Wednesday, June 19, 2013

La Méthode Naturelle

 Être fort pour être utile (Being strong to be useful)
- Georges Hébert
Contrary to what Nike might tell you, physical fitness training is not a new concept.
Georges Hébert was a French physical education thinker and instructor in the early 20th century.  He was inspired by the seemingly natural physical prowess and physique of indigenous populations. In his mind, these people had no instruction on diet or exercise yet had a superior level of fitness to people living a modern lifestyle. Other thinkers in Hébert's time were proposing physical training concepts and programs prompted by public health and military preparedness. His philosophy strove to mimic the behavior patterns of native people by centering on a return to the basic functioning and enhancement of natural human skills (La Méthode Naturelle). The 10 basic movements in his mind were walking, running, jumping, crawling, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, defending and swimming; a standard training session would involve a combination of these elements.
Old school obstacle course training inspired by Georges Hébert
USMC obstacle course training, Parkour, MovNat, Fartlek among others are all modern implementations of La Méthode Naturelle.  Essentially the principle is that learning to master obstacles in the world around you provides all the physical stimulation we need to achieve a fully functioning human body.  Individual components of fitness like strength, endurance, or flexibility are not trained in isolation but as a byproduct of developing useful skills.  Movements aren't scaled for age or sex. There is no end-state fitness goal. You listen to your body and practice everyday striving for greater efficiency in movement. Physique is also a byproduct of focusing on improving movement.
Fit bodies are not just for men
To Hébert, a strong, agile body was a useful body. Doing stuff when and how you want to do something was the purpose of training. Not just pullups for stronger arms but for better climbing ability.  Not just better climbing ability as an end-state but to better scale something for a vantage point or to escape. The underlying purpose of life enhancement permeates all physical training sessions.
Think about what drives you to train your body.

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