I recently read a great book, Natural Born Heroes, by Christopher McDougall. The story revolves around Cretan and British soldiers who decide to kidnap a Nazi general during the German occupation of Crete in World War II. A main point is how the Cretan runners ability to move so effortlessly move around the mountains using goat trails and living off very little food while hiding out from the Nazis. The book takes some time to talk about Georges Hebert and the Natural Method, which is the basis of parkour and Crossfit. Both of these disciplines are based on functional movement.
“Être fort pour être utile”
“Be Strong to be useful” was the motto of Georges Hebert. In 1902, Hebert, an officer in the French Navy, was stationed in St. Pierre, Martinique. He witnessed a volcanic eruption that destroyed the town. During this disaster, Hebert personally organized and helped save around 700 people. He helped save people who could not swim well enough to save themselves. There were people who couldn’t carry their own children out of harm’s way. This solidified his belief that fitness along with altruism was needed to help others.
From this experience, Hebert developed the Natural Method after seeing people unable to perform very basic movements that could have saved their lives during a time of need.
A basic overview of the Natural Method session would look like this.
A (Natural Method) session is composed of exercises belonging to the ten fundamental groups: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrium (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming.A training session consists, then, of exercises in an outdoor environment, perhaps a few hundred meters to several kilometers, during which, one walks, one runs, one jumps, one progresses quadrupedally, one climbs, one walks in unstable balance, one raises and one carries, one throws, one fights and one swims.
The idea behind this, being strong to be useful, really spoke to me.
Here’s the truth, I don’t know if I could do the things I need to do to keep my family and friends safe should the occasion arise. An event where I would need to carry one or both my kids away from danger or if I could swim long enough or run far enough to do what is needed of me, namely, keeping my family safe.
My pride and ego (two things that get me in trouble a lot) both say “I absolutely can,” but those two aren’t always the best to listen to when it comes life and death. Sure adrenaline will get me out of some predicaments but will only goes so far. I need to get in shape and frankly, the idea of standing in a gym doing curls and bench presses doesn’t work for me.
I’d love to say I want to get “back” into shape but honestly I’ve never been in great shape. This is something that keeps pulling at me. There are so many elements that intrigue me. Some of the ideas behind this go against current conventional wisdom. Challenging the status quo is something I really like doing. I also want being active to be fun. I don’t want it to feel like punishment. The Natural Method checks those boxes.
Another element of this I like is that there is no one solution so this cannot be sold. If there is no money in it, it gets pushed to the bottom. It is similar to the primal/paleo/ancestral health movement. There’s no miracle powder to sell, just eating real food and avoiding the things that don’t work will with your body. But that is an entirely different post.
When it comes to fitness, what speaks to you or what doesn’t?
Tell me in the comment section.