Category Archives: Physical Education

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

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!

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”.

Is The Hulk better than Spiderman?

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I had the opportunity to interview Stan Lee in 2003, as I was still moonlighting for “Hollywood” red carpet premieres, as the Daredevil movie was coming out.

Daredevil was in his category of characters who would become superheroes by an amazingly coincidental concourse of circumstances, nothing short of magic. Instead of trying to rationalize with science he couldn’t explain or justify, he decided to come up with mutations, as part of human evolution.

His mutant superheroes were faced with discrimination in their story lines analogous to racism, homophobia or any other societal fails for human beings.

Allow me to regress and diminish the potential seriousness about the topic to something way less important, especially when terrorist attacks occurred once again, this time on Belgian grounds, using Stan Lee’s pantheon of characters as backdrop to make my silly, yet valid point: is The Hulk better than Spiderman?

How-does-spiderman-stick-to-walls-through-his-suit-anyone-_f64231b0cea9af7c1bfb5d3373912f36

 

Judging from what I see, read or hear from some peers in the community, it would appear so. The balance weighs heavily in favor of the big green guy as being the only form of fitness that matters, that is relevant and all others are a joke. Yet, we could argue that Spidey’s strength, agility, flexibility, climbing and jumping abilities make him a lot more versatile, and his control over his body and actions make him more useful and functional than essentially a creature his alter ego can aim more or less.

the_hulk_by_joejusko

In the training, as well as “perception of what strength means” community, Hulkmeister represents what we should aim for, that his abilities trump and fix everything that’s wrong with us. And no, it is not stated in a way that implies the pursuit of strength, rather implies a certain physicality, which is extremely useful on a daily basis for any desk job (if you didn’t detect it, that was sarcasm).

 

Wait, I hear a fanboy mentioning to me that post-Banner can jump really f*$%&ing high and far. I had to use The Hulk because most people know who he is. So let me amend to this other guy (if you saw the first solo Wolverine movie, you may recognize the character), who is a slightly more realistic fictional character to make a point for something I see a lot of being sold as the end-all be-all supreme attribute of health: enter the Blob.

worst-mutant-th

Let’s get back to reality for a second. On one hand, being super strong and able to lift superheavy weights is pretty cool and plenty useful. On the other hand, being svelte, spry and mobile is useful, makes it easier to navigate the world around us, and is generally a greater indicator of health, especially when cardiovascular disease and other diseases tend to follow certain body types. To have the confidence to be proud of one’s strength achievements and get off your tush frequently to pick heavy stuff up and put it back down is admirable. But please, do not hide behind that strength under the guise of health.

There are still other things to consider, such as how the joints can only support a certain frame for so long, how taxing extra mass is on the body and wears out internal organs, and that carrying excess body fat is hazardous to your health. My job is not to motivate, rather educate and my intention is not to shame those who struggle with fat loss. As good coach will tell you, eat like an adult, get off your ass, exercise, rest and do not latch on to one aspect of fitness because it won’t get rid of whatever unhealthy thing you’re trying to fix by itself.

Look, everything has a purpose. A Lamborghini Aventador is beautiful, but it won’t take you far off-road. An oversized 4×4 Hummer is powerful and intimidating, but it won’t win you the Indy 500 or last long in a chase. The family crossover vehicle will carry your groceries, your camping gear, a few kids to little league practice, your office supplies and nowadays will pack enough powerful ponies under the hood without being too thirsty to hold its ground, even if it’s not as cool.

Georges Hébert discusses “strength” in his book on physical education for women:

“Physical strength, in its broadest sense, is made up of various elements [1], of which the most important ones are:

  • Resistance, endurance or breath, which allow the execution without failing of prolonged work, gymnastics or other, to sustain the same efforts and also to bear fatigue of any kind.

This element of strength, the most precious of all, depends greatly on the value and function of the internal organs. It is the natural outcome of regular and methodical training, as well as routine work of any kind; finally, it also depends on a hygienic and regular lifestyle, free of excess.

  • Pure muscular power, or simply muscle, which enables the execution with various body parts of sufficient efforts in many aspects: pull, push, squeeze, grab, lift, carry, throw, hoist, hit to defend, etc.

This element of strength depends directly on the degree of development achieved by the muscles, as well as the nervous arousal communicated by will, meaning the power of the nervous system.

  • Speed, meaning the ability to be able to do quick moves, rapid extensions, spring launches, sudden stops, etc.

This element of strength depends above all on the more or less high sensitivity of the nervous system, which transmits the command to the muscles to move into action. It also depends on muscular quality and more or less joint flexibility. Long muscles are more favorable to quick actions than short, thick, ropey muscles.

  • Agility, meaning the ability to not only to use one’s muscles and use one’s skills, but also to preserve strength to postpone the effects of fatigue.

Energetic, but clumsy individuals generally waste their strength without function or precise goal. They are often, because of that, inferior to those of medium strength who know how to better manage their efforts more adroitly.

  • Resistance to cold, as well as heat and any weather.
  • Energy and any other virile qualities: will power, courage, cold-blood, decisiveness, firmness, tenacity, the taste for action. Finally, self-control to dominate one’s fears under any circumstances, resist physical and emotional pain, etc.

An individual of medium physical value, but energetic, focused, courageous and tenacious, is always superior in life to an individual having exceptional physical abilities, but soft, lazy, scared and without mental toughness.

  • Knowledge of the process of execution of the fundamental exercises (basic educational exercises) and at the same time, a sufficient ability level in all of them.
  • Finally, sobriety, meaning temperance and moderation in eating and drinking, and frugality, meaning simplicity in choice of nutrition.”

[1] The Strength Code contains the detailed works characterizing strength and the practical tracking of those skills (another book to translate on my list).

 

Addition by subtraction, or how to simplify the workout for better gains of any kind.

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Regardless of what your ultimate goal is in fitness, maintaining all-around athleticism remains key for your daily activities. And frankly, there is no ultimate goal, because that means it would be the end, with nothing to look forward to beyond. Goals change. Life, give or take a few variables, on the whole, does not.

You need to eat, sleep, rest. Your health and work will change, and how you eat, sleep and rest will adjust, like your training program. Unless you are competing as an athlete or are playing a superhero on TV, you don’t really need to be this big, or that strong. Really, you don’t, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. You do need to stay mobile, stay strong, maintain your muscles, and you do need to walk up stairs, pick stuff up, hold on to things, carry them, run to or from something, even if just walking quickly or avoiding something. Stay Spry!

There is no hack for any exercise, other than for the sake of breaking form so you can find it again. Like saying “there’s no place like home” after you’ve been around the world.

Pick a few things, do them well, do them often. Like, five. Do them for a while. Don’t count the reps, just do as many as you can in a short, predetermined duration of time (10 minutes?) and stop anytime you know or feel your form looks like crap. Start maybe by doing it as well as possible, then when the clock runs out of time, do something else, and come back to the previous exercise the next day.

Rather than add more stuff to do, to eat, to supplement with, get rid of what’s not super essential. If you did a chest exercise, a quad dominate exercise, a back exercise, a shoulder dominant exercise and a hamstring dominant exercise and have time for something else, go twist, rotate, throw, jump, climb or punch. But don’t add another chest exercise if it doesn’t make you better at something else other than pushing the buttons out on your shirt.

Or, if you ran, climbed, punch & kicked, jumped onto or off of something, and threw something, broke a nice sweat, feel a little tired, with a grin and sense of satisfaction: you’re good! keep at it.

Ignore the magazines, the pressure. Easier said than done, right? Do the stuff mentioned above, I promise you the pressure eases up as the feeling of well-being increases!

Expanding The Natural Method to Equipment

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A conversation, or rather a question I frequently have seen in various groups I belong to, when it comes to natural movement patterns and not limiting the association to Hébert’s Natural Method, is: what makes a movement natural?

How is lifting a rock overhead any more natural than a barbell, for instance? Because a rock can be found out in nature, and a barbell is a man-made object, therefore it’s not natural?

Is squatting with a sandbag better than doing a double-kettlebell front squat?

The Natural Method is not about the tool, nor is it about the execution of a movement with a tool-specific technique or form. Additionally, this statement is also not about form-bashing or questioning one organization’s technique or approach. Quite the contrary, it’s surface level rather than digging deep, if I may say so.

Yes, essentials of good form require solid foundations in technique and form to ensure a safe execution, which leads to long term progress. There comes a point where you individualize, personalize and find your way. You can find your way by finding what you truly want and need, with trial and error, experience, education and observation. The guidelines set for any given tool serve as your launchpad to proper execution.

Martial Arts are a great example of this. At first, you teach a person how to adopt a good fighting stance that allows both offense and defense. You throw that jab or cross without dropping the non-punching hand cover that side’s cheek and ribs as the punch hits its intended target (air, mitt, bag or face). If there is an opponent on the receiving end of that punch that is faster than you and counters quicker than you punch, having that ‘guard’ minimizes damage to your person, depending on how well protected you are.

But, eventually, from that structured minimal effective dose, you develop your own style, stance and you may even drop your hands, keep them free to “operate” and deflect, trap, block more efficiently than she you started. When you start from nothing, with no skills, you need a starting point.

The upcoming Natural Method Training book will be rich in photos and succinct with words by contrast. The reason behind it being I don’t need to reinvent instruction on how to properly clean, rack and press a kettlebell or two. It’s already out there, from a variety of sources and chances are, if you are reading this, you already know at least one way to do it, and may even teach it.

My Ninjutsu teacher, the late Shihan Steven Petrus always told us “don’t focus on the exact technique, focus on the motion“. A punch or a kick comes, you can avoid it by triangulating out of the way, deflect it, block it, take it or trap it, and counter with a kick,a punch, a throw. Yes, we’d start by working off of a choreographed sequence, and over time would build variations, only to eventually reflexively respond to the strike and adopt whatever motion is necessary. Haven’t most of us heard or read Bruce Lee’s quote about having no way as a way? When it comes to equipment and The Natural Method, all movement is natural. We follow the pathways our body allow us to operate in. The knee only bends one way, or the elbow, and if you go against it, bending it “unnaturally”, your experience will not be a fond one.

brucelee1

Don’t look for barbell squats, bench presses or deadlifts in the book, and please do not complain that they are lacking because they are important for X, Y and Z. The Natural Method is about all-around development in many elements of fitness and not all of us have hours to devote daily to only one facet of fitness. And not all of us have hours daily to devote to several aspects of fitness to become supremely well-rounded.

Do not misinterpret this also as an under-achieving stance. Not everyone is going to become as well-rounded as Captain America. Let’s start where you are, and go from there. Learn the lifts, the jumps, the throws, the basic educational exercises that will keep your body efficiently balanced, muscularly, esthetically and functionally, and then as time allows and conditioning improves, move on to the cooler, flashier skills.

Cap_Throws_Shield_UA

Until then, use the equipment to fulfill that purpose, and equipment evolved as much as we did, only faster. Just because you are not in the woods jumping over boulders, throwing stones or climbing rocks, trees or vines doesn’t make your session any less natural. Going out is awesome, yes! But doing stuff in a gym two blocks away from you because you live in a city and have no car is more important. Don’t delay your fitness.

Women’s book cover art

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A visual blog.

Help me choose which is your favorite, especially if you like it better than the original art. Of course, I wish I could use full frontal, but I am unsure if Amazon would publish it…

E73njoy and let me know either on Facebook or privately if you want 🙂

And if you would like to pose in one of those shots in your modern accouterment d’entrainement  and send me that photo with the right to use it and grace the cover, please do! I might do an amalgamation of old and new to give it a cool edge!

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“Oscars” of Fitness and Chris Rock comment about Kevin Hart

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How in the world did I manage to tie the 88th Academy Awards to this blog post? Is it about the fitness of certain male and female celebs for their superhero movie roles or fury road action?

Better yet, how am I, Mr Blond-haired, green-eyed white male connecting to Chris Rock and his on par tirade of Hollywood’s discrimination or lack of opportunity offering to minority actors? I particularly liked his opinion on not separating men from women actors, as it’s not a competition like track, rather an unnecessary disambiguation as performance is not tied to a person’s ability, other than to act.

No, I am only attaching myself to Chris Rock defending his integrity by saying that his refusal of hosting would not stop the Oscars from taking place, and that if he hadn’t accepted the gig, it would have (jokingly) gone to the extremely talented comic du jour Kevin Hart. Essentially, his ability to Always Be Ready and perform on stage regardless of the venue is where his art and craft come to life.

I was recently asked to participate and lead a fitness video for a popular fitness chain. My understanding was that it was down to me and some other guy, and since I haven’t heard back and the shoot is coming up very soon, I am guessing the gig went to the other guy. Now, I’m not going to name the fitness chain, and what I am about to write bears no negativity towards it. Like saying I don’t play the violin, but it doesn’t mean I have anything against playing the violin. Rather, the chain’s image and type of workouts doesn’t reflect what I personally promote with the Natural Method, my training programs and the methods I employ for myself and others. Even so, if you don’t know me (which is everyone in the world except for my FaceBook and direct friends, or my book and blog readers, this means nothing.

Had I gotten the gig, my answer to anyone wondering about why I’d do such a video shoot is simple: Always Be Ready! The process of becoming an all-around athlete via The Natural Method is to prepare you for any physical challenge life throws at you. The method was created to develop people who can protect themselves, their family, their community and ultimately, their nation. You’re not trained to battle only one way, but you need to be able to handle any kind of battle, right?

So, it doesn’t matter if you have to do some kind of workout that doesn’t directly reflect your philosophy or style (“sorry, bro, I only Oly Lift with barbells, running and kettlebells is for wankers”). If you aren’t able to perform for a general, all-around fitness task that’s thrown at you, your system doesn’t work, your method is a fail. Like the saying goes: you’re only strong in times of trouble, otherwise your strength is only a weakness.

Making it as a personal trainer is difficult. Heck, I even thing it’s harder to make it than being an actor (if you seek recognition and fame). I don’t have numbers to back this up, but I am pretty sure if you compare the ratio of celebrity trainers to the actual amount of trainers in the world vs the ratio of successful, famous actors to the obscure unknowns, the discrepancy is greater amongst trainers!

What would this have done for me? Well,firstly, it’s a paycheck and I am not against feeding my family. Secondly, getting your name out there helps you get recognized, and if you have a message to bring to a larger scale, it doesn’t hurt to have a platform and a captive audience! What your message is is entirely up to you, and that’s where your integrity comes from. Sometimes, we do have to be accept an opportunity and turn it into something great.

Now, I have no clue what I would have actually done for the fitness company, I do know that I would have done a great job and by kicking ass, I would have made my point that I was able to deliver and perform because of my ongoing preparation.

What’s The Natural Method and what does it mean?

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Shouldn’t I have answered this question many moons ago?

I have answered that in a few podcasts actually, the latest one from Joseph deLeo at Leo Training (link to come when it’s live)

I belong to a closed group on Facebook called the Movement Mavericks, started and monitored by Rannoch Donald and Neil Hill, who are not only huge supporters, they are also great promoters of proper movement skill and walk the walk when in comes to being all-around athletes and servicing their clients as such.

One way to explain it and make it a bit different from any answers I provided thus far is that it is simply the full development of our organism as nature intended, without excess or (whatever the opposite of excess is). Nothing unnecessary, nothing superfluous. We can all understand the notion of not having excess fat, being physically inactive, or needing to be physically active because we no longer are concerned with being part of the food chain. We don’t have to hunt and gather to survive, therefore we’re not utilizing our “naturally designed” physiology. I suspect some will potentially take offense, reject or misinterpret Georges Hébert’s vision when it comes to muscle building or strength training for what he considers to not be natural.

Hébert rejects things we now refer to as powerlifting, or bodybuilding. Training for hypertrophy is such a popular thing, especially among men, and it has been for decades (think of the Pumping Iron days and the buff look of superheroes). And while we can all value strength, how much strength do we truly need? We do like to say that strength trumps everything, that it’s a great go-to fix for most issues (and I agree), there has to be a limit, at some point. Hébert’s motto of “be strong to be useful” can also be translated as “be strong to be functional”. The subtle variation can be detected if you speak French and are familiar with both the original text and my humble translation/transliteration.

Indeed, much like I still struggle with the best English title for the book on women’s physical education, I modified the exact terminology of the original books to reflect a more current understanding of training. Terms we know and can identify quickly and currently may very well be used differently in 20 years. An example of a change I made a decision on is (and you can attack me for the stance, the choice was necessary and this blog, or any other platform like a workshop or speaking engagement can serve the purpose of further explaining my choices): utilitarian exercises, which I renamed functional exercises. Hébert calls them “utilitaires”, for utility, like a utility knife serves a purpose, or any tool. We like to call that functional today, and while utilitarian may be more appropriate, I still have to engage people in a way they understand it. I can’t break too much ground or challenge mindsets without some way to have people identify with it first.

So, reverting to utilitarian, “être fort pour être utile” has an element of functionality and because his program, his Natural Method is geared at all-around athleticism, a focus on just strength training, while it may provide one with the usefulness of being strong for a specific task, automatically eliminates other utilitarian or functional features. For instance, a strongman will usually not have the ability to run long distance, or run very quickly, yet someone who is a runner only (let’s pick an endurance runner) will not have the strength to be useful at other tasks. And because the Method originates from a military need, it all comes back to the source of what Dr Ed Thomas like to teach:

  • Medical/corrective
  • Military/Martial
  • Visual (for a harmonious development of the body)

Also, the hyper focus on strength training only, at the expense of other aspects, is a direct validation of the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands).

Let us not misinterpret consequently that the Natural Method doesn’t apply to people with muscles developed beyond a natural environmental need (there is no such thing as environmental need, globally speaking, unless you’re a sherpa, a Maasai warrior or other exception). Bodybuilding has no real function, yes. But who cares? What’s important is the bodybuilder being able to have a certain level of skill in other areas: agility, coordination, basic climbing or scaling, throwing light or heavy objects, being able to run. I happen to work with bodybuilders who value the work and principles brought forth by Georges Hébert and apply them in their training while still working on developing their muscles beyond what Nature intended or daily needs call for (and I am not talking about drugs or other things, only that unless specific attention is given to hypertrophy, muscles will only grow so much from basic labors required in the wild).

There is a reason why many ‘natural’ movements (as in philosophies or fitness approaches) like to refer to our hunting and gathering ancestors looking a certain way, because no caveman would pick up a rock or tree trunk and dead-lift it for reps with the goal to get stronger or bigger. It simply didn’t exist or didn’t fit into the lifestyle. Today, it’s a choice and an interest with a health benefit, whereas fitness then was a necessity for survival. No one actually dies today directly from being unfit (heart disease will do it for you as a consequence only) because rare is the person who has a saber tooth tiger chasing them. Gazelles and lions get it, but we don’t have to. We’re not getting picked out of the herd anymore.

The Crossfit movement tries to adhere to that, actually, by pushing it to excess, though. That’s the spirit of competition (something Hébert rejected to a point, as he believes in competition among peers during training and development as a way to equalize all trainees, but not for the sake of competition and scoring). Hébert didn’t care about being Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger, but he believed in being strong, fast and harmoniously developed based on the stimulus provided by all the activities. He was a generalist, a jack of all trades, and you know what? That’s not such a bad thing to be. Consider pro athletes: their ultra specialization makes them broken, physically, sometimes mentally and there is a reason sports careers are short (the career spans depending on the damages caused by the activity on the body). They are masters at their craft, for a while, and many end up badly hurt after they retire. For the rest of us, being fit, strong, functioning individuals is a lifetime journey, its span only affected by our health and fitness.

I also believe in moderation, of course. What’s the point of being too strict if you’re miserable all the time? And how are you truly enjoying yourself if you’re unhealthy, in pain, popping pills all the time and unable to do basic tasks, be they for fun or utility? On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being totally inactive and poorly eating and 10 being gangbusters gym rat orthorexic antisocial, choose to be an 8: eat well, train, and reward yourself with a few vices that you earned. But only if you earned them. If you fall below a 6, you’re not even average or median, you’re simply far below optimal. The difference between 8 and 10 is just as big as the difference between 6 and 8, but it’s far easier to get from 6 to 8 than it is to get from 8 to 10, and the benefits of being an 8 over a 6 are vastly, vastly worth the effort. Claiming lack of time is simply stating that “it’s not a priority”.

As a friend of mine recently said on FaceBook, try to say from now on “it’s not a priority” rather than saying “I don’t have the time”, and see how you feel. Is your health not a priority? Your strength? Your bank account? Your family?