I started doing Natural Method Training as a youngster MANY decades ago. Of course, I did not CALL it that nor did anyone else, for that matter. The Swedes called it ‘Vita Parcours’, the Scottish called it ‘Fell Training’, the Native Canadians called it ‘Trapping’. I called it ‘Free Lance Training’ – basically, I would make up exercises and movements in different mediums as I ran or cycled or swam. If there was a natural object to go over (a tree stump or boulder or sand dune), I went over it. If there was a log floating in the lake, I swam under it. Well, you get the idea.
It was with this in mind that I set up my summer Natural Method Training clinic in Clarkson, Ontario, Canada. It is an 8 week, one class per week session that started on June 21/17 – the summer solstice! I begin by testing the balance and symmetry of my team members – no sense in doing significant training if you are unbalanced and asymmetrical. That’s a recipe for injury!In the top photo, you will notice that my gang had no trouble balancing on 1 leg WITH EYES OPEN. Once the eyes were closed (picture #2), it was a different story. The goal was to hold STEADY for 15 seconds on each leg. None of my team held for longer than 4 seconds. Running on the spot with eyes closed also proved difficult for most of the group. They traveled forward, sideways and in 1/2 circles during the 1 minute drill. Both of these indicate whether you have an imbalance or over-rotational activity on one side or the other. I then implement a series of exercises to correct the situation. Photo 3 above shows the team doing the SkiX exercise so important to activating the extensor chain of muscles in the body whilst Photo 4 shows the team lined up, symmetrical and ready to head outdoors.We started with forward and backward running over cedar mulch where balance and reactivity to uneven surfaces are key to survival.We then ran through a sand pit, over a bench and around a large tree – repeating the process backward and sideways to improve sensory awareness and reactivity to different mediums.By mixing in 2-legged and 1-legged hopping in the sand pit, my team were activating powerfully from the feet whilst learning how to fight through the resistance of the sand.
Next up was a series of exercises using the fence railing around a baseball diamond. The series included, forward powerful push-offs, backward powerful push-offs, side powerful push-offs and deep squat jumps. these were done consecutively for 30 seconds each – a tough sequence designed to build balance between the flexor and extensor muscles along with explosive power and fatigue tolerance. The gang battled hard BUT there is lots of work to do before we achieve perfection!
We finished with a series of running drills designed to lock in my Squat-Scoot style of safe, efficient, mid-foot running. These included the Paw-Back forward running drill – difficult to master BUT essential for safe running mechanics.The backward lunge drill was implemented to improve posture and activate the extensor chain for better running balance. It was followed by the forward lunge drill to better activate the flexor chain of running muscles in precise sequence.Further to this, the alternate forward-backward running drill forced the team out of their comfort zone and into a squared up, quick foot cadence that encourages more efficient running.I then had the team put all of the Natural Method Training drills into action with forward running repeats to lock in perfect Squat-Scoot technique. The results were quite profound. Everyone ran tight, light, compact and forward – precisely as I wanted them to run!!As I explained to the team, this was only Session 1 of 8. Thus, the expectations and the challenges will increase with each passing week. This is a great way to mix up your training and give you a much better foundation for safe, efficient running!
Oh – throw in some water running as part of YOUR Natural Method Training session – assuming you can get close to a lake, river or stream. For THAT, you may want to be like the old coach…BAREFOOT!!