• Primal Moves

    New Ashland fitness class stresses natural movement
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  • I wobble, barefoot, along a series of two-by-fours, arms straight out to the sides for balance.
    Five others in this brand-new fitness class are in front of me. Our next task is to squat, hoist heavy sandbags onto our shoulders and walk across a mat that covers the floor at Aikido of Ashland. Now, we drop the bags and crawl 30 feet, making sure our knees and elbows don't touch the mat. We pair off and throw a 14-pound, leather medicine ball to each other 10 times, finishing the circuit with a standing long jump from a squat position.
    The first time through, the circuit is easy, so I'm feeling a bit smug. The next time through, my quads begin to complain when I throw the medicine ball and attempt the standing long jump. Along comes circuit No. 3 and, OK, I'm learning about humility.
    This is a test class for MovNat, a new, worldwide fitness craze that kicks off Jan. 8 in the Rogue Valley. Short for “Move Naturally,” MovNat is designed to put us in touch with our inner Neanderthal.
    “I was doing research on the Paleo Diet and came across the website for MovNat,” says fitness coach and certified MovNat teacher Mike Sotos. “In both, you're getting back to your true nature.”
    For the circuit we just completed, that's not hard to visualize. The two-by-fours are the narrow log I'm scurrying across to escape a woolly mammoth. The sandbag is a young deer I've killed for dinner.
    “You can call it primal movement,” says Sotos, an Ashland native. “It really is a movement to get back to nature. I was always thinking, 'How could I combine being outside, on the trails, with fitness (routines)?' ”
    MovNat was created by Frenchman Erwan Le Corre, a fitness guru more interested in developing functional strength than bulging pecs or flat abs. The MovNat regimen is built around skills development, whether they be locomotive — walking, running, crawling, jumping — or manipulative, such as carrying, throwing, catching.
    Though the circuit for today's trial run consists of five stations, Sotos is designing the circuit for his class around 10 stations. When he received his training certification in Las Vegas earlier this year, Sotos learned the full suite of 51 official skill regimens, including rope climbing, hauling a partner piggyback and pulling oneself across a set of monkey bars.
    Sotos grins. “It's like being a kid again,” he says.
    During the post-class cool-down, participants discuss their new experience.
    “If you're an athlete and love nature, this will help you get to the next level,” says Ashland triathlete Molly Romero. “This helps you get beyond the usual exercises for strength, speed, agility and balance. I think it will boost performance.”
    For Ashland cyclist and ski racer Troy McCrae, it's the variety that appeals.
    “This is fun, not like going to the gym, where you're thinking, 'Here I go again,' ” says McCrae. “This can be a full-body workout without sacrificing your training for your main sport.”
    In his day job, McCrae is a construction worker. Several MovNat skills come naturally to him, but several are challenging.
    “I walk on two-by-fours 12 feet above the ground,” says McCrae. “Still, here, you find muscles you didn't know you had.”
    Local MovNat classes will be twice a week, indoors on Tuesday evenings at Aikido of Ashland, 695 Mistletoe Road, and outdoors on Saturdays in a yet-to-be determined Ashland park. MovNat is, after all, naturally suited to the outdoors.
    Sign-ups are for one-month blocks. The first block of eight classes runs from Jan. 8 to Feb. 2. The cost is $50 for an eight-class session or $8 for a single drop-in.
    For information, contact Sotos at Rogue Valley Fitness, 541-301-4124 or msotos@roguevalleyfit.com.