MovNat Day 4: Integrating and combining skills

Today was quite varied but the best way to sum it up would be combining things we’ve learned, often without thinking about them at this point. There is so much we’ve learned and used over and over that in some measure many things have become automatic.

The morning began, after breakfast…

Egg Veggie Scramble and Smoothie
Egg & Veggie Scramble and Fruit & Coconut Milk Smoothie

…with a 2 1/2 hour session in the beating sun rolling around on hot, bug infested grass to learn various ways of moving on the ground — applicable to stealth hunting or escape, perhaps — and culminating in an excellent session where all of that movement, weight transfer and shift was applied to self defense situations where you defend yourself when you’re on the ground and your attacker is either on top of you, or standing. Extremely informative and valuable. Well, actually that wasn’t a culmination because Erwan created a combination drill that kicked our asses at the end. So why torture yourself in the sun for 2 1/2 hours? The answer is that it pays to do that, sometimes. You never know when you might be called into action that requires maximal effort for long periods in awful conditions.

I retreated to the cold shower before lunch.

Portabella Mushroom and lots of nut veggie stuff
Portabella Mushroom and lots of nut veggie stuff

We had a pretty good break, actually. About three hours. I managed a 45 minute nap, and I never take naps. I actually went to sleep.

So by mid-afternoon it was time to take up training, again. First stop, the NovNat Jungle Gym.

The MovNat Jungle Jim
The MovNat Jungle Gym

I can’t remember whether it was yesterday or the day before (we’ve been here a month, already…) but I did manage to get myself over the horizontal bar using one technique, both sides. This is hard to do, folks, and I have the bruises and scratches on my arms to prove it. Today Ewan showed us a different technique that’s a bit more difficult in terms of weight shift but can be compensated for with strength. This was my first clue that my strength is really sapped because I couldn’t even begin to execute this move and after several attempts had to give up because I’d just lose what little strength that remained.

We then went over to the heavy logs that we cleaned and pressed on day 2 and where I easily handled the heaviest one numerous times. This is where I learned how depleted my strength was, because I had to dump my first attempt.

Oh, well. Part of this training is to learn your own limitations. It’s also about movement efficiency. In the role of trainer, Erwan, for instance, is continually demonstrating complex moves over and over, many times. And he’s as strong and fresh as ever. Is it because of raw strength? Well, he has a lot of strength and often demonstrates the pure strength move vs. the efficient, energy conserving one. But on balance he’s at the top of his game daily and hourly not primarily because of his strength but because he gets the job done using the least amount of strength and energy necessary.

And that’s a huge part of what this is about.

So then we moved onto a series of functional movements, the first being picking up 15’ long tree limbs of 6-8” diameter, getting them efficiently on your shoulder, balanced, and walking and squatting with them.

Next up was something I’d been waiting for: lifting, carrying, and throwing heavy things; in this case, large rocks. Turns out we also got to catch them in a number of different ways. I shot video of Erwan’s demo and instruction which I’ll mash & post when I get back as part of my massive wrap up post.

School Time in Carrying Heavy Things
School Time in Carrying Heavy Things

My camera wasn’t exactly configured for high speed photography so this one is blurry, but ought to look like fun.

Throwing Heavy Things
Throwing Heavy Things

And on the catching side of things, here’s a couple of me.

Catching Heavy Things
Catching Heavy Things
More Catching
More Catching

And after that it was a combo circuit of rock swings (like kettlebells), a high static jump onto a picnic table, jump off, four split jumps on the balance beams, a 40 yd sprint where the last 10 yds is on a balance beam, and then start all over — for 10 straight minutes, non-stop.

Then we called it a day and had dinner. Grilled fish, some red potatoes with green onions, and kale with avocado and mango.

Grilled Fish Dinner
Grilled Fish Dinner

Tomorrow the show ends. It ends with a fasted workout in the morning that we’re told is going to have us on our knees but with ear to ear smiles as we have our last meal prior to departure.

So I’ll leave the camp at noon and if all goes to plan, arrive back in San Jose at 9pm Pacific. I’ll put up a final wrap up post on Sunday.

So until then…

Here’s a list of links to all the posts in this series.

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  1. Dan Merk on July 16, 2010 at 22:00

    Thanks for keeping us up to date! Looks like an awesome time! Btw, you are looking shredded bro!

  2. Jim Arkus on July 17, 2010 at 04:09

    You’re definitely looking leaner, man. Good job!

  3. JP@PrimalJournal on July 17, 2010 at 05:39

    Really nice pictures and description. I agree that you look leaner!

    It sounds like you deserved that awesome fish and potato meal!

  4. Donna Lane on July 17, 2010 at 08:18

    Wow! Look at you!

  5. Ned Kock on July 17, 2010 at 08:49

    Thanks for keeping us posted Richard, always adding your analytical comments.

    As you probably know, the China Study critique by Denise is still getting a lot of attention. She wrote a new post with a response to Campbell’s response (below), and thanked you explicitly for bringing the original post to the community’s attention.

    Btw, in the second rock throwing photo the expression on your face is funny; seems like: “… no, not this rock again!”

  6. Ned Kock on July 17, 2010 at 08:50
  7. William on July 17, 2010 at 15:00

    Any old farts go to these camps? I turn fifty-six next month, and think I would have a blast. Of course, I would have to condition my feet long in advance, as to not spend my time in misery. Haven’t gone barefoot since swimming down the Russian River between Ukiah and Hopland, and hitch hiking back when I was a kid. Those days were filled with “MovNat” times. :)

    • Richard Nikoley on July 17, 2010 at 15:37

      I was the second oldest at 49. Jessie, at 59 kept his end up quite well.

      Go for it, man.

      • Jesse (the oldest old fart) on July 17, 2010 at 20:56


        Do it. You’ll be glad you did. I ran in 5 fingers about 6 or 7 times and wore them around the house a bit before I went. There are times during the training that the last thing on your mind is your feet. As Richard says, “Go for it, man”.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 17, 2010 at 15:39

      Take vibrams. I did day one totally barefoot then used the vibrams for the rougher stuff the rest of the time.

  8. Bay Area Sparky on July 17, 2010 at 16:15

    You look great, Richard. Finally getting cut and chiseled. There’s only one real way to get to that point, and there are no “shortcuts” via heavy weights.

    Your writing is pretty fresh too. Seems like your body and mind are at some sort of equilibrium now. Kudos for putting yourself out there. Great job and looking forward to the last report and the wrap.

  9. Michael on July 17, 2010 at 23:39

    Calling all paleo cops. Tater alert! Tater alert! Erwan of MoveNat had potatoes on the menu. Be advised not to consort with such betrayers of the faith. :-)

  10. John Nugent on July 18, 2010 at 12:37


    Your reports have been fascinating. One question – how does the food compare to what you normally eat? I also see you’ll be off the France soon. I’ll be in Castelnaudary (Aude) from 22 July to 5 August. If you’re in that region I’d welcome the opportunity to catch up with you in the flesh – my number there is 04 68 23 16 10.


    • Richard Nikoley on July 18, 2010 at 13:06

      John, the big difference was the sauces and used of fruits and such. I will be blogging about that in the future.

      Actually, it’s Italy we’re going to, Cinque Terre, Monterosso. We’ll be there (after flying into Rome the day before) July 23-26 then returning for a couple of days in Rome before flying back.

  11. Primal Toad on July 18, 2010 at 17:16

    That looks like a shit load of fun. I am extremely jealous of you right now Richard. I am thoroughly enjoying my simple strength workouts, but damn… that looks just like too much fun.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 18, 2010 at 17:24

      Just wait till you see my wrap-up post and description. Should be up tomorrow. Just had to take today off — totally off.

  12. Susan on July 18, 2010 at 17:54

    Meals seem pretty low fat and low calorie for all the work you are doing. Is that part of the program? Are you hungry? Do Erwan and company eat that skimpy all the time? And does this have you reconsidering fat content/composition of your diet? (You’ll tell us later, right?!) -Susan

    • Richard Nikoley on July 18, 2010 at 20:28

      Are you kidding me? We were downing about 2 cups of coconut milk per day each in all meals combined. NOBODY, even those not accustomed to low carb, reported ever being very hungry, and there were no snacks at all.

      And besides that, there were veggie puree sauces with coconut oil and palm oil in squeeze bottles and we used the sauces on just about everything.

      Meals were huge & copious and there was almost always leftovers.

  13. Sue on July 18, 2010 at 18:14

    Yes, you do look good Richard. Definitely leaner.

  14. 07/20/10 – Tuesday Triplet on July 19, 2010 at 19:01

    […] Free The Animal goes to a MovNat seminar – Free The Animal […]

  15. TrailGrrl on July 19, 2010 at 12:22

    “You’re definitely looking leaner, Richard.” Nah… let’s cut to the chase, you are looking damn fine with your shirt off!!!

    But Erwin, man, what can I say? And that Victor dude in your previous posts… ok so maybe they are like the “ideal.”

    This looked like a ton of fun, and the food looked great and so simple to fix. I should do one of these, but the hub’s band is really busy on weekends in the summer. I’m just almost next door to WVa in Ohio.


  16. Tyler on July 19, 2010 at 21:43

    Cinque Terre!!! I’m jealous dude! I would kill to go back there. Spent a few days in Riomaggiorre in 2007. Bring the vibes! Good, fun hiking all through out the Cinque. Have fun and thanks for snapping some pics of Erwan’s camp.

  17. Steve on July 20, 2010 at 08:32

    This looks like a great training camp! I just submitted my request to join their training in August but haven’t heard anything yet. Do you know if they will still have it then? Also being the same age as you and probably a little less fit, I was wondering if you had any injuries from this.

  18. Roelant on July 20, 2010 at 09:07


    You look Freakin’ Awesome! nice transformation

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