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Why is Movnat® one of the best training methods to develop Mental Toughness?

Mental Toughness (MT), defined in detail here, is one of the main benefits of training within the Foresighted Fitness System because the Movnat Method is incredibly useful in developing and improving it. Mental Toughness defines a combination of being results-driven, persistent and resilient. You can readily see how that mental skillset is going to be helpfully applied to other endeavors…

Why is Movnat so useful in developing MT? Because it trains your mind to use the tactics l listed to help in developing such a state of mind. Below I detail a few of these.

In order to better highlight the uniqueness of Movnat, I’ll sometimes compare it to Crossfit as this method is usually thought to develop Mental Toughness best, among all fitness training practices. Crossfit, however, focuses mainly on persistence, while neglecting resilience and having a much more narrow minded approach of being results-driven.

The mission is the priority: becoming results-driven

Achieving MT means becoming results-driven first and foremost. What matters is that you reach your goals, whatever it takes to get there. But how you define your goals matters a lot, since it’s very easy to confuse good results for good process. You should become driven to create results, not to obsess on a perfect process to get there, as the process is not the goal, it’s simply your mean to reach your goal.

For example, during BUD/S training for Navy Seals selection, students have to achieve time targets for runs, swims and the obstacle course. Technique matters of course, as they have to become efficient at these, but in the end, they are not judged on technique and form, they are judged by their times.

Movnat is fully aligned with that approach. Erwan Le Corre, Movnat’s creator, defines Movnat’s definition of goals as such in his book:

In Natural Movement, “perfect form” is seen as a highly misleading term; if I ever had to define “perfect form,” I would say that it’s the movement that adapts the best to context, not that conforms the best to a convention that stems from tradition, analytical interpretation of a scientific theory, or a subjective individual criteria. […\]

Under traditional fitness practice and theory, reaching “perfect form” starts with controlling the context by first restricting environmental variables as much as possible and then by imposing a situation where only predefined positions or movements are allowed. An example is an exercise machine that mechanically dictates the exact movement pattern your body can follow. Another example is a tradition that conventionally dictates the exact position your body must assume. In any case, your body is either mentally or physically forced to conform to a certain behavior.[…\]

From a MovNat standpoint, movement is either technically efficient or inefficient, but ultimately it is the form that adapts best with your direct environment or the situation at hand that matters the most.

Moving as efficiently as possible for the task at hand is the goal, in terms of result, and practicing frequently to achieve ever more efficient and adaptable techniques is the process. Many fitness methods erect good form as the goal, mistaking it for a part of their process.

The fact that Movnat is composed of techniques having real, practical applications, such as climbing on top of a tree branch, makes it naturally better at developing a results-driven mentality. You either manage to climb on top of the branch or you don’t: that’s your result. You can do it efficiently or not, no matter the thickness of the branch or if it’s slippery: that’s part of the process to develop ever increasingly efficient and adaptable techniques.

Contrast this approach with the Crossfit method for example, which focuses on pull-ups and ring muscle-ups in terms of similar movements. What are your goals? To achieve these with perfect form and then increase the reps. The results and the process and are essentially the same.

Which method do you think will develop more a true results-driven mental capability?

Persistence: “The only easy day was yesterday”

Crossfit and Movnat both develop persistence, but Movnat does it on more levels and in a deeper way.

Outdoor training demands more creativity and persistence

Crossfit undeniably develops persistence through challenging people to get through very challenging and high intensity workouts as quickly as possible. But this is pretty much the only way in which Crossfit develops persistence. You shall never quit even if you hurt. This is of course very valuable, but is only one aspect of persistence.

Movnat provides the same improvement in persistence when practiced at high-intensity but also challenges you to persist on other levels. For example, your creativity is challenged when working out outside: you need to find ways to work within your environment in creative ways. How do you train upper body pull strength when you don’t have a pull-up bar for example? How do you move when you find yourself with 10 mins of free time? And how do you stay motivated to even seize those 10 minutes to train?

Movnat will challenge you to develop persistence in those aspects as well, not just in pushing through the pain during the workout.

Training is never over

The US Navy Seals use the phrase “training is never over” to illustrate their drive to always get better and better, even if they’re already at the elite level in many domains. That’s also true of the Movnat approach as it’s part of it to strive to incorporate natural movement throughout your day, every day, and to always refine your moves with better and better technique.

Most other fitness approaches center on the workout as the moment to get in your exercise dose, not your wider lifestyle outside of workout times.

Persistence is then cultivated 24/7 with Movnat—without becoming an obsession of course!—which in turn makes it much better to work on your persistence capability throughout the day.

Resilience: become comfortable being uncomfortable

Now we get to Resilience, and this is truly where Movnat is incomparable. Resilience is defined as moving forward even in the face of unexpected setbacks. For those familiar with Mental Toughness in a military context, the ability to be resilient is famously encapsulated in the saying “become comfortable being uncomfortable”.

Movnat teaches you to develop a very high level of adaptability, so you’re ready for anything

Movnat advocates training in uncontrolled environments instead of training in indoor gyms. That doesn’t mean all training must be outdoors, as learning new techniques in controlled indoor environments is completely part of the Movnat method. Ultimately though, the goal is to equip you with the capabilities to train outdoors, in either natural or urban environments, but in both cases uncontrolled.

To continue with the pull-up analogy comparison used above, you will train a variety of climbing techniques on a variety of setting: branches (thin or thick, slanted or straight, smooth or rough, etc.), swing sets, vertical poles, etc. Of course, your actual achievements will change depending on your environment. Say you’re training dead hangs, then the thicker the branch, the more grip strength you’ll need, and the less your dead hang time will be.

Within the Movnat method, this doesn’t matter, as you train according to your environment and you measure the quality of your training with different variables in addition of reps and time. Training volume and quality is not impacted no matter your training environment.

But what about standard fitness methods? If you’re training dead hangs for time, say to reach 1 minute, in a typical gym environment, then what happens when all you have access to is a thick tree branch? You might be tempted to jump on it and hang, but let’s say you can hang for 50 seconds on a pull-up bar, you will most probably only reach 20 seconds or so in that environment. What do you do then? Outside of the Movnat paradigm, most methods will advocate not training in that environment (you basically quit) and waiting until you can get to a standard pull-up bar to do so.

So with Movnat, you train no matter what, as variable conditions are actually a part of the process whereas in other fitness training methods, you have to wait until the conditions are just right before training.

Corollary: Learn to ignore minor discomforts, they’re part of any process and don’t mean you’re disadvantaged.

Learning to ignore minor discomforts is another tactic for developing persistence and resilience as part of developing Mental Toughness. It’s not by chance that most of BUD/S training is done while the students are wet and sandy from hitting the surf and crawling on the beach. Yes, they’re cold and their skin is ripping off and chaffing everywhere, but that’s a feature of the training. By the end of BUD/S, they don’t even notice minor (or even major in their case) discomforts, they just power through and carry on with the tasks at hand.

The long term goal of Movnat is to get you to train barefoot in natural environments. That will be uncomfortable at first, but like everything else, you will adapt. Yes, practicing climbing moves on branches with rough bark is more uncomfortable than smooth pull-up bars in the gym, but again, that’s a feature of the Movnat method, because it aims to develop both physical and mental capabilities.

Being barefoot is advocated for many reasons, but one side effect is to toughen up your skin, both literally and figuratively. Again, you learn to be become comfortable being uncomfortable, and after a while, you become comfortable barefoot.

Is there any other fitness method that provides this capability? Crossfit is often seen as doing it because of the high intensity and frequency of its workouts, but that’s where it stops. You can practice Movnat at the exact same intensity and frequency, which gets you the same benefits as you would with Crossfit. For everything else though, the main discomforts you need to overcome with Crossfit is motivating you to get to the gym.

Conquer the veil of fear

Another tactic used heavily to improve Mental toughness is to push you to face your fears, push through them, and use these accomplishments as means to push through biggest fears. If you conquered smaller fears before, then you’re more likely to conquer a slightly bigger one, etc.

Again, Movnat excels in that domain as many people are confronted with their fears when they practice it:

  • vaulting is perhaps the most obvious domain where many people have to face mental limits and overcome them to become able to do the movements
  • jumping from height is another one, commonly practiced in Movnat
  • rolling forward and backward, especially after a jump from height to dissipate momentum, represents a mental barrier for many
  • balancing at height, of course, is universally challenging and increasing the height gradually is a good way to face ever increasing fears while overcoming them progressively

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