The world of movement can seem like a vast and confusing space. Conflicting information is rife.
“Don’t do cardio coz it will ruin your gainz, bruh.”
“Don’t lift weights over 5kgs, ladies, or you’ll get bulky”
“Running is bad for your knees”
“No pain, no gain!”
All of which is bollocks.
Then there are the infinite choices:
- Low intensity steady state
- High intensity interval training
- 5×5 rep range
- 3×3 rep range
- 10×10 rep range
- Strength training
- Hypertrophy training
- Endurance training
- Hybrid training
- Sports specific training
- General physical preparedness
And this is mainly focused on what we refer to as ‘exercise’. It doesn’t even take into acount all the other types of movement on offer to us, like day to day general activities, transportation, work, play, dance and meditation etc.
It’s enough to make you want to have a little sit down and binge on Netflix.
At Wild Life our approach is to encourage variety of movement; filling the day with as many movement activities as we can. From there we look at your goals and build a movement practice specifically around this. Much of our work looks at movement (as well as all other aspects of health) through the ancestral health lens. Basically, this means trying to get humans to move the way humans have always moved. Until very recently, that is.
If you are new to a movement practice and don’t know what is right for you, just pick one. Pick one and stick to it for at least 6 weeks before you even think of programme hopping. 6 weeks is really the minimal time it will take you to see any real improvements and results, in my opinion.
For those that want to take a deeper dive into movement practices and philosophies, and in particular ones that we feel are in line with our ethos I can highly recommend the following books.
Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich
This book is a joyful exploration in what it means to move and to be a fully functional human being. It’s a far cry from the turgid pages of a conventional training manual. In fact it’s in no way a training manual, it’s an invitation to all readers to become the explorer of movement, to embark on a journey of play and joyous movement.
Frank draws upon his biology background, a long term interest in martial arts and functional movement, his experiences of various indigenous movement practices, and his observations of nature as a whole and our place within it.
The book encourages the reader to throw off the shackles of conventional wisdom and to embrace an element of instinct, of reconnection to both their biological heritage and their surrounding environment. It challenges the reader to step outside of conformity and become that wonderful gyrating weirdo. This is a sentiment we can truly get onboard with.
It is so much more than just a book about movement. It fully delves into the importance of the mind-body connection and empowers the reader to take both control and responsibility of their movement regardless of their starting point.
The thing that sticks out the most is the element of pure play throughout the book, so often missing from today’s exercise world. And for those of you who have read my posts about my most influential movement coach, my dog, (you can read that here and here) Frank also observes that the dog may be our best role model when it comes to movement and play.
Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
I absolutely love Katy Bowman. I would say her work has been ground-breaking within the movement and exercise world. This book and her cornucopia of other work has been some of the most influential material for us developing Wild Life.
Katy is a biomechanist who integrates the laws of physics and the working concepts of engineering to describe the motion of various body segments and the forces acting on these segments. Essentially, she studies the movement of living things, both the macro and the micro level.
Human development goes hand in hand with the environment we live in and the specific roles needed for survival, and with this in mind Katy looks at restoring health through the ancestral, natural movement lens.
In the book she mentions Folded Fin Syndrome observed in captive orca whales as a ‘disease of captivity’. From here she turns our gaze to the various health concerns of our modern age and points out that many of these are not due to genetics, diet or ageing but to our own captive movement patterns. We are not moving the way wild humans were designed to and now we are collectively reaping the consequences.
In her book she gives detailed suggestions of corrective movement and lifestyle practices to help bring us back into alignment with our default setting. She doesn’t dumb down the knowledge bombs but makes them all relatable to the reader. Her movement suggestions are accessible to all readers regardless of your current state of movement.
What blew my mind with this book was the extent that she categorised stuff as movement. When you see through the eyes of a biomechanist you realise that any load placed on a tissue creates a movement impact. Whether this is how we hold a dumbbell for bicep curls, how sitting effects our lymphatic flow, or how fatty build ups in our arteries impacts the blood flow and thickness of the arterial wall, it’s all movement.
Movement on a cellular level had never entered my mind until reading this book.
It also change the type of underpants I wear.
It was Katy Bowman who coined the term and concept of Nutritious Movement Snacks that has formed the cornerstone for Wild Life’s movement programmes.
An absolute must read for movers.
The Align Method by Aaron Alexander
I’ll be honest with you, when I first stumbled across this book on Amazon I instantly dismissed it out of hand. It may well have been my own insecurities at work but I took one look at the smiling beefcake on the cover, resistance band in manly hand, barefoot and be-vested, and snorted before scrolling onwards.
A short while later I attended an embodied movement conference where Aaron Alexander was talking. I think from the moment he opened his mouth I liked him. He seems like a genuinely lovely individual who cares deeply about helping people move. And his range of subjects is so broad and varied, coming from the conventional to the extreme fringe.
His approach is refreshing, playful and well thought through.
As with Katy Bowman’s book, Aaron covers aspects of movement that are not conventionally associated with movement at all, such as breathing.
And like Frank Forencich’s book he is firmly in the camp of highlighting the importance of the mind-body connection and the two-way street effect that each have on one another.
I love the fact that throughout the book he focuses on lifestyle practices to better align ourselves to natural movement. From how you sit on the toilet, to how you do desk work, to how you look in your rear view mirror, he has a suggestion.
It’s a great book for those new to movement and the experienced mover alike. And he now has a new updated and expanded edition out.
Animal Moves by Darryl Edwards
I’ve long been a fan of mimicking animal movement patterns. It first started when I was learning to track. To get a sense of how an animal moves it’s great to get down and try it out. This is especially useful when you are trying to teach tracking to others. It doesn’t take long, trotting like a fox or bounding like a rabbits, to be totally knackered and have your muscles burning. It’s also immensely fun to do and to watch others do.
On searching for other natural movers who incorporated animal patterns to their work I came across Darryl Edwards, The Fitness Explorer as he was known then. Right from the start Darryl was combining conventional exercises with natural movement and animals moves.
Now Darryl can get at it in pure beast mode and perform some truly gut wrenching workouts, but what stood out most about his approach was the importance placed on play.
Between Darryl’s work and that of Frank Forencich, the importance of play became so evident to us that it has become an inclusion to all of our movement work. Darryl’s Crab kick-ups are a firm feature in our workouts.
Despite being from London, Darryl doesn’t hold with the classic British sense of reserve, he actively encourages people to get up and act like a kid, literally doing the ridiculous stuff that we did when we were younger. It’s the best thing in the world to watch a whole roomful of people who came to see Darryl talk, suddenly finding themselves standing up and in a slow motion fight with the strangers next to them.
Darryl went on to set up Primal Play (primalplay.com) to inspire kids and adults to move. He literally took the ‘work’ out of workout by making it an activity of pure fun; a ‘playout’.
‘Animal Moves’ is a perfect guide to various movements and postures inspired by the animal kingdom all laid out in a 28 day movement plan to increase strength, mobility and work capacity.
And whilst it doesn’t have the same flowing, dance-like quality as systems like Animal Flow, I think it is much more accessible to beginners, and would be the perfect starting point for those interested in other systems, or as a stand alone practice in itself.
I strongly recommend looking up Darryl and the Primal Play Method.
Exercised by Daniel Liberman
This book is pure confirmation bias for us. Written by a Paleoanthropologist, this book takes a deep dive into the world of exercise and evolutionary human biology. What were his conclusions?
Exercising, as we know it today, is totally unnatural and at odds with how we have evolved.
However, this was because our ancestors had amazing variety in their daily movements, from travelling to hunting, constantly shifting ground resting positions to gathering plants, from carrying infants to fleeing from savage beasts, they were moving even when resting.
Fast forward to today and we barely move at all. All of the worlds conveniences are available at our fingertips and ready for delivery.
With this in mind Dan Lieberman take us through the types of movements and exercises closest to how we were designed to move and, while exercise may not be ‘natural’, it is incredibly helpful in negating the issues of a modern sedentary lifestyle.
What I loved most about this book is that it reads like a manifesto for Wild Life’s movement ethos. Dan could almost be a paid member of the team. He articulates so much of what we blather on about, only with eloquence and academic gravitas. We must send him a Wild Life t-shirt.
So if you want to find out about ancestral, human movement, get some common exercise myths busted, and get a grip on the Wild Life approach to movement ‘Exercised’ is the book for you.
There we have it, my favourite movement books. For special ‘Wild Credits’ go and get yours by walking/running/cycling/hopscotching/strutting etc to a local bookshop.
Happy reading and moving, folks.