I have successfully returned from my week at the MovNat Expansion course. This is going to be a pretty lengthy post, so if you are pressed for time I will summarize here:
I had extremely high expectations going into the week and they were all surpassed. Do yourself a big favor and go see Erwan ASAP.
There is so much I could talk about that I’m not sure where to begin - I suppose I’ll follow proper screenwriting form and open with a scene description.
The course was held on a beautiful piece of land in Summersville West Virginia. MovNat had taken over one corner of a larger campground that we shared with a bunch of other campers and RVers. We had access to a central complex that had running water, bathrooms, and showers, so we were able to clean up after a long day of training. We were each provided with a very spacious tent, a full sized air mattress, and proper sheets, pillows, and blankets. I was worried all this would interfere with the rough and tumble experience I was hoping for, but after the first day of training the extra comfort was greatly appreciated. I was able to rest very well during the entire week, and I’m sure I made better progress because of it.
It would be worth going to a MovNat course just for the food. The meals were universally delicious and kept us well fueled through a week of hard training. Everything was paleo - no grains or sugar in sight. A heavy emphasis was placed on the consumption of fat - we were probably getting 50% - 60% of our energy from fat during the week. Given the intense demands we were placing on our bodies, this made perfect sense and I was surprised by how rarely I was hungry throughout the week. Breakfast typically involved large quantities of eggs, usually with some really good bacon, finished off with some fresh greens or a bowl of mixed berries in coconut milk - incredibly delicious. Lunch was typically a large salad of fresh raw veggies with plenty of olive oil mixed in. On some lucky days, we finished lunch with a dessert smoothie Erwan would make for us - pears, bananas, coconut, cacao, and cinnamon... it was like heaven in a cup. Dinner was meat and veggies - we had steak, ribs, chicken, and fish - all incredible. Lots of sweet potatoes, kale, onions and garlic, and, on one night, a kind of avocado/zucchini/bell pepper cold soup that I’m desperately trying to recreate.
Just as important as the food itself was the way it was prepared and eaten. We cooked and ate as a group. It had been a long time since I’d sat around a big community table to share homemade meals with friends and I was reminded of how important food sharing is to a healthy family or community.
A humorous anecdote: I asked Erwan if he would share some of his recipes with me. He laughed.
“I don’t use recipes,” he said. “I just trust my French blood!”
Shortly thereafter he improvised a sauce for the fish that was spine-tinglingly good. Let me say that French Paleo is a cuisine I can get behind.
Of course, the heart of the experience was the training. MovNat is not bootcamp - there wasn’t any yelling and screaming or frantic work output. The emphasis was on skills and mindfulness - we studied the universal principles of movement and then learned how to apply them to accomplish a wide variety of natural movements as efficiently as possible.
We covered a wide variety of skills, including climbing, lifting, running, swimming, jumping, balancing, crawling, and fighting. It was a lot of material, but not too much - Erwan was very up-front about the fact that we could not cover everything. He prefers to give us the time to really practice a few core skills rather than try to cram everything in - an approach that I absolutely agree with. We learned new things every day, but had the time to practice and make progress.
Both Erwan and Vic are highly skilled coaches. They manage to be encouraging and demanding at the same time - a difficult balance to strike. Erwan clearly has a deep understanding of the fundamental principles of movement - he was always able to zero in on specific problems we were having and offer meaningful coaching to help us improve. Vic handled all of the self defense sessions. As a former martial arts coach, I could immediately tell he really knew what he was doing - his humor and positive energy were fantastic.
As many of you know, I went into the week on an injured back. I was extremely worried I wouldn’t be able to participate in much of the training. A HUGE thanks is owed to my friends Josh and Charlie for their long-distance diagnostic skills - their advice helped me out a lot. While I did have to opt out of one or two drills, for the most part my back held up extremely well. In fact, it got much better as the week went on. Erwan and Vic were both very good about helping me scale some activities, and the mobility drills we did every morning were excellent therapy. Overall, I was pretty happy with my general physical preparedness. The most challenging skill for me was definitely swimming, particularly the rescue skills. I had never done anything like that before and I struggled. But, I have to say that was the training I enjoyed the most. I was exhausted by the end of every day, but always looking forward to what the next morning would bring.
The week culminated with a final exam of sorts - a 2 hour odyssey of challenges, obstacles, and ordeals. It was extremely intense, sometimes scary, but always exhilarating. I’m not going to provide details to make sure future participants have the same experience, but it tested our skills to the utmost and was the perfect capstone to the experience. I’m still riding the high I got from it. We did it in a fasted state, which worried me going in - I tend to get drained from fasting - but I felt strong and alert the whole time. Erwan threw down the gauntlet by telling us he expected bare feet and bare chests. I’m glad he pushed me there - it made the experience much more primal.
While the food and the training were incredible, what really made the week special was the group. I shared the experience with 11 wonderful people. I’m sure all previous MovNat groups feel the same way, but I cannot imagine doing the week with any other group. Some of my favorite memories from the week - eating wild berries on the edge of a cliff, our “duck hunt”, meal times, and watching everyone conquer the final two hours - would not have been possible without them. MovNat was a bonding experience, and I am thrilled and honored to have been a part of it.
So, it was an amazing experience and I’m already wishing I was back in the woods with everyone. Many thanks to Vic, my group, and a special thanks to Erwan for an unforgettable week.
I’ve posted some pictures of the week here, and will update the album as more pics come in.