I believe one of the most important fitness methods of the recent years is MovNat (short for ‘Move naturally’) recently in the spot-light with Christopher McDougall’s book ‘Natural Born Heroes’. MovNat define their approach this way:
MovNat is a fitness and physical education system based on the full range of natural human movement skills. The Movnat system trains physical competence for practical performance. MovNat aims at effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability.
Source: MovNat Certified Level 1 Trainer Manual
My colleague Jason Kehoe and I have practiced and integrated this physical education system into our training with runners since 2011 and both use it regularly. Since it involves crawling, jumping, balancing, vaulting, climbing, running and similar real-world movement that kids engage in naturally, its a perfect fit for conditioning aspiring young athletes.
Our sport of athletics revolves around the core human movements running, jumping, throwing and walking. MovNat is a perfect foundation for developing the sports-specific jumps, throws and walks later by creating a foundation based on jumping, gait and throwing patterns you would use in real life.
I drew up a session with some basic equipment I had designed by TD Gym Equipment based on my designs:
We keep the ‘core’ running-emphasis of the session intact by having running interspersed throughout the short ‘obstacle course’ (the MovNat system refers to this type of workout as a ‘combo’ – a combination of different movements with emphasis on smooth transition between each movement). The movements included in this ‘circuit’ are:
- Balance walk
- Balance lunge walk / split squat
- Vertical jump
- Depth jump
- Broad jump
- Step vault / hurdle / side vault
- Foot hand crawl (‘cat crawl’)
- Inverted crawl (‘crab crawl’)
In addition you have a number of transition movements such as the rotation you do as you switch directly from a foot hand crawl (face down) to inverted crawl (face up).
What energy systems does this train?
It depends purely on the intensity at which you execute but there is a significant explosive component to the workout from the vaults and jumps although these are short and brief and do not incur significant oxygen debt.
However, I am not one to obsess or focus heavily on hitting particular systems within the body. I want us to look at the session from a movement perspective: what we are training is the ability to efficiently and safely perform a series of potentially life-saving movements against increasing tiredness.
Our junior session
We had roughly 17 juniors at this evenings session, we began with a ‘prison break’ game around the pitches where I, as the coach, play out a scenario that encourages the juniors to go into various different walking gaits and crawling and creeping motions as well as sprinting ‘walk side-ways across the wall, NOW sprint across the yard’ etc.
The inverted and foot-hand crawl were then introduced and a game of ‘Cats and Crabs’ a team ball-game I invented featuring hurdles as goals and a tennis ball to get ready for the main menu.
When introducing the vault and balancing obstacles (as shown in the video below), I do not go through meticulous instruction as I would with a group of seniors. The juniors concentration levels are better suited for simple mimicking of what they are shown. Because of age differences and the large group, the juniors were encouraged to use a wide variety of techniques to go over or even under the bar. This increases the fun and gives you as a coach an interesting insight into the movement ability and confidence of each junior athlete.
If I could redo the session, I would cut down the movements from the 6+ to 3-4 as younger runners tend to gravitate towards their favourite obstacles and ‘break order’ or lose track of the various parts of the game.
Finishing it off
In order to integrate the session with running, we finished off with 5 minutes of ‘wolfpack Fartlek’ where the runners are in three packs following a nominated ‘alpha’ around until they hear the whistle blow. A new alpha is now nominated and the kids follow that person until the whistle blow again – and so forth.
While this may seem like a lot of content, it took only 1 hour and kept everyone engaged and having fun while stimulating a wide array of physical abilities.