Finding Your Groove

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What’s the best training program for you?

The one you can do consistently.

Can your trainer design it for you? Absolutely, so long as both you and him/her understand it will require tweaking, inevitably.

A good personal training program needs to be tailored not only to your needs & wants (i.e. knowing how your body moves and needs correcting/adjusting, as well as your individual fitness goal), it needs to incorporate your lifestyle, your general mindset, your schedule. If you can’t follow it because you have no time or are too stressed out, fatigued mentally or physically, it’ll be like trying to push a baby grand piano on the beach and killing yourself instead of taking a stroll on the beach enjoying the waves and walking for a few miles, resetting your brain, recharging your mind and still getting the benefits of walking.

Functional training equipment

Your hormonal balance is just as important as your diet and as your training program. I can’t give you statistics or percentages because they don’t matter. Let’s not focus on that and get you going.

A good example for me is my current “life load”. My level of busy-ness is such that I could do a few training sessions at home 5 days per week. I live in a beautiful woodsy area, close enough to the beach, far enough from civilization, yet a short drive to anything I need. I have room both in my yard and in my home, and recently had to bring all of my training equipment from the gym I used to operate at. So, I’m fully stocked.

But I am not training there. Instead, I am training ONLY two days per week, Mondays and Wednesdays usually. On those days, I push for 2-3 training sessions covering everything that makes up a Natural Method session, with some liberties here and there. I lift for strength, I practice skills, I run for endurance or power, and I do some minimal touch-ups to train underdeveloped body parts for no other purpose than esthetics.

Result? I spend more time recovering, less pressure on other days and I can focus on “crunch time” (no, not abs of steel). Trying to manage multiple streams of income and a family is demanding amidst economic uncertainty. Not a complaint, a fact, and educated choices. This regimen allows me to push hard, past my comfort zone, a couple of days a week and really, the most uncomfortable part comes from the endurance training.

Strength training is about managing strength, having the ability to incrementally lift heavier, being well rested at every set. Skill development is playful and without pressure, as an inch of progress is better than stillness. Energy is managed on those long Mondays and Wednesdays and my focus can be 100% on what I need to to outside of training on other days.

Is that against Georges Hébert’s Natural Method principle? Not if I get better, am strong, useful and skilled. Not if I can sustain this for a while. Not it we understand that manipulating variables to reach a desired outcome is the skill that comes from programming. Hébert ideally wants us to train 6 days a week, with 5 days of training and 1 day of playing (with sessions lasting an hour on average, cumulatively).

In the upcoming book adaptation and training guide based on Hébert’s programming, I break down realistic options for getting complete training sessions with as few as two weekly sessions and up to his desired/proposed 6 days per week. It’s what you can do that matters the most. And when the body and mind intuitively allows you to modify your training frequency, go for it.

The various photos posted represent the tools and training concepts that make up my training sessions, all inspired by Georges Hébert’s programming albeit adapted and modernized with what we have available today.

7 Steps to a Fast Body

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Home of the Natural Method

From the concept of creating a FAST (Flexible Agile Strong Toned) body to deliver all-around athleticism, there are seven elements that should make up any training session in order to achieve your goal of total and complete fitness.

By following these simple guidelines, broken up into 7 easy steps, you will achieve what most programs promise you after 90 days without a realistic plan on how to continue beyond that. While it takes about 3 weeks to create a habit and about 3 months to keep one, too many of the advertised programs out there are short-sighted in the sense that their promise ends when the programs ends; you wind up usually too beat up from the intensity to even want to look at another set of jumping jacks or killer crunches. And that’s where the problem lies: sustainability.

Nothing else in your life works is encapsulated with finality into a short term period: it takes years to raise your kids, to get an education (and stay current). Your job is a great example too: for most of us, we have to stay and remain employed in order to live. I haven’t seen any get rich quick scheme that promises you to achieve all your dreams after only 3 months, followed up by a super early retirement!

“Anything worth doing is worth repeating”

So, just like your job, you have daily tasks that you do on any given day, which yield results and lead to the next day, week or month, giving you a sense of accomplishment, of progress, even if you know there is still more to do. The daily reward comes from the work, not from the results as they may not be near.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

 Chasing the end goal or results can be the downfall of any journey, as it makes you focus so much on it, you can lose faith in the process. I have had many weight loss clients who, after having lost 30, 40 even 50 pounds, still had another 50+ pounds to lose. To someone who didn’t know them, they were still overweight, they still hadn’t achieved their ultimate goal, but they were reaping the physiological and psychological benefits of better health and considence every day because they trusted the process!

 There is no secret, and there is nothing new. Just like an old family recipe, or a trade secret, what stands the test of time is the key to true success. It is no different in fitness, and here are your 7 steps to total fitness!

STEP 1: FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

Fundamental exercises

As their name indicates, the fundamental exercises, also called basic educational exercises lay down the foundation for all your work. Not just a warm-up to get the blood flowing and the joints loosened up, they also comprise movement in all angles used for every aspect of your workout, as well as for the ultimate goal of playing sports, being conditioned for physical labor, or simply enjoy a healthy life where you may have to resort to tapping into that “fitness insurance”!

Using the rules of 7, we have:

  • 7 major joints: neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips knees and ankles.
  • 7 major arm positions: hands at hips, hands at shoulders, hands at chest, arms extended out, hands behind the head, one arm up & one arm down, both arms overhead.

Using the 7 joints guideline, we then use the 7 hand positions to perform movements that engage the joints. The simple placement of the hands takes care of joints 3 (wrists, elbows, shoulders) and by performing deep knee bends, squats or lunges, as well as single leg balancing exercises, we take care of the hips, knees and ankles.

The neck is taken care of through tilting, twisting, rolling, flexion and extension.

Another area to add to the mix is the spine, which can be worked the same way as the neck (even simultaneously): back extension, back flexion, lateral bending, twisting. The neck simply needs to follow the motions of the spine, e.g. if you bend sideways to the left, the neck, as an extension of the spine, also bends to the left.

STEP 2: KICKING AND PUNCHING

High Side Kick

Punching and kicking drills are both an extension of the fundamentals, as they simultaneously move the body in all planes and angles of movement and engage all the muscles and joints, with the added benefit of developing the skills of balance and coordination, toning up the muscles and promoting cardiovascular endurance.

STEP 3: WEIGHT LIFTING

Barbell Military Press

Keep it simple and pick ONE (1) lift per day. Yes, you read correctly! Only 1 exercise for weight lifting! How can this be?

Remember what we said about trusting the process? It may not make sense right now, so wait until you reached the 7th step of this guide J

However, I don’t want to keep you guessing: the 7 steps cover all areas of your fitness, for a full workout and complete integral development of your body.

By picking just one lift per day that you perform for a week, you get to practice it the same way you would practice a song on the guitar or piano, before moving on to the next piece or exercise. Like the song, the exercise will “play” more fluidly, strongly and then you can take a break from it and return to it more easily and strongly at any time.

STEP 4: JUMPING

Jumping over obstacle

Just like step 3, pick ONE type of jumping and work on it for a week, perfecting it, improving it by adding to it, be it distance, height, repetitions, etc.

Jumping is an important element of fitness because as we age, we lose our “spring”. It’s also a phenomenal “power” move because it forces you to generate a lot of power at once, recruiting several muscles, which can lead to better performance in other activities (including the ability to lift a heavier weight in Step 3).

People often think that because of issues in their joints, they shouldn’t jump, e.g. like bad knees or a bad hip. It’s the very weakness in those joints, when not addressed, that becomes the issue. Avoidance doesn’t mean acceptance, it’s only negligence. You don’t need to jump high or far, even with a full range of motion, to strengthen the bones and soft tissue used in jumping.

Remember, we are in this for the long haul. A one-inch jump on a soft surface, like grass, sand, dirt a wooden floor or a gym mat is still a jump. And it’s fun too!

STEP 5: CLIMBING

Straight rope climbing

Climbing can be anything from getting up on a stool to change a light bulb all the way to climbing rocks. It’s agility, balance, coordination and strength all at once. Whether it’s with the use of your hands only, a combination of hands and feet, or feet alone, the movement skill of climbing is quite useful and functional at all ages and in all circumstances and situations.

STEP 6: THROWING

Partner throwing exercises

A very underrated aspect of fitness, yet used more frequently than you think in your daily life. From tossing your keys to someone off the balcony (or to a person higher up), to lifting (lifting, yes) a trash bag and tossing it into a dumpster, throwing (light or heavy objects, with one or both hands) requires power, agility, coordination and can turn into a full body movement, depending on the weight of the object or the distance to throw it, with assistance from the legs (which got stronger from Step 4 and Step 5).

STEP 7: WALKING AND RUNNING

Any form of displacement is essential because, well, that’s how we get places (disregard cars and modes of transportation, those are not built-in to our body)!

Walking, a.k.a. marching helps you cover long distances efficiently and is a great fat burner, is sustainable and gets you outside!

By adjusting the speed, you adjust the effort and get a slew of other benefits.

Jogging is next and eventually sprinting.

The best part about Step 7 is that it’s the most readily available, aside from any movement fundamentals to loosen up the joints.

Greatly beneficial for all ages, Steps 1 & 7 help you maintain your mobility, flexibility and provide a general sense of wellness that is completely manageable.

Add all the other steps, by simply picking one exercise per category and changing it weekly, revisiting as part of a rotation every few weeks, or as you get more efficient with your time, combining two or more exercises per category, you will develop all-around athleticism.

The weights or difficulty of the exercises is up to you, just know that, unless you have a severely impaired ability to do something, all the categories have something in them you can do today! We’re not going after what’s three months down the line, we want you to feel great today and we want you to keep going for as long as possible.

Goals like weight loss, muscle gain or a specific performance will naturally fall into place as you follow the process.

“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius”

-Michaelangelo

 

Note: According to Georges Hébert, Swimming should be part of this process, and Walking is separate from Running. All three are actually methods of locomotion, even if one of them is aquatic. I am lumping both Walking and Running together, being of similar leg-powered nature (albeit different mechanics). And Swimming is not always the most convenient activity to get to for many, while most everything else can be achieved with little to no equipment. The goal being to deliver you something to start doing right away without logistical hurdles.

Photos courtesy of Antje Anders Photography

Hébert’s Fitness Assessment

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straight rope climb

Curated from The Strength Code (Le Code de la Force):

Fitness test (conducted over a 12 hour period, or two days, depending on the intensity level, added “secondary labors” or age of participants):

mold lift

  • Distance walk, weighted 5kg.
  • Run, weighted, 5kg.
  • Climbing:
    • climb a straight rope as high as possible without the use of the legs.
    • Max pullups
    • High bar hanging
  • Lifting: single and two-handed
    • Clean
    • Jerk
    • Snatch
    • 40kg mold deadlift AMRAP in 2 minutes without letting go of it or moving the feet. (The tool is essentially a mold to make bricks, but because of today’s availability of training devices, it can easily be replaced). See photo above for the tool then used.
    • Bag load & carry, 1m tall, 75cm wide in diameter, filled 80% with sand, sawdust,
  • Throwing:
    • Dexterity: 12 throws per arm, 1sq.m, 20m away, 0.5m off ground target with rock, ball (tennis ball). Lateral volley throw.
  • Swimming:

Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til

Complementary events:

  • Hurdle run 110m
  • Pole vault.

Strength Endurance is determined by:

  • 500m run
  • 1500m run
  • 100m swim
  • Underwater dive (organ resilience)
  • The performance of all the labors inside of 12 hours also is a test of a person’s endurance and resilience.

Muscular Strength is determined by:

  • Two-handed lifts
  • Throwing
  • Straight rope climb

Speed Strength is determined by:

  • 100m sprint
  • long jump with momentum

IMG_20150515_0007

Agility, dexterity, flexibility, movement/hand-eye coordination and the ability to self-regulate energetic expenditure are determined by the four kinds of jumps, throwing, the various running or swimming events and especially when it comes to regulating of the effort, the completion of all 12 “labors”.

Vitality, reflexes, will power and in brief “virile” qualities are observed during the performance of all the labors/tests, which all must not only be performed without failing, but also by giving one’s maximal effort.

Finally, the individual must demonstrate in all labors their aptitude in running, jumping, climbing, lifting, throwing and swimming except for walking/marching and self-defense. Because of its lesser effort, walking is considered a secondary labor, whereas self-defense cannot be a single person event, as it can only be a measure of comparison between two individuals.

Additionally, fighting ability is in direct correlation with the display of general physical aptitude.

It is obvious to notice that the choice of events is combined to favor resilience and speed over pure physical strength. In other words, at equal muscular strength, the individual displaying better speed and resilience/endurance in all events shall stand out. This is logical and corresponds to our definition of what it takes to be strong: strength resides in the heart and lungs more so than in the muscles.

 

Develop Jumping Young

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Develop jumping young

Or any skill for that matter.

The earlier you develop a natural skill like jumping, the better you get at it and the longer you might be able to do it in life. Injuries notwithstanding, also part of life, the skill comes with a sense of overcoming fear, spacial awareness, elasticity and timing you tend to never lose as you get older.

Yes, you might get a little less spry, a little less springy, but that tends to happen later than if you do nothing about it. Jumping develops full body power, requires a certain amount of flexibility, and is quite useful for emergency situations as well as being practical (jump out of the way of a moving vehicle, over a puddle or a ditch, onto something etc…). And, kids do it, so if kids do it, it means we’re meant to do it, whether it’s for fun,health, survival or other.

During a recent hike at my older son’s favorite hiking spot in Topanga, CA, called Time Tunnel, we had to climb over a variety of rocks or jump from one to the next, or down from one. Depth jumps, climbs, chasm clearance (for the kiddo at least and his perspective). What amazed me was his desire to go “I can do it” as well as “help me” when applicable. He knew to push, but he knew when to not. Like poker, “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”.

Here’s an example of a distance longer than his height, and drop of about his height. Ah, to have springy joints again…

Now, not pictured here, but when we went back in the afternoon for a second round, kiddo had me crawl through a tiny space between rocks that I didn’t I’d be able to crawl through. He didn’t want to have me go around, he said I had to do it. For him, it was as wide as a Hobbit’s door. For me, it was like squeezing through a mailbox. I made it, and was happy to wear my rugged 5.11 Tactial Stryke pants and a rugged t-shirt (no tears), but more so, I was happy to know that in a pinch, I have enough mobility and snake-ability to get through a crevice smaller than my shoulder width!

Complete Blood Work

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complete blood work

 

Like many healthy people, my annual physical & blood work isn’t something I always prioritize.

It’s been 2 years since my last physical exam, not counting the one I just went for 2 weeks ago. Too long, not smart, not good. I even attended a conference in January 2016 where the importance of getting your labs done was stressed. Nearly 10 months later, I did.

Labs were mostly fine. There’s what the doctor said, Dr Kawana, and there’s what a friend of mine, Robert Seik who’s a Pharm.D and owns a great line of supplements, Triton Nutrition. said, which helped confirm the results. I’ve got the labs of an athlete, and have either inadequate intake or poor absorption. Guilty of a little bit of both.

There’s the stuff you know you should do but don’t, the stuff you know shouldn’t do but still do, then there’s the stuff you don’t know about, and the stuff you don’t want to find out about, because you know it’s not gonna be good.

In my case, I knew I was going to have low testosterone. Yes, over 40, it drops. Yes, some quacks say “how do you know your levels are low, it’s different for everyone?” I know what my T-levels were 2 years ago, not Captain America high, but not Screech low either. My body was still responsive and I attributed it to stress, and my then primary care physician told me I was OK, in range.

Now, I’m at 1/2 the levels I was at 2 years ago. My Calculated Free Androgen Index is 1/4 what it should be. How do I know? Reduce energy, anemia (which can be also an iron deficiency, which is the case for me, but it’s part of the picture), premature aging (my face is showing signs of aging at a faster rate lately than before), loss of muscle mass (movement quality, skills and education can only take you so far, like being the best sprinter in the world and suddenly having your feet chopped off) and a slew of other symptoms I attributed to doing too much, working too much and hiding behind the shield of invincibility my fitness regimen yielded. But even that catches up.

“The slow blade penetrates the shield”.

Get your labs & blood work one.

Parkour, not Gymnastics in Schools

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In his latest article on Parkour replacing Gymnastics in schools as part of the Physical Education Curriculum, Ben Musholt lists the 3 most important elements justifying and supporting that decision, and interestingly, they are directly aligned with Georges Hébert’s Philosophy and Natural Method, which he happens to re-define in my upcoming adaptation of his book “Le Code de la Force” (“The Strength Code“).

These 3 elements are:

  1. Becoming a movement generalist vs specialist: all-around athleticism vs single, limitations-generating activity.
  2. Safety and real world usefulness: no explanation needed, but for a shift in perception as people see the apparently dangerous stunts performed by “traceurs” as being unsafe, yet these are progressive and directly linked to our surroundings, where the only risk is to not take any (a rule for business as well!)
  3. Accessibility, not elitism: Ben has his own definition (which is why I encourage you to read his article), and I want to add that my personal life path is to raise the bar of fitness so everyone can enjoy physical activity, which Hébert also defines with abilities one should have at any age.

Parkour Gymnastics School Parkour Gymnastics School

Ben makes a good case of Parkour vs Gymnastics, its cost, difficulty and more. Hébert adopts a similar POV. His is that if we consider all methods of physical education, physical culture, gymnastics or general training, while they have the same end goal in theory, the practice reveals the contrary.There is no thorough and complete consensus as to the measurability of physical aptitude and what it means, because some focus on muscular development, others on corrective exercise only, weight lifting only or sports without any practical usefulness in real life.

The Natural method is aimed at a complete and functional physical development. It applies to anyone, anywhere: in schools, corporations or the Military. Official tests performed in various military and academic environments have sufficiently proven the excellence of its results. Children especially accept it with enthusiasm and practice it with joy, because it gives them the opportunity to do everything they instinctively need and enjoy. It has also been made mandatory in the Navy, not only on Seamen, but also on children in Naval Academies ages 7 to 14, and  youths ages 14 to 17.

Hébert later states:

The Natural Method derives from the following simple concept: Man(kind), as any other living being, must reach his complete physical development solely through his naturally existing means of locomotion, labor and combat/defense. Man is designed to live outdoors, with this simple covering that is skin, is built to perform specific exercises that address those needs. These exercise, which we can name “indispensable and functional”, make up eight distinctive groups: walking, running, jumping, climbing, lifting, throwing, self-defense (wrestling and boxing) and swimming.

It doesn’t take long to understand that each of these groups of exercises are all useful at various degrees through various stages of Life. Outside of those remain exercises like fencing, horseback riding, rowing etc., whose utility is secondary or limited to specific groups of individuals; or also sports and games, as well as acrobatics; but none of the former group are indispensable to all individuals, regardless of occupation or social standing.

 

Strong But Not Useful: Strength Categories

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Albeit fun.

If I could ask Georges [Hébert] to lighten up, I would, and he would probably tell me “I am! That’s the whole play finality of The Natural Method, mon frère!”

The reason I’d ask him to lighten up is because it’s totally cool to have fun and specialize in one aspect of strength if that’s your bag. I ain’t knocking your strength with his/mine or someone else’s.

Much like Power is Mass X Acceleration, an 8-plates back squat below parallel or a 48″ box jump require a different level of power. Some say “you need to squat heavy to get more power for your jumps”. I can’t squat 8 plates right now, but I can jump that “cold” and I know a few friends who can squat 8 plates easy, but can’t jump that. We’re different and that’s OK!

“A remarkable specialist in only one category, but poor in others, like a weight lifter or wrestler who cannot run or climb, or a runner or boxer who cannot swim or climb, isn’t strong from a “complete” standpoint.

On another hand, one who excels at entertaining or hobby sports (as in games of all kinds: football (soccer), tennis…; or gymnastics on man-made apparatus: high bar, trapeze…), but who ignores swimming, self-defense or has fear of heights, isn’t strong from a “useful” standpoint.

In short, to be strong consists of possessing a sufficient aptitude in utilitarian indispensable (a.k.a functional) exercises for everyone at any age and not to solely excel at entertaining fun exercises or of secondary utility”

So,a little redundancy, or rather, “rote” and let’s have Georgey break down the categories:

Functional Exercises of everyone at any age:

  1. Walk
  2. Run
  3. Jump
  4. Climb
  5. Lift
  6. Throw
  7. Fight (boxing or wrestling, natural means)
  8. Swim

These 8 categories suffice to achieve the highest level of physical development and to handle any difficult situation life throws at us. Walking, Running and Climbing constitute the prime natural exercises; they are the most indispensable of all.

That’s all going to be in the long awaited and delayed book (not my fault, serious!)

Sports or exercises of secondary utility (for select individuals and not necessary for everyone or all ages):

  1. Fencing
  2. Horseback riding
  3. Rowing
  4. Shooting
  5. Weapons self-defense (stick, knife…)
  6. Any artificial means of transportation requiring the use of the legs: cycling, skating, skiing, stilts…

Sports or exercises having no functionality for everyone or all ages:

  1. Anything requiring man-made apparatus: high bar, rings, trapeze, pommel horse, parallel bars…
  2. Any acrobatics, with or without the use of equipment.
  3. All games: soccer, hockey, tennis, cricket…

Remember, we are dealing with functionality for ALL POPULATIONS at ANY AGE, not fun, entertainment value or carry-over. We could probably argue, and successfully at that, the benefits of surfing, of playing rugby which develops both speed, agility, endurance, strength, power etc. That’s not the point.

The point is to raise the average, which is dismal in most countries I have to say. We as fitness enthusiasts live in a bubble we our social media feeds tend to show us our own interests, and few of us walk around national supermarket chains observing the decline of the population. Get them walking, running first, add some minor jumping, throwing and grow from there.

Le Code de la Force: The Strength Code

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Georges Hébert’s “Code de la Force” book was published in France by Vuibert in 1914.

In its foreword, the author wrote:

The purpose of this book is to define the question of physical strength, by precisely defining the elements that comprise it and to give it a practical means of measuring it.

Because of the lack of works where notions relative to strength are codified [at the time of his writing], errors and preconceived notions of all kinds were plentiful on this topic. Thus, many people believe that large biceps constitute a criteria for strength; others solely consider strong individuals that are capable of lifting heavy weights; others finally habitually apply the qualifier of “solid bloke” to anyone tall and big. However, it so happens many times that the individual with large biceps shows inferiority when it comes to running or simply quickly climbing a slightly steep hill, that the weight lifter is unable to jump over any obstacle, that the solid bloke cannot follow an individual of ordinary ability in a long walk, a hike, a hunting game etc. 

He later writes:

On the other hand, no method concretely defines the outcome of physical education or training, meaning the goals to achieve. The result is trainees and coaches having no clue what to do. One not only trains without ardor or enjoyment when training without a goal, but one wastes time inevitably by repeating certain exercises without benefit. This is why I believed indispensable the need to establish exactly what the “training load” of the trained or educated individual ought to be.

One of my favorite parts of this foreword is that Hébert recognizes the need for experimentation, course correction and adjustment, his work being far from definitive. Philosophically speaking, isn’t it the first step to acknowledge what one’s limitations are in order to improve upon them?

3 Rules To Find Your Own Way

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The concept about the application of Bruce Lee’s quote “having no way as way, no limitations as limitation” is something that I have been randomly discussing with colleagues and peers in the fitness industry (albeit without naming it), as well as a serendipitously following the model recently in my own training.

With a basis, structure and foundation, everything works. With discipline, great things can be achieved. But  let’s not even label them as great. Let us simply say “things can be achieved”.

Discussions were had about discipline vs motivation: motivation is finding the enjoyment in doing, the mind set to do things, whereas discipline is the act of doing what you need to do regardless of how you feel.

So, to succeed, Rule #1 is: show up.

Rule #2: Keep it simple. Here lies the rub, and I can’t provide a better than my friend Rannoch Donald’s email exchange with me: “People look at things purely on the surface. If I tell you it’s simple you wonder, “what the fuck do I need to talk to you for then?” I tell you it’s complex, you say, “well, that’s not for me”. I do a ton of homework purely so I can stick to my guns when it comes to actually doing what I do. I say all the time that Simple is nothing more than Complex³.

Whilst all these people talk about fundamentals etc, very few actually work that stuff out. Then the flip side are those who think simply free-associating (often using the word flow to compensate for the fact they haven’t got a clue where it’s going) movement is the best expression.”

So, in order to remedy the last element Rannoch mentions above, I suggest the following Rule #3: Tell a story! In the Book Of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi states in one of his own famous 9 rules to “not do anything which is of no use”. 

Your training session should have a narrative, follow a basic storytelling formula where you have a starting point (where you are) and a purpose (where you need to be/go). You pack what you need and chart a route to follow. Along the journey, you will discard things you don’t need, include new things you didn’t think of and ultimately find yourself along the way.

One of the most difficult things to achieve for me was the contentment, satisfaction and awareness of who I am, what my body responds to best and the ability to separate my physicality from all the noise associated with fitness. It took me decades to not try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Call it self-esteem, body image, succumbing and overcoming peer pressure or marketing, the end game is: I know who I am.

Using the example of the recent Olympiads, if you look at the swimmers bodies, or gymnasts bodies, or track athletes bodies, they all are streamlined within their own sport, optimal, efficient, almost like coming out of a mold. Take Michael Phelps out of the water and have him run, or Oly lift, or take Ali Raisman and throw her into a swimming pool of other female athlete swimmers  of the same age. You can easily imagine the results.

We have become so specific in what we do, that we have forgotten to be well-rounded/all-around beings with many abilities. While we may not excel at all of them, the least we can do is be capable at most of them. Do not isolate or pigeonhole yourself into one type of activity. Check out this article by Tim Olds about the specification of the modern Olympian vs the Olympian of old who would complete in many disciplines we now find contradictory.

Georges Hébert’s goal was to make us all-around athletes. My goal is to simply raise the bar, so that the 8 out of 10 people that walk into Walmart and define our “average” can all run, jump, climb, throw, swim, fight, lift and live, look and feel well without the pressures of marketing.

What word would you like to describe what your fitness projects in a way that is congruent with your training and abilities?

As for me, I realized that my fitness pursuit, maintenance or goals, incorporating all of the above and where I feel best, most in tune, revolve around one word: “lithe”.

Attitude: mindset, posture or both?

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When I took on the task on translating and adapting Georges Hébert’s Complete Guide to Physical Education, a.k.a The Natural Method one aspect of the translation was to be able to use terminology that can be understood, even if not 100% defined at the time. Sometimes I would go literal, sometimes I chose a term that is close enough to give any given movement its own name, for easier and faster referencing.

The main example is the choice of the word “slit”. I didn’t want to call it a split because we will usually picture either Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a perfect split between chairs, or a gymnast/ballerina.

BLOODSPORT, Jean-Claude Van Damme, 1988. ©Cannon Films/courtesy Everett Collection

BLOODSPORT, Jean-Claude Van Damme, 1988. ©Cannon Films/courtesy Everett Collection

I didn’t want to call it a staggered stance, which it is also, because I prefer something that you can identify with as few negative connotations as possible (like staggering drunk somewhere) or for simple cueing (“stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a staggered stance”, for instance when describing the lower limbs placement of a fighting stance). I chose slit because the stance in which you extend the leg, especially going into  backwards slit, reminded me of a sexy leg showing through a cut or opening in a dress. A slit is defined as “a long narrow cut or opening”. It is actually a literal translation of the word “fente” in French (sounds like “font” almost, nasal “n”). And, frankly, it is kind of sexy when you lean backwards, “slit” that leg forward, open your hips. You can see that as a dip in ballroom dancing.

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“Attitude” in French is one of those words that has two meanings (not double-entendre, which is an incorrect English adaptation of the word double-entendu): posture and a measure of one’s mental state or behavior. Incidentally, this is true in English as well, as “attitude” can be defined as “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state”.

Let’s think about it for a bit. Visualize an army of soldiers marching in perfect unison and steady cadence. Watch them stop and stand at attention. Their posture and attitude will project a sense of confidence, skill, team collaboration and more. Now visualize a contrasting image of a slouching person whose assistance you need. Not hugely confidence-building…

Bringing the mindset to the work, or letting the work adjust your mindset is a two-directional, mutually beneficial relationship. One motivates, gets you started. The other is reflective of discipline, keeps you going. Act your way into proper thinking, or think your way into proper acting.

A good way to strengthen that attitude, that mindset, is to test yourself. The frequency can be up to you so long as it yields a positive change in your actions. My recent motivation was (and is, because I haven’t finished it), the book Breaking The Jump. Reading about the limitless, “having no way as a way” instinctive yet pushing the boundaries of the reptilian survival brain got me moving, got me making time I don’t normally, have (yet found), taking away from sleep, rest, TV time or other. My mindset improved.

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Similarly, I am no fan of running. I don’t like it when I start. I do like it when I finish. Not because it’s over, or almost, but I actually enjoy it. My runs have to be populated with other activities (training, Parkour-like exploration) so I can blend the euphoria of having done something cool and pushing a limit, but also that validates the way I train, as it promotes this end-goal of playful functionality with survival applications.

Don’t worry about looking or feeling silly if you go out and attempt even a strongly regressed variation of an American Ninja Warrior contestant. It’s the baby step that that person once took, that jump that broke their caged mindset and freed their mind to explore more of what they can do.