The Natural Athlete

I work with really smart people. Like the post from Rod Root (Depth Jumps), I have turned to another one of the awesome coaches on my team to explore an idea that I love. Matt Myers is a MovNat certified trainer and the head coach of our adult training program at Force. Matt just so happens to specialize in things that make him look like a ninja (black costume withstanding). I asked Matt how to train athletes to move naturally, freely, and BETTER. He came up with this awesome piece.  

Throughout all of history, stories of athleticism have helped to define our human heritage.  There was Milo and the first Olympians – legend has it that Milo trained by carrying a bull on his shoulders everyday.  As the bull aged, Milo became stronger (this may be the first known example of progressive strength training).

In his book “Born to Run”, author Christopher McDougall highlights the fossilized footprints of early humans whose stride-length suggests sprinting speeds faster than that of Usain Bolt.

There was Pheidippides, who ran 150 miles in two days to beg the Spartans for help against and invading Persian force, who landed in Marathon, Greece.  He then ran 25 miles to Athens to announce the victory, and fell dead (the modern “marathon” takes its name from his legend).

Even in modern times, athletes like Bo Jackson are famous not only for their unrivaled athleticism (including the fastest ever 40-time at the NFL combine, 4.12s), but for the seeming lack of modern strength and conditioning we associate with such feats.

These stories are not only a part of our collective history, but our own personal histories as well.  My great-great-great-grandfather, John R. Murphy, was strong as a bull.  Even after getting hit by a train, which disfigured his arm, he was called the “strongest man in Fairport (NY).”  Legend has it that he used to win all kinds of bets down at the railroad station showing feats of strength such as moving hundreds of pounds casks from one platform to another with one arm.   He routinely carried railroad ties home 1.5 miles at the young age of 65, and boasted that he would’ve beat John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight boxing crown if he had two good arms.  These were the types of stories my father told me as a young child, and shaped my understanding of what it meant to be an “athlete”.

Obviously, athleticism was a part of our humanity long before the advent of barbells and bumper plates.  Which begs the question:  put in their situation, how would you perform? 

With all of our modern knowledge, but without modern conveniences, how would you train your athletes?