Category Archives: Children’s fitness

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!

Breaking the habit, breaking the jump

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Up in the 5AM hour on a Sunday morning.

Thank you, 2-yr old Branson.

Not hot out yet, pleasant, balmy. 6-yr old Fletcher wakes up a little later. As their powers of destruction combined begin to rise as well, divide and conquer becomes the strategy. I’ll go out with Fletcher, Branson will cuddle with Mommy at home (or as I found out, he wreaked havoc all over the house…)

Now, I’ve also been devouring Julie Angel’s book Breaking The Jump and the re-discovery of concepts I have been preaching yet becoming complacent to with too much “easy strength” work made me want to sharpen my edge. Two of these, paraphrased quotes/concepts from the Yamakasi original crew are “you become good at what you do a lot of” and any stunt has to be done three times: the first time is to do it, to “break” it. The second you do for yourself, to make sure it was not a fluke (clients: sound familiar?) and the third time you do it for someone else. Since I had my 6-yr old coach/pace-setter on his bike (and also joining on some stunts), I had to show off anything and tell him to look (it pushes me to get his approval, I want to be a cool dad, yes, and it’s good that our 36-yr difference shows one can still do cool things).

The regimen was simple: run, jump onto, clear, jump off of. Rinse, repeat. Surfaces included: brick, concrete, dirt, polysoft playground impact attenuation surface and sand.

Obstacles were: wooden bleachers, jungle gym, overhead signs, stairwells and railing. The jungle gym/playground area includes slippery walls (only a very dry bare foot would grip), railing, thick supporting tubes/beams, a fun tower etc.

Heights varied from 4 feet to about 12 feet.

Drop/depth jumps were seated, standing and backwards or from vaulting over a railing and landing below.

Cat jumps/hang were either single, or hopping from one height to the next before vaulting over or dropping down. No less than 3 times each.

The ‘injury’ (a minor cut on my shin hitting the bottom of a railing during a hop from one cat hang to the next, higher and to the side) occurred at the intersection of distraction and overconfidence. The mechanics were there, I got a little sloppy from getting distracted by a dad who was looking at me with this WTF look, as if my actions were going to cause his kid to act like me and get hurt…

I tend to like solo work, however, the same way I enjoy surfing with at least one friend paddling out with me, the fun of pushing further with Fletcher asking me to jump onto the 12-ft (or higher) sign at the park, muscling up and jumping over, then immediately reversing the direction of it, justified why such training is best done with someone at your side. Silent inner competition and, well, showmanship 🙂

Break it down into small steps

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With the upcoming and long awaited release of my updated version of Georges Hébert’s training program book, with equipment that we can find at any gym, playground, and surroundings, I feel it is important to understand that while some moves may look cool, difficult and even out of realistic reach for some, the basics of a move still carry benefits and can still be attempted by anyone at any fitness level.

Before your look at a heavy barbell back squat and say “I can’t do this”, realize that:

  1. You don’t need to if you don’t have to, unless your job or life depends on it. Your fitness doesn’t. If you want to, however, the next point applies.
  2. You didn’t come out of the womb sprinting. You didn’t even crawl for months. On point: you sit down on a chair, you stand up from it, you squat. Remove the chair, or lower it. Then, start holding on to something that weighs a few pounds.

See where I’m going with this? You’re squatting, just doing a different version from it. As the saying goes, we overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a year.

Take a look at this first short videoclip of a client going through a simple progression of how to clear a low wall: using both hands for support and landing his feet on the wall, then using only one hand with feet landing, then with feet clearing the wall entirely. Or jumping over from the other side, landing low (depth jump landing and continuing his run).

Now, take a look at this short clip of me doing what is an easy wall-to-wall, edge-to-edge jump, clearing about 6 feet of distance, immediately followed by a shot of the same client being afraid of performing the same jump (which he didn’t do that day, not ready yet mentally), as well as assessing jumping over the same low wall he cleared easily in the previous clip above. You can also see him do a running jump and clipping his foot on the edge nearest to him right at the beginning of his jump.

Regardless, doing such a jump is still, for most, a risky, advanced skill. However, a jump is a jump is a jump. Its requirements from a musculoskeletal standpoint, as well as command from the central nervous system, require the individual the be springy (something we lose with age if not practiced), supple, agile, strong and powerful, at whatever that level of strength, agility or flexibility one may be. It’s not how far, how high or how hard you jump (or lift, or throw, or punch), it’s that you do those things that matters.

So, go out and do something. Look at this funny little clip of my younger son jumping. That’s a big deal to him, to be able to do that, at 2 years old. Start there!

 

It’s Hydrostatic, Orthorexic, Body Dysmorphic, it’s Greased Training!

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Did you see Richard Gere’s post on FB that’s been shared many times, the one about his super healthy friend who did all the right things and now is dying of two forms of cancer, versus another acquaintance who by all standards should have died long ago for leading an extremely unhealthy lifestyle? Doesn’t matter, we all know stories of people like that.

How about the meme about how exercising leads to you being alone when you’re old because all your other friends are dead, and in the meantime move while going nowhere (treadmill)?

I have, as most of us trainers have at some point, run into someone with either an eating disorder or an unhealthy exercise addiction, or both (as one tends to tie into the other). One client of mine couldn’t bear to see herself in the mirror, disappeared for a bit, came back with an amplified bosom, which bought her only about three weeks of happiness and self-confidence. Another was used to getting her previous trainer yell and push like an evil drill sergeant and had such conditioning from her bulimia that she could never do any movements that put her in a prone or leaning forward position without throwing up. Seriously! I only trained her one time then politely parted ways, as I refused to administer punishment for whatever was “broken inside”. Some challenges are best left to trained professionals in the field of psychology. Then there’s also the  individual with a touch of Munchausen Syndrome and orthorexia associated with bombardment of photoshopped images in the media or chasing the fountain of youth in denial of the reality that aging exists, even if you can slow it down.

The point is that despite all of us knowing that cigarettes cause cancer, having unprotected sex or driving while impaired are dangerous behaviors, some still do it. And we also all know that certain results are not achieved realistically or within the framework of what fitness marketers, even trainers, are selling you (unless proper expectations are explained).

I remember a client who told me that he wasn’t happy because after 2 years of training with me, he didn’t have the body of someone who trains twice a week with a trainer. All the education and expectations management in the world would not resonate, because people like to blame. You pay for a service, you want results. And when you get results but they don’t match your expectations, it’s the provider’s fault. Who’s to blame? Me for not educating, or the multimillion dollar assault of ad copies telling you that with just 8 minutes a day twice a week you will get the body of a demigod-looking model who has spent hours in the gym daily, slaved for years, entered dietary hell with the discipline of a Samurai?

The answer is somewhere in-between. There’s also the point where I have to, like the song says, “let it go, let it go”… I don’t hold that fork, I don’t buy the food, I don’t follow the clients for 166 hours a week (only 2, which is about 1.2% of the week), they have the info, the map, the instructions.

While you do need to get off your ass and train consistently, eat sensibly, you also need to understand that you can’t complain about the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. At the same time, do you really need the six-pack abs? Do you need to bench press eight wheels? Yeah, OK, I’m all for a high goal to achieve, the journey, etc. I get it, no need to throw in some comment about that. Dig deeper is what I’m asking. Is the pursuit of the goal worth it? Don’t you have something better to do, like be fit, be healthy, have fun, work and do something you love (other than weightlifting) and concentrate on something that makes a difference in someone else’s life (and another weightlifter’s life doesn’t count!)?

Believe me, I get it. I too suffer from an occasional case of body dysmorphism, which changes frequently: too fat, not big enough, too slim, or chasing strength, size or whatever because of how good someone else’s marketing is over how confident I am in my decade and a half of training and education (academics and in the trenches). I too get confused. I too think some things matter when in the end, they don’t because no one’s going to care that I lifted X amount of weight, and no one’s going to remember that I lifted X amount of weight. The things I hope to be remembered for are the things I passed on to my clients, my friends, my children and strangers through books, blogs, workshops, training sessions, chance encounters. Things of ephemeral or lasting value that extend beyond the 73 inches of height or slightly wider wingspan.

Long story short: training appropriately, eating well, interactive physical play, solo activities done in a group matters. Extremes don’t. Do this to be around and pay it forward, not to get validated by 1000 likes on your selfie post only to feel like crap if your next post drops by a couple hundred.

We’re not the center of our own Universe, as I heard in the Love 4 Training podcast episode 16. And it’s very true!

 

How do you train for a long life?

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How do you train for a long life? Simple question, simple answer, simple mission if you are willing to accept it. Do everything, generalize, don’t specialize and don’t complicate things by thinking this toy or that diet only will get you there. Ironically, I am asking you to not listen to other scare tactics fitness marketers, because I don’t want to scare you, only want to “delight” you, so you feel good about what you are doing, or are willing to start doing.

It starts with movement. Like, getting off the couch. Here’s the simplest progression, a simple health & fitness recipe I can think of, assuming you’re already off the couch and standing (anyone unable to stand can still do some things seated):

  1. Take a few deep breaths, inhale through your nose, fill your lungs as much as you can, lifting your chest up, then exhale through your mouth.
  2. Now, do a few more breaths, and raise your arms to the side, or to the front, or back-then-up-and-down (pick, do what you can/want).
  3. Now, do a few more breaths with some arm movements, and bend your knees as you inhale and move the arms, and straighten them as you exhale to a fully upright position.
  4. Take a walk next, and focus on your breaths still, if you can remember. If not, enjoy the walk.

Notice I am not getting into any more specifics other than to match your movements with your breath. No reps, intensity, speed. Follow your rhythm, stay serene. Much is said about meditation these days, and people will sell you complicated programs on how to meditate, or move, or other. But you already know it. Your body knows it. It may have forgotten, but you always knew. Think about it: what’s the first thing you did when you came to this world? You took a deep breath (ok, you also screamed), because that breath is life, and then you moved your limbs, and it worked out pretty well for you for a while.

The next step is to enjoy the feeling, let it happen, because no one feels bad after doing this. Coughing up a lung? Your body’s telling you something. Get it checked out. Simple.

Don’t try too hard either. Just do it so you like it, which will beget your desire to want to do more. Like add some depth to your knee bend (deep knee bend/squat), or support your weight on any surface, angle that can support your weight, with your arms (pushups, planks).

Now, fast forward a few days, weeks or months. You’re doing more advanced stuff, lifting heavier weight, or doing more repetitions. Maybe now, you’re walking faster, or jogging slowly. Around the park, the block, the neighborhood. One time. Several times.

Don’t think of weight loss, don’t get hung up on calories, or what to eat. You’re old enough to know what’s good or what’s bad for you.

Don’t get too hung up on that potato, that bowl of rice, that slice of bread or that piece of fruit. If you have some animal protein (or if you are not carnivorous, you know other forms of protein), some veggies (leafy, root, green or other colors) and those are still somewhat recognizable in their cooked, chopped, baked or grilled form from their original shape, you’re doing well.

So, eat stuff in the general idea of what’s described above, move like described above, and relish in the fact that you don’t need to be exceptionally fit to live a long, happy life. I don’t believe anyone lived under a rock, in today’s age, to not know what’s good or bad. Move, eat well, challenge yourself, and be responsible about your choices.

Practice displacement (walk, jog, run, even ride), and lift something (self, kid, objects of various shapes, designed for training or not), or throw something. Twist left, twist right, shake your limbs. Rinse, lather repeat. Tortoise pace, not hare pace. You know the story. You’re in this for the long haul anyway, hopefully, for your kids, your grandkids, to enjoy the wealth you amassed, to see places you didn’t see, to work longer at what you love, or try something new.

We’re just here for the duration of a blink anyway, why shorten it irresponsibly?

Strangely, that recipe can almost sound like Crossfit, which it isn’t. It’s actually the other way around. Crossfit may have taken this concept to an extreme only. And you know what, there are plenty of levels between a Crossfit WOD and what I just suggested today. We are all in different places on that spectrum.

And that’s the theme with The Natural Method

Live the Natural Method

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ACE (American Council on Exercise) released its forecast of the top 10 fitness trends for 2016.

I didn’t really see what I have been exploring since 2008 when I realized what I knew from NASM was too reductionist, and had Wildfitness open my eyes to new ways, which were anything but.

Judging by Connor McGregor’s recent win, but more so the phenomenal boost “movement” received and the likes of Ido Portal and Erwan LeCorre latching on the the opportunity to grow their approach, I do believe that a return to the source is truly at the forefront of fitness. And judging by the warm reception my translation of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education and his Natural Method approach to fitness, I feel I’m on the right path. Check out this post by Daring Standards.

I am extremely thankful for this, as it gives me a new purpose and a new drive to bring more of Hébert’s work forward. It is important to give him credit, rather than try to steal for oneself for marketing purposes. Ultimately, Hébert himself credits his predecessors, just like Pavel Tsatsouline did with his kettlebell training system, and related strength training Russian influences. Pavel improved and systemized, like Hébert did. Not everyone does like them, and instead covers up an existing system or style with a new name, or unnecessary complications, not actual updates.

Movement is essential, it’s simple, it’s life. This is why I put together this little slideshow that includes family pictures, where my kids get to run, jump climb, throw and my wife and I get to partake, carry them, throw them, fight with them etc. Towards the end of the slideshow, you’ll see my friends Nick Bustos, Melody Schoenfeld, Patrick Hartsell, Ron Jones and James Neidlinger in action, some photos not released yet, modeling the programming of Hébert’s method, with simple  updates, upgrades, modern twist and access to gear that always existed but was made more user friendly (I am not against progress…)

Enjoy!

Women’s training: they were children first.

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Debaters and fitness marketers like to create a polemic just to get clicks, or prey on insecurities to get “asses in classes” (how classy of me, but if you’re offended by this, you might get offended at other truths…). Topics include (and contradict one another): how women should train, women should train like men, why women shouldn’t train like men, etc. Guilty as charged,  I too have partaken in shifting perspective with words, only to provide results using an individually specific training approach based on assessments, goals and current abilities, regardless of gender.

As always, I prefer to start at the root (root cause analysis). Start moving early, at a young age, learn the skills then and once you’ve reached the end of your growth as a human being, it’s really maintenance with personal varietal modifications. That’s the message.

But don’t take it from me. Here’s what Hébert has to say in his book on Women’s Physical Education:

The child feels her needs instinctively. Better than any teacher, she knows how to dose her work. Without a doubt, she wonderfully applies the principle of alternating powerful and moderate efforts. She stops when she needs to and sleeps when her body requires rest.

How sad to see so many moms spend their time stunting their children’s natural development, lessening their vitality and deteriorating their bodies by contradicting the need for activity, which amongst children is only the need to live, by restricting or even suppressing its manifestation!

How many congested children, red-faced with swollen cheeks, whose bodies are already overstressed with toxins they can only eliminate through exercise, are pre-destined for arthritis!

The application of the “natural method” doesn’t begin when children sit on school benches, meaning the day we restrict on a large scale their physical activity, by forcing them to sit still for hours.

In order to develop, despite these unfavorable condition, a child must be allowed to produce, for a duration limited by studies, a sufficient amount of varied efforts.

The Natural Method has no other purpose but to ensure this necessary production of efforts and to have children perform, in a controlled fashion, exercises they would instinctively perform, if free to do so.

The application of the method must be followed through the end of developmental growth. The training sessions last about an hour and their frequency varies between three and six times per week. Training gets a particular push for a four-month period, from Spring to middle of Summer.

And that’s why we need to impress upon any government the importance of Physical Education. Considering the relationship between diseases like diabetes and the economy, whether directly or through various connective dots (I am not qualified to politicize), this is no different from starting a savings account early, where accruing dividends over time becomes more taxing on the individual the later they start.