Saturday, September 10, 2011

Primal Synthesis - An Idea Worm


Sometimes ideas are like worms in the ground, wriggling through the earth and then emerging to the surface for air. So here's my worm of the moment.

Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat, presented at the Ancestral Health Symposium recently and I think it's a great paper that provides a summary of the human condition and MovNat's role in fixing it.  There are also some nice sound bites such as:

The future will belong to the nature-smart.
We live in a zoo and have become zoo humans.
Lifestyle can be more important than genetics.
you must train more broadly yet more specifically.
At one point he takes on general physical preparedness, or GPP versus the SAID principle:

Let's take the example of a basic pull-up. From a GPP standpoint, it's an upper body strength conditioning skill. From a MovNat perspective, a pull-up is one of many climbing movements because there are many many others. Does pull-up training prepare you well for any climbing situation? Like climbing a rock, climbing a wall, a rope, a bar, a pole or a tree? Here we have a very fit individual, at least from conventional standards. Please forgive the video. That's technology sometimes, it doesn't work. That individual is rather confident in his fitness level, since he's able to perform several explosive pull-ups in a row. Now let's see the same individual trying to climb on top of the bar. It's quite surprising that he can't, since the individual looks quite fit and strong. Apparently, he is trying out the MovNat technique he's seen on YouTube. But though you may be conditioned to perform countless pull-ups, climbing atop of a bar like this is a totally different game. And unfortunately, more pull-ups in the gym won't do. More general conditioning doesn't work. Why's that? Because of the SAID principle, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. Those demands can be environmental. For instance, the horizontal bar is the environment. We frequently see people who can normally perform plenty of pull-ups on a regular pull-up bar getting challenged with the exact same drill on a thicker bar because pulling your body up hanging from the bar imposes a greater demand. You need stronger grip, hand grip. And to develop that physical, specific physical adaptation, you must change your environment you're interacting with in order to condition specifically.

In the end, Erwan basically upholds skill over pure work capacity:
So conclusion one: There's more to real-life preparedness than work capacity alone. And conclusion two, the most important: Apply the SAID principle, be specific. Directly practice the types of movement with the kind of effort you will need to perform them. In a nutshell, stick to reality.
In simple words, moving evolutionarily and naturally is moving in ways which resemble how human animals have been moving in nature for millions of years. Movements must be highly practical and adaptive. So of course some exercise is always better than nothing, especially if you do it in the green. But doing pushups and sit-ups and other drills of this kind in the woods, even if you're shirtless, and wearing minimal shoes [laughter] does not make your exercise evolutionarily natural; it's conventional fitness you do outside.

So do I feel silly now - since that is pretty much what I am doing currently? This year I have trained Primally (very similar to MovNat) and found myself wanting when it came to strength, intensity and even endurance. I was fit enough and had great fun, but when I did the Coastal Challenge run I needed more endurance than I had, and when I did the CrossFit NZ Battle Royale I didn't have much strength or high intensity capacity. So now in my training for the Auckland Half Marathon, I have gone back to the more disciplined approach combining CrossFit Endurance training with CrossFit style metcon sessions. It's gruelling and not as much fun, but I still like it, and feel like it will work as a half marathon training plan. But after the half marathon is done, I want Primal Synthesis!

I like the Spartan training quality of CrossFit and the fun and freedom of Primal training, but switching from on to the other is not the way to go. Hence Primal Synthesis:

Damned if 20 minute workouts are enough, CrossFit Endurance has a place at my table. My appreciation for CrossFit is the fitness spectrum it upholds, whereas MovNat promotes natural, adaptive movement. Somehow, soon, I am going to try to find a way to put it all together for truly Un-Zoo fitness. So I guess I don't feel silly, yet...

Side note: Clifton Harski of MovNat who has a CrossFit background is kind of already there - he's mixing it up during the week like this:

Getting good at all of it is pretty simple: do some strength work, some mobility and agility work, some conditioning, some play, sleep well, eat well, and don’t obsess over arbitrary aspirations to take your back squat from 450lbs to 455lbs, or your 10k from 40 minutes to 39 minutes.
  • Monday: Strength and Power @ gym or with rocks outside
  • Tuesday:rest, or MovNat Conditioning or Basketball or yoga
  • Wednesday: Rest, or conditioning with MovNatting
  • Thursday: Strength and Power @ gym or with rocks outside
  • Friday: Rest. Foam Roll and TV with stretching, or a massage.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 8 hour MovNat workshops and practice. Endurance.
Whereas my planned version is this: (not necessarily in this order)
  • Monday: Lift Heavy
  • Tuesday: Heavy conditioning
  • Wednesday: speed/intensity/power
  • Thursday: CFE Stamina TT
  • Friday: unweighted conditioning & body skill
  • Saturday and Sunday: rest, outdoor work