In this week’s episode, I’m going to teach you even more about how to use natural movement to build athleticism and fitness very, very quickly, and to gain coordination skills that will serve you well the rest of your life. If you want to be a modern-day athlete who can hone ancient skills to be ready for anything, then this episode is for you. Prepare to get inspired to leave the gym and take your fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to your own heroic feats.
I’ve recently been immersed in a bit of summer reading, specifically the book Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. In the book, author Christopher McDougall (who you may recognize as the same author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen) travels to the Mediterranean to research the tale of a band of Resistance fighters in World War II who plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation. While there, he discovers that the secrets of ancient Greek heroes are still alive and well in the razor-sharp mountains on the tiny island of Crete, and ready to be unleashed in the muscles and minds of casual athletes and aspiring heroes everywhere.
In the story, McDougall discovers and describes fitness skills, such as natural movement, efficient endurance, and fat-burning nutrition, skills that are still practiced in far-flung pockets throughout the world today but that we often don’t experience too much in our modern culture of health clubs, Nautilus machines, elliptical trainers and detox spas.
Now that I’m almost finished with the book, I’ve been researching this whole “natural movement” thing. In last week’s episode, “Why You Need To Exercise Outdoors,” I actually began to discuss a few of these natural movement principles such as Strongman training and farmer-style training, and why you may need to exercise in places other than a conventional, stale gym setting.
But in this week’s episode, I’m going to teach you even more about how to use natural movement to build athleticism and fitness quickly, and to gain coordination skills that will serve you well the rest of your life. If you want to be a modern-day athlete who can hone ancient skills to be ready for anything, then this episode is for you. Prepare to get inspired to leave the gym and take your fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to your own heroic feats.
What Is Natural Movement?
The concept of using natural movement to get fit was pioneered by Georges Hébert, a French PE teacher and fitness instructor, way back in the early 1900s.
While an officer in the French Navy prior to World War I, Hébert was stationed in the town of St. Pierre in Martinique. In 1902, the town fell victim to a catastrophic volcanic eruption, and it was Hebert who coordinated the daring escape and rescue of nearly seven hundred people from this disaster. This experience had a profound effect on him, and inspired him to learn how to combine fitness and athletic skills with courage and altruism, eventually developing this into his personal motto, “Be strong to be useful."
After this experience, Hébert traveled throughout the world studying the physical development and movement skills of indigenous peoples who moved naturally. In Africa, he found tribes who had amazing bodies and were flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, resistant, but had no gyms or personal trainers—just gymnastics-like movements in nature, such as climbing trees, swimming, sprinting, throwing rocks, and wrestling.
When he eventually returned to France, Hébert became a physical instructor for the French marines, where he began to design his own system of physical education, which he called the "Natural Method," a form of movement influenced by Greek gymnasia, German Prussian gymnastics, and even French dancing, and most importantly, a form of movement primarily executed in nature and surrounded by trees, rocks, water, logs, and other “obstacles” (sound like a Spartan race, anyone?).