In May of 1902, there was a massive volcanic eruption on the French Caribbean Island of Martinique. A young, French naval officer by the name of Georges Hebert led a rescue mission, and was able to save many of the residents. Nearly 29,000 out of approximately 30,000 residents perished in the incident.
Georges Hebert recognized that most of the people who perished could have saved themselves had they had a basic amount of useful fitness, so he made it his Purpose to create a system of exercise that would provide all men and women with the functional skills necessary to “March, run, jump, swim, climb, lift, throw, and defend themselves by natural means”. He called his system of exercise Movement Naturale Methode, or Natural Movement Method and it was based on using the same movements that cultures such as Ancient Greece had developed in their quest for strength, endurance and physical excellence. No gym machines need apply. Note: You can pick up the Kindle version of Hebert’s book (translated) on Amazon for $2.99.
Hebert’s methods have evolved over time. The military developed some of their “obstacle courses” based on Hebert’s system. Parkour, a French derived art of natural movement uses walls, railings, stairs, ramps, light poles, and other obstacles found in normal urban areas, as it’s own built in gym. While originating in the night time streets of the cities of France, Parkour is becoming a World Wide fitness craze (for younger folks). Just search the word “Parkour” online and you will find some amazing examples of what you can do with your body using whatever environment you find yourself in.
Even though Parkour is a bit much for those of us who are past our early adult years, the point is that you can build strength, muscular and cardiovascular endurance by using your own body in an everyday environment, using whatever natural elements you find around you, to get just as much strength and cardio work as you will get in any gym.
Today, the best example of Natural Movement can be found in Erwan Le Corre’s MovNat program. It is patterned on Georges Hebert’s Natural Movement system and is one of the more popular and effective fitness programs available. I spent a week with Erwan Le Corre in 2009, at age 69, in the wilds of West Virginia, when he first brought his program to the United States. Since that time, he has expanded his program World Wide as a competing force in the fitness industry. You can find his program at www.MovNat.com. I later wrote a guest post for his website which detailed my experiences as a senior in his program. The link to the essay is long gone but you can find the YouTube video I made at a local park at age 71, and that accompanied that essay at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnZnXoZWBms.
The world can be your gym if you let it. If not a cityscape or a forest with trees, hills rocks, then your own home can be your gym. All you need is a floor, a door jamb, a chair, and a couple of soup cans, and you can get all the exercise you need to remain a functional, vital senior adult. Georges Hebert’s motto was “Be fit to be useful”. He went on to write: “Only the strong will prove useful in difficult circumstances of life.” (Note: Georges Hebert quoted by Christopher McDougall in his incredible book, Natural Born Heroes).
Chances are you won’t be rescuing anyone from an erupting volcano anytime soon, but you will always need the skills that Georges Hebert recognized. I’ve modified those skills a little bit to apply to seniors. Your ability to push, pull, jump, lift, carry, bend and twist, and to move balanced and comfortably from point A to point B, will serve you well and keep you “useful” as you get older. But you have to continue to move your body to be able to keep doing it as you age. Eating well, breathing well, resting and sleeping well, will help too. And remember, too, that it all starts with the way you’re thinking.
Thank you for reading.