DIARY: MovNat Trainer course–at a glance

I am writing up my thoughts on my trip to Manchester last week where I undertook my MovNat Trainer Certification level 1 course with Jason. Since it’s more of a lengthy report, I wanted to share a few personal experiences here. This is not a review of the weekend, so if you’re interested in that, hang on – it’s coming up!

Even the best teachers stay students

As a coach it’s important to continuously develop and I was inspired by Tony Riddle, a movement coach who, from my vantage point, seems to have almost total mastery of his field. Yet he still took the time to travel to Copenhagen and attend a course with the likewise great Ido Portal (founder of “Movement culture”).

So while Jason and I had our “induction” into the traditions of using natural movement, rather than modern gym work, to condition athletes through Tony and Ben almost 1.5 years ago, we wanted to learn more and in the last 5 years few have done more work than Frenchman Erwan le Corre in synthesizing the older, and more common-sense, physical education systems that existed before Arnie, neomania and “no pain, no gain” took over and threw fitness and conditioning into a downward spiral.

A tough mentor – Joseph Bartz

Our coach was Joseph Bartz, owner of Natur-Pfade.de, and highly respected traceur (practitioner of parkour). One thing I have learned in the last year with Tony, Ben and other movement coaches is this: they care less what you can talk about and more about how you walk! This means, while good coaching skills are considered essential, there is little tolerance for armchair coaching and the coaches in this area respect each other based on how they move. Commenting on one other high profile coach during the week, Joseph revealed this attitude: “I don’t really like what he’s doing right now, but he’s a good mover.”

A. GOOD. MOVER. This is essential and echoes Lydiard’s thoughts that “it’s no good to have a big fat coach on the side-line with a stopwatch” and that “technique must come first, always”. This ethos ran throughout the MovNat course – a lot of attention where giving to critical coaching elements such as progression of skills, coaching cues and the other nuts and bolts (you can never learn this enough. I’ve been coached on cues countless times now, and you always pick up something new). But the real focus was movement.

Essential movements of man

Throughout the weekend we were taken through seated postures, transitions, walking, crawling, low walks, climbing/hanging/traversing, lifting, balancing, vaulting, jumping, running, throwing and catching. Joseph kept a watchful eye and if he wasn’t happy with what you could do, he let you know.

By the end, both Jason and I aced the theoretical test and Jason passed then and there with flying colours. I knew I was in trouble when Joseph waved me aside and said “you’ll need to show me that you can do the split vaults before I can pass you.” I was momentarily disappointed but then I was actually filled with joy and resolve – actually I was impressed. Here was a coaching philosophy that took education seriously and that did not simply trade cash for certifications. Two days later I completed my split vault and send Joseph the video. “That’s cool,” he wrote. “Now I need to see you do it with the left hand and with the outside first as well.” Two days later I completed the left hand split vault but failed the outer leg. I’m hoping to nail it by tomorrow. I’m relishing the process and know that when I get the certification, I will have earned it – as a practitioner and not an armchair coach.

I have been on athletics training courses where the coaches never attain any reasonable quality of movement and where too much time is wasted covering theory. Many athletics coaches can speak about mitochondria and muscle fibres with the authority of a physiologist but cannot distinguish a good stride from a bad stride. As one attendee of the course put it: “there is an imbalance between fluff such as "long-term athletic development” and the actual day to day coaching that makes a difference.”

This goes both for runners and coaches: it’s the solid attention to the work done day by day and the ability to read your body’s signals and the signals of your athletes and scale workouts to their requirements that create champions. Not 4-year plans written in spreadsheets.