Fitness is always changing. Sometimes at a glacier pace, and other times, entire trends are extinguished in only a few short years.
It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite topics to write about is how the rather avante garde fitness trends are changing and how well received they are.
And a trend that is actually becoming quite well tenured now is Movnat. Founded by Frenchman Erwan Le Corre, Movnat is a training philosophy that aims to “…teach to skill of movement through technique and mindful engagement.” Erwan and his team provide this instruction via Movnat certification programs, weekend workshops and exotic retreats.
A cursory glance at the Movnat website will show at least one workshop each weekend – and all over the world. From Singapore to Germany to Australia and everywhere in between, there are Movnat’ers crawling, jumping and moving in host gyms.
However, survey some random gym-goers at a big box gym (as I have) and you’ll find that Movnat is still nowhere near achieving the level of ubiquity of say, Crossfit.
But what about Colorado in general? Where does one find Movnat in the state?
It’s obviously a topic that I’m interested in myself since Motus is headquartered here in Boulder. Colorado is also one of the fittest states in the nation (every year we seem to compete with Oregon and Hawaii for the top spot!). Professional Ironman athletes are commonplace in Boulder. The Olympic training center is just down the road in Colorado Springs and the Denver area is regularly ranked as one of the most competitive fitness markets in the country. Suffice it to say, we’re pretty fitness crazy out here.
And back in 2009, Erwan even planned to move to the Boulder area. Therefore, it would make sense to me that Movnat would find some solid footing in Colorado.
So, that’s what I set out to learn. To meet the Movnat certified instructors in Colorado and learn how the training philosophy is being received.
But first, a little background for the uninitiated…
What is Movnat?
I’ve written before on Movnat; actually, I’ve done so many times, but in case you are completely new to the philosophy, here it is in a nutshell:
It’s a physical training program rooted in Methode Naturelle, which dates back to France at the turn of the 20th century. Georges Hebert, a French naval officer at the time, is credited with organizing the program and helping his soldiers to focus more on their natural movement – walking, running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing and swimming, as well as the manipulative skills, like lifting, carrying, throwing and catching.
And more recently, Movnat has gained considerable press in just about every publication you can shake a stick at. From Men’s Health to the New York Times to The Guardian.
What Movnat has rightly identified as the biggest problem in the fitness world today is that most people don’t know how to move anymore. Most people don’t know how to climb or pick something up off of the ground. Or jump. Or how to properly land when they do jump.
So began the brand Movnat – to reeducate a populace in the ways of movement.
I’ll be the first to admit that this whole concept of movement can be rather difficult to define, but if you spend some time on the Movnat website and read some of the press, I’ll think you’ll begin to get the idea.
Let’s take a look at the Movnat gyms I discovered in Colorado. There are two.
In southeast Denver there is a gym where you will find plenty of people Olympic lifting, deadlifting and rowing – not unlike any other Crossfit gym. However, this one has a collection of logs leaning against the wall, sandbags, 2×4’s, and barefoot trainers. Owners Ryan Humphries and Dan Jimenez are the braintrust behind Axistence Athletics and what they have done is married their interpretation of Crossfit, Bushcraft Crossfit, to an unlikely ally, Movnat.
They admit that incorporating Movnat into their daily programming has been challenging. After all, one could argue that Movnat is largely philosophical and translating the movements into more concrete training programs (sets, reps, periodization, etc) can be a challenge.
“We use [Movnat] for about 25% of our programming, and more so depending on our training cycle. For example, winter sports prep season, we do less than during our obstacle race season training block, more like 50%,” says Jimenez.
“Once a week we do either fieldwork or a Movnat combo for our metabolic conditioning. Fieldwork is basically strongman style training, lifting atlas stones, sandbags, rope climbs, farmer’s carries, etc… basically it’s the Movnat that no one posts videos of. Most people are into the lower intensity, lighter weight movement flows, but Erwan has mentioned on several occassions that Movnat doesn’t mean low intensity, it should also be high intensity at times as well, as long as it’s mindful. The other Movnat combo day we do more traditional “Movnat” stuff, crawling, jumping, climbing, swinging, still lifting sandbags.”
He went on to tell me that elements of Movnat also find their way into the warm-ups of their group training classes and sometimes in between sets of the more traditional weight training exercises.
The big question I had for Dan and Ryan was how have their members taken to Movnat styled training? Do they see it as a nice complement to their more intense Bushcraft Crossfit workouts? Or, is too easy?
“Often people say that it’s harder than it looked when they read the combo online…For some it’s a nice break from the barbell, and others they love the practical application to the outdoors it provides.”
Here’s a video of Ryan Humphries going through an advanced Movnat combo:
Forgotten World Fitness
About an hour north of Denver is the city of Fort Collins. And fun fact, I was born and raised in Fort Collins. It was by pure happenstance that I was visiting my folks one weekend and reading the local paper. I stumbled across an article on the new gym, Forgotten World Fitness.
Forgotten World Fitness is run by Josh Osterbur, a former construction worker and professional wrestler. And his experience as a wrestler is quite interesting and helps to spread light on his affinity for Movnat. Josh likened early wrestlers as the renaissance men of fitness – that they could do almost anything. In short, they knew how to move and to move effectively. After being certified in Movnat instruction, Josh decided to open up this own practice.
Similar to my interview with Dan and Ryan of Axistence, I asked Josh to tell me a little bit about his programming. He said that his workouts would usually consist of 5 movement patterns and one would be a focus on strength. Then there would be a skill-based movement, and finally a combo that would aim to integrate the day’s training.
And at the time of my interview with Josh, he was offering free meet-ups in the park on the weekends to help introduce the community to natural movement.
That prompted me to ask him about his member demographic. Who was doing this?
He said he had clients representative of a wide range; from college students to more middle aged folks. In other words, it wasn’t just one type of person being attracted to his workout.
Oh yeah, and something else that is very interesting about Josh’s gym is that he asks clients to name their price. That’s right, you can pay whatever you feel is a fair rate. He said that his payment concept started out partly as a social experiment. And what did he find? Well, he learned that most people will still pay him a typical fee. He also wanted to make his training accessible to everyone, including those who may not be able to pay the sticker price of a standard gym.
After my interview with Josh, the quote that really stuck with me was how he described what he does. He said that his goal was to “teach physical education for adults.” I think that is a great way of looking at personal training. That first and foremost, it should be about education.
In summation, I found a small handful of certified trainers and two gyms that were actively coaching Movnat. Both are on the Colorado Front Range.
On the flip side, I found two certified Movnat instructors that were no longer teaching Movnat. Both said that they weren’t able to find a practical market for the training. One was an established trainer and had given it an honest try, but his members just didn’t take to the more movement based training, and reverted back to the sweat drenched workouts they were familiar with.
So, sort of mixed results, right? One the one hand, there are Movnat instructors helping to teach people to move better and to be more mindful of this movement, and on the other, trainers that have the tools at their disposal to teach the program, but they lack an engaged audience.
And that’s too bad because the people that need Movnat the most are the ones that don’t yet know about it.
A lot of people are turned off by traditional gyms and I think Movnat could really be an approachable system for them to begin to enjoy fitness.
So what are you doing about it? Have you told your fellow cubicle dwellers about the idea? Have you called up a friend and had her meet you in the park one sunny day to climb trees? Does your gym have a combo workout once a week like Axistence?
By this time next year I hope to write a blog post on the dozen Movnat affiliates in Colorado. 🙂
Are there other gyms out there?
Did I miss your gym? Are you training Movnat in Colorado and I wasn’t able to track you down? If so, let me know.
It’s worth noting that I looked at the Movnat website and did find some other names of certified Movnat coaches, but there was no affiliation to a gym or training practice listed on the site – no phone number nor website.
I also asked fitness professionals in my network and performed an in-depth Internet survey. However, it’s entirely possible (and probably likely) that I may have missed a coach teaching Movnat in the state I live in.
So, don’t be a stranger – drop me a note, because I want to hear your story too. Alternatively, leave us all a comment below.
By Ryan Wagner
The Movnat website: https://www.movnat.com/
Axistence Athletics: axistenceathletics.com
Forgotten World Fitness: http://www.forgottenworldfitness.com/Where to find Movnat in Colorado by Ryan Wagner