do fitness.’ We are supposed to use certain machines and certain equipment that is meant for a certain purpose. We do sets and reps and move in predominately one of three planes of motion.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is indeed a time and place for procedure. For instance, mass building demands programs that promote linear progression. We use sets and reps and volume to help us reach our goals.

But here’s where the plot thickens. For those of us that have jumped on the Movnat and Ido Portal bandwagon, you get to the point where you start thinking a little differently. You come to understand this word ‘movement’ that is (finally!) beginning to get thrown around a lot. And it’s a complicated beast because even some of the gurus seem to get caught up in their explanations. Can you blame them? Explaining movement can mean different things to so many different people.

The movement we see from Ido Portal doesn’t neatly fit anywhere. It isn’t easily categorized or referenced.

And so it is that these two rather philosophical fitness methods are difficult to integrate into our existing fitness programs.

But improvisation is hands down the best thing we can do. And I think we should all aspire to get to that level. However, we need to earn that privalage by realigning our bodies and perfecting how we control it.

So when we see video of Ido Portal playing around on the ground – tumbling, rolling, mixing in a few handstands, etc – we have one of two reactions:

1. We may get down on the ground ourselves and start playing around. In Seth Godin’s marketing parlance, if this is you then you’d be designated as an ‘early adopter.’


2. We say some variation of “I wish I could do that” and we watch another YouTube video of BroScience.

So here’s the problem: To ask people to get down on the ground or up on a bar and improvise their movement is a tough thing.

We are afraid of getting out of our comfort zone. We think that if we are to move like this in the gym that everyone else will be watching us and wondering what the hell we’re doing! And this goes back to my earlier point that in the grand scheme of things, hardly anyone knows about Movnat and Ido.

If you share any of this hesitation in integrating movement training into your life, read on…

What you can do now

My very first experimentation with Movnat was in a park where I ran barefoot. Simple as that. But this was the first time I had done so since I was a kid. It changed so much about how I look at fitness. My second experiment was a simple bear crawl in the gym. Quadruped locomotion was all it was. But even this simple movement felt so strange. I felt like I was somehow breaking the rules of gym etiquette.

While I chose to go the route of #4, below, here are some other practical tips that have worked for me and I think can work for you too.

#1 Re-brand the yoga room to the Movement Room!

So, let’s say you are a member at a big box gym. There’s probably a small (and I hate to use this terminology) functional fitness area. It’s away from the free weighs and probably hardwood or rubber matted. Perfect. However, there are probably 15 people trying to use the exact same space. So instead of Ido Portal’in all over them, wander over to the yoga room when it’s not in use. You can usually go in those rooms anytime you like and when they’re not in use you’ll have the space all to yourself.

Go nuts.

#2 Go to a park

Clearly, this is one of the most available and natural environments we can train in. But let’s be honest, it’s rarely ideal. Here in Colorado, if the cooler days of winter and fall don’t keep me away from training in the park the receding sunlight will. If you work a 9 – 5 job then you’ll be spending much of your workout in the dark and that’s not fun, effective or safe.

However, let’s assume conditions are good. The park is awesome. Sunlight and grass under your feet are a marvelous combination. If the last time you ran around barefoot in a wide open park was when you were a little kid, trust me, you’re going to like it. And being out there in the world where you notice the changing clouds and the wind and the heat of the sun on your skin is just pure magic. Things we miss out on when we work in offices and train in climate controlled gyms. Sigh.

#3 Find a sympathetic gym

In Colorado, there is only one Movnat affiliated gym (if there are others, let me know!) and it’s in the Denver area – Axistence Athletics. Their program has found a balance between two unlikely fitness methods, CrossFit and Movnat. And each week they have a Movnat combo. Expect a future blog post on the larger topic of Movnat in Colorado, but for now, I imagine it’s clear that if you were to train your primal movement patterns at a place like Axistence, you wouldn’t raise any curious eyebrows.

#4 Screw it

So what are you to do if you can’t find a movement friendly gym in your neighborhood the park will be buried under a few inches of snow for the foreseeable future?

Well, I say go to your big box gym and just say screw it! Do whatever you want! People will probably keep an inquisitive eye on you as you climb on top of the pull up bar, but you know what? You may just encourage them to look at their own fitness in a new way. Who knows? You may even create a little following.

And that’s exactly how methods like Movnat and Ido Portal are going to grow – by an army of true believers spreading the gospel.

Get out there and move. Don’t let improvisation scare you away. Instead, turn it into something to aspire to obtain.

Wrap up

So, there’s my 2 cents on the movement trend in the fitness world. Improvising may at first feel foreign to your current workout regime. You may feel that because you don’t have the great outdoors at the foot of your doorstep that you can’t train like the gurus. And that if you tried to in the gym environment you’d be kicked out!

Don’t worry, you won’t be kicked out. Push the limits of your comfort zone and move like you really want to.

Can we be content with not categorizing these fitness concepts but do them anyway? I sure hope so.


I’d really like to know what you think about Ido Portal and Movnat. Are you applying the principles? Braving the awkward stares in the gyms and improvising like an expert? Leave me a comment or sound off on Facebook.

By Ryan Wagner

Improvising your fitness like Ido Portal and Movnat is tough - here's how by